View across snow-covered frozen lake to Tignes Val Claret ski village.

Tignes

Espace Killy, Savoie, French Alps

In the Haute-Tarentaise beyond Les Arcs, La Rosière, Sainte-Foy Tarentaise and just before Val d’Isère, close to the Franco-Italian border and the Vanoise National Park.

Villages are set around the vast Lac de Tignes (frozen and snow-covered in winter) which lies beyond the smaller Lac du Chevril.

You’ll drive across the top of le Barrage de Tignes to reach all but one of the villages, the exception being Les Brevières, which lies in a deep valley below the dam.

Wide view above glacier, showing skiers and mountain landscape

The Ski Area

The groomed terrain is linked seamlessly with that of neighbouring Val d’Isère to create the world-famous Espace Killy.

If you’re looking for a high-mileage experience then you’ve come to the right place – gaze in awe at the piste map while you ponder just how long it would take you to ski it all from end to end – and then back to your starting point.

There’s great variety, too, with a few challenges along the way, particularly above Val d’Isère. Experienced skiers will spread their wings in epic terrain among some of the most magnificent scenery the Alps have to offer, although there’s also lots of fine intermediate cruising.

Topping it off quite literally at 3456m is the Grande Motte glacier, whose pistes are graded black and red, but in most snow conditions they’re not overly intimidating.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1550m - 3450m
Tignes
Pistes Total:
150 km
20 Green
67 Blue
41 Red
26 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 47
Espace Killy
Pistes Total:
300 km
23 Green
66 Blue
40 Red
27 Black
Ski Domain Lifts: 88

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Wide view across frozen, snow-covered lake to ski village

The Ski Village

Given the epic scale of things, it’s no surprise that there’s a wide choice of village locations. Approach from Bourg Saint Maurice (a popular multi-resort accommodation base in its own right) and you’ll pass signs to Tignes Les Brevières, although the village itself is hidden from view in the valley just below the dam. It’s lift-linked to the main ski area and you can ski back down, but isn’t served by regular shuttle bus services.

The other villages lie on the far side of the dam. Once across it you’re into Les Boisses and the more recently-developed Tignes 1800, whose stylish centrepiece, CGH Kalinda Village (see Where to Stay), has already transformed this previously-overlooked spot into a premium location. A few km further on comes Tignes 2100, home of Le Levachet and Le Lac. Lift links, regular shuttle buses and lots of accommodation and services (including regular outdoor markets) make this a popular spot.

Finally, further round the lake comes the strikingly-styled Val Claret, again with lots of services and accommodation including the 5-star Suites du Nevada hotel. The local ski lifts include the funicular (followed by a cable-car) up to the Grande Motte glacier, which also serves summer skiers.

Not surprisingly, the Tignes skyline has its fair share of detractors, but recent years have seen a change of heart, as certain landmark buildings have acquired something approaching cult status. As for new developments, the style reflects Tignes’ steady move upmarket, which results in a gradual softening of things visually. We like it.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Skiers and snowboarders leaving chair-lift

Best For

Skiing here is often perceived as being suited to advanced skiers, not least since one or two return runs are steep enough to test your edge-control, particularly when things are icy. With a little planning, though, less-confident (or tired) skiers can avoid them simply by taking a gondola lift back down. There’s no shame in that; it’s not a competition, and the mountains here are for everyone to enjoy, including families.

That said, for confident all-mountain skiers then on or off-piste, there’s virtually limitless potential to explore.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

A huge playground
2 Snowparks


Cross-Country Skiing

One itinerary - Tignes Le Lac and Val Claret
44km Cross-Country and Nordic Ski Trails

Handiski...

  • Easy access to the slopes from Tignes Val Claret car-park and drop-off point.
  • Reserve your car parking space in advance +33 (0)4 79 40 06 70
  • ESF Tignes(equipment included) ski schools offer specialist instruction.
  • Central booking office can offer advice on suitable accommodation tel: +33 (0)4 79 40 26 62

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Vast, linked-domain experience.
  • Terrain for all levels up to the most adventurous free-riders.
  • Wealth of accommodation for even the most demanding clientèle.
  • Snow-sure glacier skiing.
  • You’ll come back a better skier.
  • Cred-value; arguably, sooner or later you just have to do it.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Not the most tranquil choice.
  • If you're not an experienced all-mountain skier it's best to plan your routes carefully.
  • Village boutiques and restaurants require deep pockets.
  • Long transfers, often with traffic congestion on changeover days.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • To avoid the crowds, head to more distant terrain or ski off-piste.

Practical Information

Getting there

By Car
For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

Autoroute A43 Lyon / Albertville, then N90 to Bourg-Saint-Maurice. Follow the signs to Tignes, a 30 minute drive. Allow a full day to travel from Calais and be prepared for long delays on Saturdays as you approach the main ski areas.

By air
The nearest airport is Chambéry Savoie Mont Blanc, with transfer times of to 2-3 hours. Lyon, Geneva, and Grenoble are all possible but transfer times and occasional delays make them less convenient.

Jet2.com offers low cost flights to the French Alps from 7 UK airports.

By train
Ski trains run from late December to early April and take you direct into Bourg Saint Maurice for a short transfer to Tignes by bus, taxi or hire car.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar’s ski train direct to the French Alps with OUI.sncf

Transfers
Visit Ski-Lifts for the best range of ski transfer destinations from airports and main rail stations.


Things to do

Tried and testedLe Lagon


Tignes Le Lac


You can get free entry with your skipass to this leisure centre with fitness room, sports pool, fun pool with waterslide, waterfall, bubble pool etc. plus a paddling pool for the toddlers. We liked the wellness area best - separated from the pools, and with a quiet, calming atmosphere, there are saunas, hammams and a variety of Jacuzzis, as well as invigorating showers plus sun-beds. For fun or relaxation, go in early afternoon to avoid crowds.




Tried and testedDog-Sledding


Outdoor Experiences
Lac de Tignes


Sled dogs in Tignes ski resort at dusk, Espace Killy, French Alps.

Sessions offered Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 9am.
Become a musher with your own traineau and two or three dogs to pull you along. After a short training session, none of which will prepare you for what will happen, the dogs are untied and you are in control - in theory. It's exhilarating, physically quite hard work but ultimately rewarding - and it's great to be around such wonderful animals.



Where to stay

Seen, tried and tested.Kalinda Village

Tignes 1800

Tignes 1800

Situated just off the roundabout as you enter Les Boisses, the access to Kalinda Village couldn't be more straightforward, and there’s roadside parking while you check in. Among the most spaciousMGM-constructedresidence at which we’ve stayed, Kalinda features contemporary styling with exposed beams, muted colours and luxury furnishings, includingsuper king bedsin the master bedroom. We stayed in a 2-bedroom corner apartment on the third floor with exceptional views. These apartments arenoticeably more spaciousthan we’ve experienced elsewhere, although the kitchens still lack sufficient work surfaces despite being otherwise superbly well-equipped.

View across fresh snow to chalet-style ski village, with church spire in background

The Village is pedestrianised withtwo on-site restaurants, a bakery and a small supermarket.Underground parkingis available (payable). There’s a bus stop on the doorstep withfrequent free shuttle services which we put to good use during our stay. Access to the ski area is virtually on the doorstep – thehigh-speed Boisses gondolawhisks you up to an intermediate zone with easy links to the rest of the domain.
Guests have free access to theprivate indoor heated swimming pool, children’s pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fitness room, plus facial and body treatments and various massages at theÔ des Cimes Spa(payable).

Enquiries and bookings:
Peak Retreats
023 9283 9310 (UK)
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Seen, tried and tested.Le Télémark

Tignes Le Lac

Situated at the entrance to theTignes Le Lacvillage, the residence contains 52 luxury self-catering apartments. For confirmed skiers,access to the slopesis virtually from the doorstep, and theChaudannes chairlift is nearby. Staff can advise on the best route to ski back.

We stayed in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment sleeping 6 people withpanoramic viewsranging from the glacier right across the valley and down to the Lac du Chevril. Guests have free access to theprivate indoor heated swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and fitness room. Numerous facial or body treatments and massages are also available at theÔ des Cimes Spa d’Altitude(payable).Underground parkingis available (payable), while outside spaces are limited.

Guests might like to take advantage of the bread delivery service. It’s a 10-15 minute uphill walk into the village centre or there’s a shuttle service (approx. every 30 mins) which stops nearby.

Enquiries and bookings:
Ski Collection
0844 576 0175 (UK) or +44 (0)2392 890 960
reservations@skicollection.co.uk


Where to Eat

La Folie Douce

La Daille
Val d'Isère

La Folie Douce, Val d'Isere

The original Folie Douce is situated at the top of theLa Daille gondola (Folie Douce is also now at Meribel/Courchevel, Alpe d’Huez and Val Thorens). At lunchtime most diners head for theNuvo Self, a self-service restaurant open every day from midday until 3pm. For more relaxed dining choose the adjacentLa Fruitière(reservation advised +33 (0)4 79 06 07 17), whose delicious menu is created using local Savoyard produce. With a distinctive interior design and exceptional service from welcoming, uniformed staff, we’d return in a heartbeat.
The real party, though, goes on outside, where crowds gather to enjoy a drink and hang out with loud music hosted by house DJs.


Tried and testedLe Panoramic

Glacier de la Grande Motte
Tignes

Panoramic restaurant and bars, Grand Motte glacier, Tignes

Michelin starred chef Jean-Michel Bouvieropened the superb Panoramic restaurant at the top of the funiculaire above Tignes Val Claret in autumn 2011. The restaurant is open every lunchtime from 11.45am. Closed evenings (private bookings can be arranged) except Thursdays, when you can dine Savoyard style beside the glacier then descend on skis by flaming torchlight. Bookings essential +33(0)4 79 06 47 21 The self-service restaurant is open every lunchtime from 11-30am. The snack bar serves food from 11am - 3pm in winter and is also open in summer. There’s also a boutique and lounge. If you have deep pockets, this is an absolute must when in Tignes. Interiors evoke traditional Alpine chalets, with exposed wood adorned with interesting mountain objets. The staff, in smart montagnard uniforms, are friendly and super efficient. The meal is satisfyingly Savoyard in style with tasty pickles and charcuterie, deliciously roasted meats and sublime desserts. Not really one for vegetarians, although the chef will prepare a tasty alternative. This can all take quite a while, especially if you stay for an obligatory Genépi liquer and coffee. All in all, one of the best dining experiences in the Alps.


Insight: Tignes

Skiers looking at glacier from platform of cable car at Tignes

Insight: Tignes

During previous visits we’ve seen just how much snow this place can receive when a major depression blows through, so we already have a healthy respect for Tignes and the Espace Killy. The route up from Bourg Saint Maurice feels like an old friend, but now there’s an added attraction in the form of the recent Kalinda Village developed at Tignes 1800. We visited before the final phase is completed, but already it’s clear that this is quite a spot, not least since it offers virtually doorstep skiing.

Skiing during lunchtime goes against the French psyche, so we should have an hour or two’s window for avoiding the crush heading up in the funicular the Grande Motte cable-car.
The run down into Les Brevières 1550 has a fairytale quality after overnight snowfalls.
The start of the wide cruise down to the Lac area for skiers heading from Tignes 1800.

Tignes: the bigger picture

For our first morning’s skiing we test-drive the location concept by skiing from the Kalinda residence down to the Boisses gondola lift, added in recent years to haul skiers up to the heart of main ski area, and straight onto the long, blue-graded Myrtilles piste which provides a scenic cruise down to Les Brevières 1550. With the luxury of the previous night’s fresh snowfalls, we snake our way down the side of the deep valley, on what in summer is actually a steep mountain hairpin route. Around the mid-point we pause to catch our breath and take in the fairytale views of the cheerful snow-dusted village on the valley floor below. It’s an entertaining first run of the day, although we can see how it might become a little more demanding later in the day when heavily-tracked by returning skiers.

The village of Les Brevières turns out to be quite a charmer, with a sheltered setting and longstanding traditional appeal to skiers looking for an affordable base from which to explore the Espace Killy. However, there are unmistakable signs that it too has begun to move upmarket. For now we don’t hang around, and grab a seat on the Pitots chairlift for a slightly leisurely haul, complete with impressive views of the nearby Barrage de Tignes dam, back to the Boisses gondola.

After a second-stage ride which drops us to precisely where we would have arrived had we taken theSache gondola direct from Les Brevières, we could now simply join the Airelle piste for a Blue-graded onward run down to Tignes Le Lac. Instead we transfer to the Aiguille Rouge chairlift, whose companion the Marais 3-seater chair offers skiers a useful haul right up to 2725m just below the unmistakable Aiguille Percée (2748m), but we take Petit Col – another blue piste which swirls and swoops its way down to Tignes Le Lac. At the bottom we ski right into the throng of skiers heading in all directions to join the respective lifts which will carry them to their chosen mountain sectors, or making for the shuttle buses to carry them around the lake to Val Claret.

Tignes Office de Tourisme

Gondola ski-lift Toviere, Tignes

What do you do on a perfect day in Tignes?

By now it’s shaping up to be a near-perfect day for shooting the kind of images we work hard to photograph during our visits to ski areas. Experience has taught us long ago that in the mountains there’s no telling how long visibility is going to hold, so we have to think on our skis and make the most it while it’s still fine. The plan is to make the most of the fresh snow and clear conditions by heading up to the Grande Motte glacier. Not that we really needed an excuse.

Making the trip up from mid-morning onwards finds the initial surge of skiers heading for the glacier dwindling fast, and since the prospect of skiing during fast-approaching midday goes against the French psyche, we should have an hour or two’s window for avoiding the crush heading up in the funicular – and more importantly, the Grande Motte cable-car. Sure enough, it turns out to be a pretty painless experience, thanks to restricting ourselves to a brief coffee-and-snack break en route, rather than the kind of sublime lunchtime experience served up byJean-Michel Bouvier’s team at Le Panoramic (one of our favourite mountain restaurants).

Grand Motte cable car, Tignes
Skiing on Grand Motte glacier, Tigbnes

The big one: the Grande Motte Glacier

Stepping from the world-famous cable car at 3456m – the highest point in the Espace Killy – finds us in no mood to go anywhere before we’ve watched the 115-passenger car’s hypnotic descent into the infinite vastness spread before us.

Curiosity satisfied, we snap into our skis and glide slightly awkwardly along the wide traverse, passing an unpisted black descent (with a ‘Descent’ sign, lest there be any doubt) before we reach the glacier. The run itself is neatly-groomed but looks slightly odd when seen in the far distance from the villages around the lake. Up here we can finally see why, as the grooming teams work hard after each snowfall to nudge some of each top layer into long, neatly-arranged walls of snow which they stockpile to ensure that the adjacent ski terrain can be opened during the summer-skiing months.

The Glacier piste is officially graded red and although being quite steep there’s plenty of width (and if we’re honest, we’ve seen much more demanding blues). The views, of course, are breathtaking and you can get a slightly different perspective on things (in summer-skiing periods only) by taking the exit around the half-way point round to the 3500 I&II draglifts serving a little more red terrain.

Making the grade

Our initial drop eases around the point, at which we peel off onto the Liesse Black piste, a worthwhile detour which immediately rewards us with a bracing drop towards the Col de la Liesse at 2771m. Others clearly love it too, as this single run has its very own 4-seater chairlift, which drops us neatly back beside the base of the cable-car for a truly memorable ride, which skims a succession of impressively-craggy limestone rock faces. The ride also gives us plenty of time to look over to our left and watch the other skiers who are tackling the roller-coaster of a run which we’ve just enjoyed. Scale-wise, it’s hardly what you’d call epic, but the setting certainly is and the run packs in a lot of fun, so we sense that when the opportunity presents itself we’ll be back to do it at least once again.

When we do so we’ll be tempted to follow it by taking the same onward route we’re about to tackle today. From here there are both red and blue pistes, the first of which is Génépy, a leisurely blue cruiser which follows a wayward route to pass below the arrival of the Fresse chairlift. This lift provides speedy access to a large plateau area which offers novices their first taste of high-mountain skiing, on a network of safe green-graded pistes served by three chairlifts. Our route, meanwhile, undergoes a change of identity and morphs into Prariond before surging relentlessly down to Val Claret. When we get there our own lift of choice, the Tuffs chairlift, hauls us to 2704m beside the top station of the Tovière gondola, which replaced the famous Aeroski chair on one of the key hauls out of the village. From the top station the choices include both groomed and ungroomed steep descents into Lac or back over to Val Claret.

Liess black piste, Tignes
Tignes ski area

To Val d’Isère, or not to ‘Val’..?

The main attraction, though, is the speedy onward run over to the Rocher de Bellevarde (2827m) area above Val d’Isère. Later in our visit we’ll head over to enjoy the one of the many descents into ‘Val’, but for now we content ourselves with merely having reached the Rocher de Bellevarde before working our way back on a route which involves briefly joining the lower section of the aptly-named Verte green-graded piste to pick up the Tommeuses chairlift. It actually turns out to be an interesting return run, as the blue-graded Paquerettes heads back to Val Claret, rather than Tignes Le Lac, providing us with a much more direct return to our apartment in Tignes 1800. It’s something worth knowing. So we peel off onto Trolles – a black which gives our protesting legs a final workout and which doesn’t give up even on the blue-graded final drop into the village. We’ll remember that one.

Fortunately, a quick haul on the Chaudannes chairlift drops us onto the first of a series of blue cruises to take us back to the Tignes 1800 Les Boisses area, and we’re able to ski virtually to our door at CGH’s excellent Kalinda Village.

It’s been a hugely rewarding day, which has forced us to rethink our previous image of Tignes as being suited primarily to advanced skiers. The challenges are still there, of course, but this dynamic, forward-thinking resort is constantly evolving and raising its game, not least by broadening its appeal to families and less-experienced leisure skiers. Factor in recently-added accommodation and services at Tignes 1800 and we have to say that we’re hugely impressed. MountainPassions heart icon