Resort Profile: Tignes

By adamrowden, 3 Dec '12 at 10:04

Tignes is one of the highest resorts in Europe and is often known as a snowboarding resort, however, skiers should not be put off. Tignes also offers more skiing in winter and in summer than pretty well anywhere else, thanks to its high altitude skiing on the Grande Motte glacier and its commitment to maintain a vertical of at least 1000 metres (3280 feet) for eight months of the year. Sharing the vast and exciting 'Espace Killy' ski area with neighbouring Val d'Isère.

There are in fact five base areas to Tignes, although three of them - Le Lac, Le Lavachet and Val Claret - more or less run in to one another to form the main section. They stand together in a vast snowy bowl above the tree line resembling some sort of isolated moon base, from a distance. Further down the mountain, but lift linked to l'espace Killy are Les Boisses and Les Brévières and there are three traditional villages along the valley floor on the road to Val d'Isère (Le Reculaz, Le Chevril and Le Villaret du Nial), but these are not lift-linked.

Interestingly the original base is Le Lac, the relocated genuine village of Tignes that was submerged under Lake Chevril following the construction of a dam in 1952. The church bell was the only physical memento to be carried up to the new village site, but the spirit of skiing which began in 'old Tignes' in the 1920s was certainly carried forward with spectacular results!

Known as a rider's resort, Tignes is often overshadowed by its more hedonistic neighbour - Val d'Isere. However it's more a case of making the most of it, 'cos there's normally a party going on somewhere, you just have to know where…

On the Slopes

Tignes has a lot to offer both skiers and snowboarders. There is always good snow that is spread over a huge area of varied terrain. One of Tignes’ best assets is the Grande Motte, which is the highest point in the resort. You can access the top using the underground funicular from Val Claret that takes you up to over 3000m in a mere seven minutes. Once at the top you have a choice of runs down which you can make your descent. There are blue, red and black runs which means that no matter what standard of skiing or snowboarding you are at, you can still enjoy the glacier to the max. Also, there are some long swooping runs back down to the resort that are great fun.

If you are into your speed riding then you will be sad to hear that there are no speed course as such, though Evo 2 do organise ‘See how far you can glide’ comps down the final part of Trolles & across the snowfront at Lac. Other places where you can floor it (relatively) safely are the top of OK/Orange in Val (if it’s not shut for racing) as well as Grattalu & Double M/Lanches – but you would really only want to do these two early, before the crowds.

If you are a freestyler then you will be pleased as Tignes has plenty to offer you. It was one of the first French resorts to house a terrain park and it has always had a huge association with the winter X Games, hosting it plenty of times recently. The Swatch Snowpark is located below the Grattalu chair on Col du Palet. This park has plenty of rails and kickers that are all divided into green, blue and red levels and there is also an awesome airbag jump. Oh, and there is also a cool boardercross course that is well worth checking out.

There is also an awesome 120m long half-pipe that is at the bottom of the moutnain in Val Claret, so if you can make it there, you are free to test your skills on it. Another smaller park can be found at town level in Le Lac, which is also worth a punt.

Off-Piste

Freeriders will be pleased to hear that Tignes has some cracking off-piste. However, you should always be aware that due to it being a high mountain area and the fact that it gets a lot of wind, Tignes does see a lot of wind slabs form which do add to the avalanche danger. Remember the Pisteurs are there not just to save you but to advise you. Ask the opinion of a professional before dropping in, just 'cos there's tracks doesn't make it safe.

The Chardonnet Bowl is well worth checking out on a good day. There are plenty of couloirs here which range from the short and wide to the long and narrow and they all open onto a lovely wide bowl. This spot is getting more and more popular so you will want to hit it before it gets massively tracked out.

Another one that should be taken into consideration is the Vallon de la Sache. This is not ideal for boarders due to a long flat in the middle, but skiers can really thrive on this classic off-piste run.

The couloirs P1, P2 and P3 are great fun. They are visible from les Lanches chair lift and are all reasonably steep. If attempting these for the first time then you should probably ask for professional advice first. Also, make sure you avoid the O4 and O5 couliors - unless you have a rope!

If you fancy some glacial off-piste, then head over to the Tour de Pramecou. Here you need to hike across the glacier, then head down the little north face and around the back of the Grande Balme. Wonderful!

If you are an expert freerider and fancy a descent challenge then you can always head over to the north face of the Grande Balme. This has been used as a competition slope in the Tignes Freeride and in the World Freeskiing Championships over the years and, if you have the knowledge to ski it, it can be one of the best descents in the area.

The Brevieres trees are often forgotten about after a descent dump, but there are some cracking runs through these woods to be had. However, do be careful as some lines end in cliffs. In fact, be very careful.

Living in Resort

Lavachet is laid back for seasonaires and most of them live in the Home Club. Chalet Club in Val Claret is also home to many. There is also a ‘Maison de Saisonieres’ between Lac & Lavachet but it’s mostly French. Rents are cheaper living down in Les Brevieres, but you’ll want a car and/or mates up at 2100, who’ll let you crash when you’ve had a toffee vodka too many.

Val Claret, Lavachet & Lac are all linked by a free shuttle bus that runs 24 hrs (once an hour after midnight). While not ideal, this makes living in one part and working in another more feasible than a long walk across the lake at 6am…

So, which bars and clubs will you be frequenting during your season in Tignes?

Bars and Clubs

Val Claret...
If you are in Val Claret then you will want to head to Crowded House. This is a Crystal run pub that is located beneath the Curling Hotel. It can get very busy - sometimes uncomfortably so - and they usually have some pretty decent live DJs. Couloir is a friendly bar that has a pretty laid back atmosphere and some nice staff. It also often plays host to live bands in the evenings.

Le Caveau is a great restaurant, and if you go for the later dinner sitting you can have the table all night for the live act that follows. The Fish Tank is also worth checking out. It is a friendly bar that is situated at the bottom of the piste in Val Claret. It is the perfect place for a swift demi whilst waiting for your mates to catch up.

If you fancy clubbing then you can head to Le Blue Girl, which is pretty French and has a bit of an odd vibe to it. Worth seeing for yourself. Or, you could head to the Yorin FM Café which is a pretty crazy Dutch club. Here, you can dance to the Eurobeat all night long, if that is what you are into. However, our pick of the bunch has to be the Melting Pot. This place is the party venue or many of the big events that happen in Tignes. They play good music and you can have a real good night here.

Le Lac...
The Angelbar is a decent hangout. They often show the football and they have a pool table too. A great place to chill during après. The Jam Bar does the best Bacon Baguettes in town and also serves awesomely moreish burgers. It has a great après-ski atmosphere and can also host some pretty mental party nights. It is also situated right next to the Palafour Chair, which is handy.

Loop tends to vary between lovingly laid back après and drunken madness when Espirit throw a party. It has a great sun deck for afternoon beverages and does a damn fine Panini. Alpaka is nice and cosy, in fact it is just like being in your own front room. There are sofas, an open fire and they also serve some pretty cool cocktails too.

Regarding nightclubs in Le Lac, Jacks, which is attached to the bowling alley (don’t ask) should be avoided unless you are hammered but Grotte du Yeti, a Dutch/Belgian bar where the music system’s so loud they have to manually cool it off with compressed air every 30 mins, can be a real corker if the mood is right. It is hot & sweaty, but is an enjoyable venue to see live bands.

Lavachet...
TC’s Bar in Lavachet is a cracking place for some après action and also serves some awesome food. They also throw some pretty ace parties, so this place is always worth a stop off. Next door to and run by TC’s is the Lavachet Lounge, this place does great happy hour cocktails and is a nice alternative to TC’s.

Scotty’s, is also worth checking out. They have live bands, curry/Mexican nights, Sunday roasts, and do throw some pretty cool parties too.

Eating Out
Depending on your appetite, expect to pay 20-40 Euros. The nicest places in town are Clin d’Oeil in Le Lac (very French cuisine) or Le Caveau in Val Claret. Daffy’s TexMex or L’Indochine Vietnamese in Val Claret are a nice change if you’re fed up of your ‘fine chalet cuisine’. For traditional Savoyard try Le Grenier in Lavachet. For hot rocks try Le Brasero or Scotty’s.
Takeaways come in the form of curry from Tignes Cuisine (Lac) or pizzas from Mick’s (Lavachet) – he’ll give you a free French lesson while preparing.

Mountain Resto's
Bottom of Marmottes (Val side) – for in/out cheap self service, this is the place. Le Carline in Val Claret and Palet (bottom of Grattalu) are also good for self service. There’s a fantastic burger place in Val Claret just near Bazoom (can’t remember the name though) Look out for traditional silly French hats at L’Etoile de Neige in Les Brevieres.

Away Days
If you want to get away then Sainte Foy is nearby and has some great tree skiing. Bour St Maurice is also a decent location for some shopping and has some cheap supermarkets. Les Arcs is also accessible from Bourg St Maurice. You just need to take the funicular from the town up to Arc 1650. Another popular place for a day trip is Annecy. If you have a car, then getting here is not impossible. It is a beautiful and historic town by the lake.

Transfer Day
Normally Lyon (mostly Autoroute) or Geneva (much more twisty – harder to do those ski packs on the bus) will be your main transfer locations, however, some companies also pick up at Chambery.

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