Overall Tignes is best suited for skiers who want to build upon existing skills. There are few beginner slopes and the ski area is mainly made up of long cruiser runs ideal for intermediates and, for more advanced skiers, accessible and inspiring off piste.
The area has 67 runs, six slalom stadiums, a mogul field, two halfpipes and a snow park. Should they be needed there are also 193 snow cannons.
Wth the resort at 2,100 meters (6,890 feet) and rising to 3,450 meters (11,319 feet) Tignes's high altitude means it always has a good snow covering and there are regular snowfalls of classic light, dry powder. Tignes itself divides up into four different skiing areas: The Grande Motte, The Palet, Tovière and Brévières sectors.
The Grande Motte and Col Du Palet peaks are both directly accessible from Val Claret. The underground Funiculaire train running up the mountain is the fastest way to the Grande Motte cable car. It runs every 15 inutes and is impressively quick and efficient. Alternatively, if it is a nice day, you can take the more scenic route via the high speed Lanches chairlift and then the Vanoise chair to reach the cable. Once at the top of the cable car (capacity 115) you can admire the amazing view, pick your route down and enjoy the snow. All of the runs on Grand Motte are north facing.
Col du Palet is reached by taking the Tichot chair and the newly installed Grattalu lift. Some of lifts on this side are slow and in need of renovation but the ski runs over here are apt rewards for the time taken. If you want to try Tignes' latest Freeskiing project SPOT (Skiing the Powder of Tignes) then take the Col des Ves lift.
The Toviere and Brévières sectors are reached from lifts located in Tignes-Le-Lac. To get to Toviere take the Aeroski gondola. From this point you can ski back down to Le Lac, investigate the La Daille valley towards Val d'Isere (you will need an Espace Killy pass to get back though!) or head towards Val Claret. To get to the Brévières sector take the high speed Palafour chairlift, then ski to the Aiguille Perceé lift and admire Tignes's famous rock formation - 'the Eye of the Needle'. From the peak here you can either explore runs down to Les Brévières, Les Boisses or ski back to Le Lac.
Most lifts in Tignes vary opening and closing times depending on the time of year and you should consult an up-to-date Tignes ski map to check these. Recent necessary improvements have been made to the important lifts of Tommeuses, Palafour, and Grattalu but there are still a few rickety old fixed grip chairlifts that need to be replaced. The main lift up to the Col du Palet (Tichot) is incredibly slow - the adjacent draglift is faster. Generally, though, Tignes has an excellent lift system and its vast ski area is efficiently handled by mostly modern and quick lifts. Queues are rarely a problem except in holiday periods.
You can buy either a Tignes or an Espace Killy lift pass. A Tignes lift pass allows you to enjoy all of the 67 ski runs, 150km of piste and 5000 hectares of area available to Tignes. An Espace Killy lift pass adds the runs in Val d'Isere to this - approximately the same ski area again! An Espace Killy lift pass is a little more expensive but definitely worth it for the intermediate or advanced skier. Surprisingly the lift pass is not electronic like in some resorts and you will need a photo for the pass. Take ID with you to take advantage of age discounts.
Tignes also offers a 'loyalty card'. The Carte Tignes is available to returning visitors as long as they have purchased a six-day lift pass within the last three years. It gives you a reduction off the price of your lift pass depending on the length of your stay. There are also discounts for children (5-12) and seniors (60-74).
Although Tignes is primarily a resort for intermediates and advanced skiers and boarders, it does have some good beginner areas to offer. Le Bollin in Val Claret next to the main lift stations is one of them and has some good local bars nearby, making it a handy place for not so confident skiers to practice and then meet up with friends later in the day. Lower down in Rosset and Lavachet are some gentler slopes which are used for learning and practice by various ski schools. Even further down in Les Brévières, Pitôts is the closest beginner slope. There are five free beginners' lifts in these areas. If you only want to admire the amazing views or meet friends for lunch in a mountain restaurant, but don't fancy the ski down, it's possible to buy pedestrian tickets for some lifts.
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With its 38 blue runs and 17 red runs Tignes is an intermediates' paradise. Well-groomed runs, consistently good snow and a huge ski area combine to make Tignes exactly the sort of destination for any skier aspiring to further their technique and ability. On the whole the runs are long enough to satisfy most skiers or boarders while the efficient lift system ensures that everybody gets to the top of the mountain quickly.
The descent from the very top of Grande Motte is an ideal intermediate run: a wide slope with a testing gradient that allows you to go at either a slower pace or straighten up and speed off.
For scenic and relaxed skiing, and if the weather is good, head towards Tignes' famous geological attraction, the 'eye of the needle'. This is a completely natural rock formation.that protrudes from the Aiguelle Percee peak. Be aware, though, that a few of the lifts here are slow and can be very uncomfortable and cold if it's windy or cloudy.
If the snow is good, and it usually is, the long black run down to Brévières (called Sache) is well worth while. It gives strong intermediate skiers the chance to improve balance, technique and stamina. At the end there is a real sense of achievement and maybe more importantly a restaurant, a bar and lifts back to Tignes-Le-Lac. All of the runs are well marked and the chances of unintentionally veering off-piste are minimal.
It's advanced skiers and boarders who benefit most from what Tignes has to offer. At first glance there seems only to be a handful of black runs, but it's an abundance of off-piste skiing, including some excellent lift-accessible off piste itineraries, that really makes Tignes so popular with good skiers.
The one thing Tignes really lacks is some decent tree runs. Because of its high altitude trees don't feature, but on the plus side this means all of the slopes are incredibly open and on a clear day it's easy to pick out the best runs and jumps.
For more about Off Piste Skiing in Tignes visit Ultimate-Ski.com's Guide to Tignes Off Piste>>>
The off-piste skiing in Tignes tends to be of quite a different character to that in neighbouring Val d'Isère - much of it a little higher and in general above the tree-line, which gives it something of a lunar landscape. One thing which is true of the off-piste of both resorts, however, is that to realise its full potential, whilst keeping you safe, you will need to hire a guide. See the separate Tignes Ski Schools & Guides and the Val d'Isere Ski Schools & Guides pages for more details on this.
Some of the links between the two sectors are in fact off-piste, and one of the easiest and most pleasant routes across to Val d'Isère from Tignes is L'Arriere des Campanules, in the Val Claret area, reached from the top of Tovière. You head down towards the lower section of the Génépy piste, and on to Tignes Val Claret. In the opposite direction - from Tignes back to Val d'Isère, is La Familiale. It too is reached from any of the Tovière lifts, and brings you to the bottom of the Tommeuses lifts which link the two resorts.
Perhaps the easiest off-piste run for would-de be off-piste skiers to learn on is Lognan, reached from the Grattalu or Merle Blanc lifts across the valley. You begin by taking the Lognan piste for about 600 metres. Where the piste separates into red or blue alternatives, there are a number of off-piste variants. You can chose whether you want to ski on down to the Grand Motte base area or the Val Claret bus.
Accessed with a 20 minute ridge walk from the top of Tovière, the Couloir Gendarme (just below a jutting rock which stands, policeman-like above the chute) can involve being roped down a tricky section until the couloir opens up to provide a wide and wonderfully long untouched snowfield.
Another off-piste route into Tignes from Val D'Isere is from the top of the Borsat Express lift. Simply hike up to the top of the ridge and ski down on the Tignes side to skiers left of the Isolee piste until you meet the Blue Genepy curling down from the Grande Motte. Be careful: there are rocks here particularly near the top and avalanches can occur. If in doubt, take a guide.
The Grande Motte, with the highest slopes in the entire Espace Killy, has a number of options. At the base of the glacier, reached by the Grande Motte funicular, La Langue du Glacier is wonderfully scenic without being difficult. Although it's steep, it's also wide enough to make even intermediates feel fairly unthreatened.
On the Grande Motte glacier itself, the North Face run, is fairly easy but can be chilly, and although they are not as major threat, there are crevasses, especially in lean snow years (when at least you're more likely to be able to see them) and if you wander too far away from the main route.
The North Face of Pramecou "is maybe the most beautiful north face in the Espace Killy" say Steiger and Bonnevie. "The approach is magnificent, opposite the Grand Casse, and with a spectacular first descent." It is also very difficult technically, with a slop reaching 45o. The run is reached from the top of the Grande Motte funicular, and means a walk of 15 minutes or more. A rope and skins are advised. Much less challenging but a delightful alternative is the Tour de la Grande Balme (AKA Tour de Pramecou) , which involves significantly less danger, though there is still potential avalanche danger. The Couloirs de la Grande Balme are much more serious, and should only be attempted by experts. The Couloir de la Petite Balme - from which you end up skiing down to the Génépy piste, and on to Tignes Val Claret - is very dangerous if you take a wrong turn.
Lower down La Grande Motte, at the top of Lanches chair, traverse around an untouched bowl (a favourite of guides) and end up at the foot of two runs, nicknamed 'Telegraph' and 'Telephone'. If timed right, from mid morning to early afternoon, both offer virgin powder snow, first-rate fall lines and rock jumps aplenty. Alternatively a ten minutes' or so walk from the bottom of the glacier button lift, Rosolin, brings you to the edge of one of the best runs in Tignes. Ski through a magnificent powder bowl and you will get to the top of three couloirs, simply nicknamed one, two and three. From here you decide which one you want to tackle and then ski down to Les Lanches chairlift.
Mickey's Ears (Les Oreilles de Mickey) in the Massif du Lavachet/Tignes le Lac area, provide one of the best known and most enjoyable off-piste areas in Tignes - overlooking the resort's famous dam. Unlike many other Tignes' off-piste spots, this area does include gladed skiing. It also includes some tough challenges: slopes as much as 45°, and the possibility of slides and collapsing cornices. The run gets its name from the attenae and satellite dishes attached to the relay station at the top of the Pointe du Lavachet. It's reached by taking any of the lifts to the top of Tovière. There are a number of variants, including one all the way back to La Daille (Val d'Isère). The Tufs Couloirs, close to the piste but very narrow, are also accessible from here.
There are several off-piste runs that come down to the bottom of the Merles lift from the top of the Grattalu lift. Some have very steep entry points. The simplest to reach (and shortest) is the couloir directly below the Merles chair, accessed from the blue Lac run.
The Vallon de la Sache is one of the classic Tignes runs - a beautiful long run with a 900 metre (2,953 feet) vertical drop. You reach it via the Aiguille Percée chair or the Marais chair. This is a run which any reasonably experienced off piste skier or boarder will relish. To reach it just turn left off the Corniche run. There are multiple entry points. Don't descend too low because the valley becomes steeper and steeper (and is impassable to all except extreme skiers by the end). Fortunately the traverse you need to take you back to the safety of the Black Sache piste is pretty obvious - at least in good light.
Vallon de la Sachette takes you one further valley away. Entry is via one of two steep couloirs that you reach by traversing left, along the ridge from the top of the Aiguille Percee. The valley itself is very gentle but has 'an away from it all' aura and often lovely snow. Gradually it merges into the Vallon de la Sache. Again don't descend too low.
Glattier refers to both the broad slopes and the narrow valley that descend down to the road running between Tignes 1800/Tignes les Boisses and Tignes Le Lavachet. You reach it from either the Chaudannes or Aiguille Rouge lifts. It's very easy to take a wrong turning and have to do a lot of walking (yet another reason why you should hire a guide). If all goes well however, you ski down the road not far from the designated bus stop, where you wait for the ski bus. But it's not a very frequent service, so it's best to check the timetable before setting out.
All the Val d'Isere off-pitse is easily accessible to Tignes skiers with an Espace Killy pass. Further details are in our separte Val d'Isere Off-Piste section.
Apart from such a wealth of off-piste in the Espace Killy, there is also the possibility of some epic inter-resort guided tours, such as the one between Tignes and Champagny (part of the La Plagne ski area) or between Tignes and Peisey (part of the Les Arcs ski area) and which include some of the best off-piste skiing in the Paradiski area. Both these require taxis back to Tignes or Val d'Isere which your guide will arrange. (You usually catch the taxi at Villaroger or Bourg St Maurice which are less than 30 mins away from Tignes or Val D'Isere.)
Even closer to Val D'Isere and Tignes, is the small ski station of Sainte Foy Tarentaise. Most Espace Killy lift passes cover one day here, and it's a good optional extra to have, when Val D'Isere and Tignes are very crowded and all the off-piste is very tracked out. Hire a guide to take you there and they will show you why St Foy has a such a good reputation for off-piste skiing.
There are also ski tours from the top of the Val D'Isere ski area to Bonneval sur Arc. Bonneville sur Arc is an isolated, picturesque mountain village with its own small ski area (complete with a lift reaching to 3000m and plenty of freeride opportunities) and it's also linked by bus and lift pass to the larger Val Cenis area, so it's a nice place to stay in for a night or two. The return trip on skis is much harder so many skiers opt to go back by helicopter. (The road back to Val D'Isere is closed in winter.)
Tignes has much to offer freeriders and boarders, including a dedicated area, marked on the piste map as SPOT (Skiing the Powder of Tignes) in the Col des Ves sector. It comprises of different zones for different disciplines: backcountry, freeskiing, boarder cross and an Avalanche training section. The run Col de Ves is an ungroomed off-piste area, however it is patrolled.
In 2004/5 Tignes had two halfpipes: a 70m beginners' halfpipe and a 120m expert one that complies with FIS standards. A tow rope operating alongside takes riders back to the top. The whole resort is boarder-friendly and repair kits/tools can be found on most lifts.
Within the Tignes ski area there are ten mountainside restaurants. Menus consist mainly of pasta dishes, salads, omelettes and steaks. Nearly all are located at the top of lifts and serve lunch until about 2pm. As with most mountain restaurants food is expensive, but there are also some (not so good) self-service stations. For those who want to relax in the sun after a few runs there is the Tavernes de Neiges at the foot of the Val Claret lifts but for a better view try the Panoramic restaurant atop of the Funiculaire.
Generally the food is good but Tignes is not known for amazingly high culinary standards. If you want to lunch in style then head over to Val d'Isere where you will find fancier menus, longer wine lists and higher prices.
Tignes does not have much of a reputation for après ski and nightlife. Admittedly it does not have the party atmosphere of other European resorts but this is mainly due to the rather soulless feel created by most of its architecture and not down to a lack of entertainment effort. In fact there are over 75 restaurants, 50 bars and four nightclubs.
If you are staying in Val Claret you can cut off the slope by Tuffs chairlift and stroll towards the Crowded House. It's central, has a welcoming and laid back appeal and is perfect for a few drinks after a hard day on the hill. Alternatively if it's still sunny you should sit down with a drink outside one of the local bars with sun terraces, such as Fish Tank or Grizzly's Bar. Down the road in Le Lac there are more bars.
Tignes is not noted for culinary excellence, but there are loads of well-run restaurants offering good and relatively cheap food.
Tignes caters for most tastes, with many well-run restaurants where you can eat well and (relatively) cheaply. For a decent pizza head for La Pignatta in Val Claret, if you want to splash out and treat yourself, try Le Caveau in Val Claret, highly rated not only for its fine food but also for live music and atmosphere. Down in Le Lac the most revered restaurant is in the l'Arbina Hotel. Just along from there is the Clin d'Oeil, another highly regarded venue.
If you still have energy to burn after a day's skiing, there are various late night options in Tignes. Bars generally stay open until 2am; after that there are four nightclubs to choose from: a night of cheesy music at Jack's Club, the exotic and unforgettable Blue Girl, or the cooler and funkier Melting Pot or Cav du Lac.
Although not recommend as a place to visit if you're not skiing or snowboarding, Tignes does have plenty of other pastimes to supplement your day if you need a breather from the slopes or feel in need of some other form of entertainment. Other snow activities include ski-jöring (being pulled along the snow by a horse), paragliding, cross country skiing, snowmobiling and dog sledding. There is even an ice diving club (phone Tignes Tourist Info).
If you want a complete change then Tignes has a cinema and a bowling alley. If you're after some retail therapy, though, then it is be best to go elsewhere, as Tignes does not have that wide an array of shops. Le Bec Rouge (in Le Lac) and Val Claret offer the largest selection of retailers, though most are sport shops. There are several supermarkets for the large self-catering community. An open-air market in Le Lac on Thursday and Sunday sells local produce and sports/ski clothing.