Located in the French Alps, Tignes is a popular ski resort which is accessed by the majority of international visitors from Geneva Airport which is a 2 ½ hour drive away. The original village of Tignes used to lie below Val d’Isère but was submerged as part of a hydro-electric power project as post-war France sought to increase its electricity supply.
Following its ‘disappearance’ a new Tignes was developed as a ski resort further up the valley where the Grand Motte glacier was the key to all year round skiing. Unfortunately, in recent times this hasn’t been possible due to a significant reduction in the size of the glacier which forces the resort to close for a short time each year.
The ski resort itself consists of the villages of Val Claret, Tignes le Lac and Le Lavachet which stand at 2100m together with Tignes Les Boisses and Tignes-les-Brévières lower down the valley. Ski slopes reach almost 3500m and the whole area is well connected with neighbouring Val-d’Isère which creates an impressive ski area known as ‘Espace Killy’.
In spite of being able to cater for more than 30,000 guests, Tignes won’t win any awards for its après-ski simply because the resort is split into these 5 villages. As a result there isn’t one central area where everyone congregates into the early hours. Having said that, there’s a fair selection of bars and restaurants in Val Claret and Le Lac where you can enjoy a good night out. Be sure to check out the SoBar for a friendly welcome and great atmosphere. Further down the valley there’s little going on in the evening.
Practical Skiing Information:
Espace Killy: Jean-Claude Killy is the greatest French skier of all time having won three Olympic gold medals at the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble. The combined ski area of the Tarentaise Valley which includes Tignes and Val d’Isère is named in his honour. In this valley you’ll find more than 300km of ski runs and the highest concentration of world-class ski resorts on the planet. You can buy a weekly lift pass for Espace Killy which provides access to the famous slopes of ‘Les Trois Vallées’ and those of nearby ‘Paradiski’.
Ability Levels: In terms of ability levels, Tignes is most suited to intermediate and advanced skiers as well as having plenty to offer snowboarders. Whilst beginners might be better off heading for a less demanding area, they are catered for lower down the valley in Rosset and Lavachet which are the slopes often favoured by local ski schools when teaching novices.
Summer Activities: Thanks to the Grand Motte glacier there are 20km of slopes which are open for much of the year together with a snowpark. Non-skiers are welcome to jump on the funicular which goes up the glacier and get off at the terrace to the panoramic restaurant which stands at 3000m. A ride on the cable car from here provides sensational views of many surrounding peaks and you might spot Mont Blanc in the distance on a clear day. Many other summer activities are available such as white-water rafting, mountain biking and canyoning or you can play a round of golf on Europe’s highest golf course.
Getting to Tignes
From Geneva: Tignes lies 220km south-east of Geneva International Airport. The journey by road shouldn’t take much more than 2½ hours.
From Lyon: Lyon Airport lies a similar distance to the west of Tignes with more or less the same transfer time though far fewer flights are available to this destination.
From Chambery: Even closer is Chambery Airport (135km) which is less than two hours away but again has a fraction of the flights arriving in Geneva.
Whilst specialist ski transfers are available with Shuttledirect from all these airports, the majority of skiers use their services from Geneva where vehicles with driver are available for groups of any size.
Where to Stay in Tignes
As a purpose-built resort, Tignes isn’t the prettiest by a long way, with much of its accommodation looking like a hangover from the 1960s. Yet amongst the mediocre you’ll find some lovely places to stay which are up there with some of the best chalets that the Alps has to offer.
Les Suites du Nevada (Rue du Val Claret): This beautiful 5-star hotel is a typical wooden Alpine ski chalet. It is ideally located just a few minutes from the resort’s ski lifts and has excellent facilities including an indoor pool and sauna.
Hotel Village Montana (Les Almes): This 4-star property is another typical wooden chalet which has its own highly regarded restaurant. The staff throughout the hotel are a delight and the heated outdoor pool is very popular with guests.
Hotel Le Gentiana (Route du Rosset): A highly recommended 3-star choice which is only a few minutes’ stroll to the ski lifts. Friendly, family-run establishment with a great restaurant and a most welcoming swimming pool and jacuzzi.
Hotel Vanoise (Rue du Val Claret): For something more affordable take a look at this 2-star property which is ideally located on the slopes allowing for a ‘ski-in, ski-out’ experience. Small, family-run option where you’ll be made very welcome.