With Snoworks running more courses than ever in the Espace Killy, Phil Smith provides a spotlight on the resort of Tignes.
Why Tignes? Simply put, it’s one of the best ski areas in the world. The village may not have the quintessential classy feel of St Moritz, Zermatt or Megève and there are no fur coats for sale in the shops! But let us not forget, Tignes’ popularity developed in the ’80’s when France brought skiing to the masses and enabled thousands of skiers just like ourselves to get cheap skiing. We crammed ourselves 6 to an apartment suitable for 2 adults of average size! But we skied and we learned and we had the time of our lives and many British skiers were able to purchase property in French ski resorts to ski even more. Try buying a property in St Moritz or Zermatt!
Now many French resorts know they have to compete and Tignes is one of these that have slowly but surely begun to remodel themselves. Go to the official Tignes website at www.tignes.net and you will immediately see what their image is all about – ‘Tignes, La Station de Ski La Plus Sportive’, ‘Tignes, the sportiest ski resort’.
So how does Tignes live up to this claim? Firstly, they have one of the longest seasons anywhere in France and most of Europe. The glacier opens on the 1st October, the Espace Killy from the 26th November and stays open until May 8th. They have also recently built the ‘Lagoon’ – a leisure complex with a swimming pool equipped with slides, segregated swimming lanes, fitness, spa and sauna. And this year they’re building a high altitude sports centre complete with its own indoor running track for national teams from other sports to train at altitude. If you visit in the summer, everyone is outdoors – cycling, walking, running, playing football, basketball and volleyball. Plus there’s the lake where people launch themselves off a giant ramp practising their freeskiing!
But most importantly, it’s all about the skiing – with two great ski resorts linked to form the Espace Killy with over 300km of slopes, giving you high altitude skiing with a history of the best ski conditions around. The villages of Tignes perched at over 2,000m make it amongst the highest ski resorts in Europe. For those that want to stay on the pistes and travel, in one direction you have Les Brevieres and in the other Val d’Isère and on to Le Fornet, and if you need height you’ve got the Grande Motte Funicular that will whisk you to a height of 3456m in a matter of minutes, then up from there!
If you’re looking for the off-piste, it’s easily accessible from the lifts with an abundance of backcountry routes. Rather then discourage off-piste skiing like many areas, Tignes welcomes it, and has worked hard to ensure off-piste skiers are well educated and know the risks. They’ve built test stations where you can check your transceivers near access to off-piste and backcountry routes with comprehensive information about snow conditions, safety and hazards.
Then there’s the prices – yes all resorts are expensive these days but in Tignes there are still places where you can get a sandwich and coffee for lunch and don’t need to take out a loan! With a huge selection of accommodation in Tignes-le-Lac, le Lavachet and Val-Claret, there’s an option to suit everyones needs and pocket.
As instructors when we go skiing in Tignes we register with the Marie and have exactly the same rights as every ski school and ski instructor in Tignes – lift priority, attendance at local meetings and a say in the development of Tignes. Now that’s really something.