One of Europe’s highest ski resorts, Tignes is the place to go for snow-sure slopes, fantastic off-piste, endless intermediate cruisers and convenience. And, despite its 1960s style purpose-built appearance, there’s just enough French Alpine charm to make a ski holiday in Tignes feel a little bit European.
- Between Tignes and neighboring Val d’Isere (which easily connects) there is enough varied terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders to explore for weeks.
- Most of the accommodation is just a short walk to a ski lift, if not ski-in ski-out.
- Get a guide and explore the off-piste, which can go untracked for days after a storm.
- The spectacular scenery, especially from Grande Motte.
- Fast and efficient lifts.
- Some of the key runs and lifts can get crowded and have queues, particularly over peak holiday periods.
- The architecture around the resort is not exactly appealing, at least to Scout’s taste.
- The resort is separated into a series of villages, each with a different feel, leaving it with a somewhat fractured vibe.
- During storms the exposed lifts are prone to closure and its unprotected, treeless environment can make visibility a challenge.
Located high in the French Alps is the modern ski resort of Tignes. With its main village sitting at 2100m/6889ft it’s one of the best places to go for reliable snow. But snow surety isn’t the only reason to visit Tignes. As part of Espace Killy, its slopes easily connect with neighboring Val d’Isere so the choice of slopes is endless. The Tignes ski resort sits in one huge treeless valley with plenty of off-piste to explore between the groomed runs. Catch the underground funicular (which climbs 3000m in seven minutes) from Val Claret village to Grande Motte, the top of the resort that sits at 3455m/11340ft. The views of the Alps from there are breathtaking.
Back at base level, Tignes is a bustling and busy series of resort villages. What appears to be a bland, 1960s-style resort has enough influence of the French Alps to make it feel friendly and almost charming. Whether it’s the weekly markets selling delicious local fromage or saucisson, the smell of freshly baked croissant wafting from the patisserie or the Euro pop tunes playing at one of the après bars, we were pleasantly surprised by the Tignes vibe. Don’t get us wrong – there are some hideously ugly buildings that sit prominently in the landscape. If this really worries you, stay in the more charming lower villages of Les Boisses (Tignes 1800) or Tignes-les-Brevieres.
Skiers and snowboarders of all standards certainly won’t be disappointed with the on-snow offering at Tignes. With 150km (93 miles) of on-piste ski runs and acres of off-piste to explore there is so much terrain and so much variety that anyone will have fun exploring for days. And that doesn’t even include neighboring Val d’Isere, the other half of Espace Killy, which easily connects with Tignes in two locations.
Added to this is the huge benefit the area gets from being so high. The snow is reliable and high quality and so it makes an excellent choice at any time, but particularly if you are holidaying at the start or end of the season. Spring skiing in Tignes is excellent with warm sunny days and good coverage of spring snow.
The best first-timer areas are at Tignes-le-Lac and Tignes 1800 (Les Boisses), both of which have magic carpets (there is also a magic carpet at Val Claret that is exclusively for Club Med guests). Each village has a series of beginner runs, though those leading into the base at Val Claret can be a little intimidating for unconfident beginners. Some of the beginner areas are also thoroughfares for other skiers to get to lifts. The best part – there are beginner lifts in every village that are free!
Intermediate skiers will be spoilt for choice – Tignes offers some of the best intermediate skiing in Europe. This is partly due to the quality of snow, partly because of the perfect grooming and partly because there is just so much terrain to explore. Some of the runs can get crowded so those that like to cruise GS-style turns at high-speed may get frustrated. Scout’s tip is to avoid the crowds by heading farther from the center such as to the scenic runs down to the villages of Tignes 1800 and Les Brevieres. Even better, those villages have some great value restaurants for lunch serving up delicious local Savoyard dishes.
Advanced skiers will also love the terrain at Tignes, particularly those who like to explore off-piste where fresh tracks can often be found well into the afternoon, if not days after a storm. We strongly advise not venturing off-piste without a guide as some areas can be prone to avalanche danger and some of the better parts can be difficult to find. Even though most of the resort sits above the treeline there’s some great tree skiing in the areas leading to Tignes 1800 and Les Brevieres. There’s also some excellent steep skiing including couloirs and cliffs if you’re looking to get the adrenaline pumping.
As a past host of the X Games, Tignes has a reputation of having some great terrain park features, including a half-pipe at Val Claret.
There are plenty of on-mountain restaurants in Tignes but many of them can be expensive. Don’t miss the legendary La Folie Douce (also in four other resorts) for a delicious lunch followed by an afternoon dance session with DJs spinning tunes on a large outdoor deck and professional dancers – be prepared to dance on the table in your ski boots and even better, bring your fancy dress. (The original idea of La Folie Douce back in the 60s was to bring Ibiza to the mountains.)
Tignes is a great choice for families. Most importantly, thanks to the spread of the villages most of the accommodation options are generally very convenient to the slopes. There are several ski schools at Tignes all offering lessons in English and a variety of other languages though it’s wise to book ahead, particularly in peak periods. Babysitters are also available. The options for off-snow kids activities are not extensive but the handful available in the villages (listed below) should be enough to keep them happy. If you’re looking for a super-easy family holiday the all-inclusive Club Med Tignes makes an excellent choice.
Tignes has a wide variety of accommodation from which to choose – from self-contained apartments to all standards of hotels (2–5 star), from catered chalets to all-inclusive resorts. The different types are also spread out amongst the villages, each of which is fairly unique so choose your area carefully based on your preference.
- The more traditional French-style chalets and hotels are mainly concentrated in the Les Brevieres and Les Boisses areas, but keep in mind these are a good distance from the main hub areas of Le Lac and Val Claret.
- Tignes-Le-Lac (particularly the areas of Le Rosset and Les Almes) has the most European village vibe (especially when the markets are on at Le Rosset). It’s also where most of the resort’s extra activities are focused, such as the indoor pool arena, so it’s a good choice for families, though it does have fewer of the apartments.
- Val Claret has a mix of accommodation styles and as it’s higher it makes a great choice for advanced skiers who want to be quickly on the slopes, or if you’re staying at the beginning or tail-end of the season as it’s more likely to have snow than the village.
- Val Claret and Le Lac are where most of the restaurant and bar activity is centered.
Tignes does have some good value options making it a good choice for those on a budget.
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There’s a handful of activities to do at Tignes other than skiing or boarding. The most notable extra activity is a large aquatic center that has plenty of fun for the kids, including decent water slides and paddling pools for younger ones. Ice skating is another popular activity in (and on) Le Lac and skate rental is free with a two-day or more Espace Killy ski pass. There are two areas to practise your sledging (sledding) – Le Lac and Lavachet. Tignes also has a bungee trampoline and the resort puts on movies for children throughout winter.
The closest airports to Tignes are Chambery, Grenoble (each about two hours’ drive), Lyon and Geneva (both three hours) with plenty of companies offering private and shared shuttles. If arriving by train the closest station is Bourg Saint Maurice (about a 40-minute drive) from which there are regular coach or taxi transfers. Driving to Tignes is not for the faint-hearted as the road that twists and turns up to the villages can be particularly dicey when it’s snowing. (When we drove up after fresh snow the snow tyres on the car weren’t sufficient – 4WD or chains were also required). If you do brave the drive there’s some free open-air parking as well as paid covered car parking.
For those wanting to visit or transfer to Val d’Isere (not on skis) there are three buses daily.
Although the different villages of Tignes are spread out, they’re all well connected with a frequent and free shuttle bus. Better still, it runs 24/7 which is great if you want to party in a different village from where you’re staying. It is possible to walk from Val Claret to Le Lac, but it’s much easier to catch the bus.
Thanks to its high-altitude location in the French Alps, the Tignes ski season is a particularly long one – in fact it’s even possible to ski up at the Grande Motte glacier in summer!
As winter and snow arrives the resort gradually opens up more and more terrain and by December most of the resort is open. Like every ski resort in Europe, Tignes can get crowded over the Christmas and New Year holidays. Late January and February are the most reliable times to visit for powder snow. The mid-term school holidays (usually in the 2nd and 3rd week of February) can be quite busy with families. When the sun starts shining in April, so does Tignes as it’s one of the better places to enjoy spring skiing thanks to the altitude keeping the snow quality high. The resort usually stays open until the beginning of May.
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