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A buzzing mini-metropolis in the otherwise uninhabited realm of snow and ice in the High Tarentaise, split into two main resort centres, Tignes-le-Lac and Val Claret, facing each other across the frozen lake in this high treeless trough.
Architecturally, Tignes is not to everybody's taste; the resort was mostly constructed during the 1970s, and visually is still redolent of that age. When the resort's original designers dreamt up the idea of constructing massive high-rise blocks here, it was because they had just two absolute prerequisites in their brief: easy access to some of the world's best skiing, and guaranteed snow conditions. Indeed, Tignes pioneered the concept of ski-in/ski-out accommodation.
Overall, Tignes is not the best choice for beginners, although there's certainly plenty of terrain that competent novices should find manageable. The resort is best suited to keen intermediates and advanced visitors craving big mileage and big vertical, and for those travelling early or late in the season and looking for peace-of-mind regarding snow reliability.
Tignes is a big, busy resort, with big scenery, but there's masses of space in the ski area to disperse the crowds. The variety of terrain is extensive: from the intoxicating glacial heights of La Grande Motte, to the thigh-burning long cruises down to the tree line and valley floor at Les Brevieres; and from the quiet powder fields around the Col des Ves, to the bustling groomed motorways linking towards Val d'Isere via the Col de Fresse and Toviere.
The majority of the ski area is a paradise for intermediates, with a great selection of sweeping blue and red pistes. There are several black runs marked on the piste map, although most are in fact fairly tame; advanced-level thrill-seekers look beyond the piste map however and see the real potential that this area has to offer, with some of the most extreme and exposed off-piste routes in the Alps, for those that have the ability and the mettle.
The glacial massif of La Grande Motte is Tignes' most emblematic sector. This towering, permafrost peak allows the resort to roll out the white carpet earlier than any other French ski station; opening in late September and staying open until early May, with snowsports on the glacier available during July and August too.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Despite its austere facade, Tignes does have a discernible soul. It's a lot more Gallic than Brit-centric Val d'Isere; French urbanites flock here every weekend and the resort works hard to animate the harsh surroundings of this high valley with regular events and entertainment.
The resort boasts two sports & leisure centres, numerous spa facilities, a tenpin bowling arcade, plus there are various day-time and evening adventure-sports activities available.
First impressions of Tignes' apres-ski scene are that it is generally more laid-back than that of neighbouring Val d'Isere, but there's certainly no lack of lively bars and late-night joints dotted around the various quarters of Tignes' two main resort centres, together with a fair selection of decent-quality restaurants too.
The greatest concentration of venues are clustered in the upper Val Claret Centre quarter: buzzing base-area bars such as Drop Zone and V Bar kick off the afternoon apres-ski action here, whilst the surrounding area is filled with further animated bars plus a good range of restaurants; there are also two well-established nightclubs in this zone, the Blue Girl revels in Euro-trash antics and cheesy tunes, whilst the Melting Pot has a more up-to-date music policy and occasionally hosts big-name international DJs.
Over in Tignes-le-Lac, the Loop Bar and the Marmot Arms are key apres-ski joints; a third nightclub, Jack's, is also based here, below the Bec Rouge complex.
Despite Val Claret and Tignes-le-Lac being quite some distance apart, Tignes' free 24-hour bus service enables party animals to spread a night out across the two centres.