The combined ski domain of Tignes and neighbouring Val d'Isère, ith its modern lift system and wide range of pistes, is a ski destination that will suit everyone.
The main things to know about the Tignes ski area are:
Part of one of the largest ski areas in Europe
Joined with neighbouring Val d'Isère, offers around 300km of marked pistes.
Snow coverage tends to be one of the best in Europe meaning good conditions until the beginning of May.
Perfect for beginners and families
Four different nursery/beginner areas with a variety of chairlifts and drags and an especially designed three-step "Ski Start" programme.
Tignes ski area
Located in the Tarentaise area of the Savoie department in the Northern Alps, Tignes is a snow sure resort that together with neighbouring resort Val d'Isère offer over 300km of piste skiing and some of Europe’s most spectacular scenery. Due to their location against the peaks of the Italian border, the Tignes and Val d'Isère ski area's record of snowfall is exceptional. Whilst benefiting from the same Atlantic depressions as other French resorts, it often receives heavy falls of snow from the Mediterranean low pressures which dump their snow on the Italian Alps.
Accessed by 90 ski lifts and funicular railways to reach the glaciers, there are 20 green pistes, 67 blues, 41 reds and 26 blacks, and two snowparks, making it popular with skiers of every level (see the piste maps).
What's it like to ski and snowboard in Tignes?
The main resort sits on the edge of Le Lac at an altitude of 2,100m, and the lower villages still boast altitudes of 1,550m and 1,850m. Above all of this is the Grande Motte Glacier which rises to a lofty 3,450m and is accessible not only during winter but in the summer too - yes, you can come summer skiing in Tignes.
In resort there are 150km of pisted terrain to explore with a variety of pistes to suit all ages and abilities. Beginners have access to four different nursery areas, all accessible from the villages, and intermediates and advanced skiers and snowboarders will find the areas to explore are numerous. Tignes has a number of extremely challenging and advanced pistes, with a host of 'naturide' (ungroomed) black runs, steep black runs and some reds verging on being a black.
The Tignes ski area can be split into four areas:
- La Grande Motte Massif
- Palet/L'Aiguille Percée
- Les Brévières
The Grande Motte
The Grande Motte is the highest massif in the area; a mass of rock, ice and permanent snow cover on the glacier at the highest point. It is the only part of the ski area which is open every season. It can be accessed by either the Funicular railway (which runs in all weathers, taking approximately 3,000 skiers an hour) or by taking the Lanches and Vanoise chairlifts, then finally the Grande Motte cable car. The scenery is absolutely stunning at the top be sure to stop long enough to look across the mountains at the Vanoise National Park, the Grande Casse (3,852m), Mont Blanc (4,807m) and the Grande Sassière (3,747m). Skiing on the Grande Motte offers a good choice of wide open blues and some more challenging reds. It can often be deceptively cold on the glacier, and not always conducive to learning as some of the slopes can be steeper than expected.
The L'Aigulle Percée/Palet massif is accessible from Val Claret by the Tichot chairlift and from Le Lac by the Palafour. There are a number of cruisey intermediate blue and red runs here, including a host of fantastic blue runs that can either be made into a long rolling piste by heading all the way back down to Le Lac or slightly shorter by doing a few loops of a chairlift higher up. Taking the Grand Huit chairlift up and heading down the Percée Neige blue piste you will find this run to be quieter than others in resort and with stunning views over the Tignes Valley it is one to head to. For spectacular views head up the Aiguille Percée and enjoy the famous 'Eye of the Needle' rock formation and take the lovely long Corniche blue piste down to the top of the Chaudannes chairlift.
Although there’s not a huge selection of blacks, you can try La Sache, an exhilarating 10km long black run from the top of the L’Aiguille Percée through a spectacular valley to Tignes Les Brévières. It provides some fierce moguls and challenging skiing. Alternatively, Silene is a black naturide piste under the Marais lifts, not always open, so check first.
From the top of the Aigulle Percée chairlift if you head to the right there is some off-piste that you can tackle - but be warned the route down can leave you stranded at the bottom not knowing which way to go, so make sure you plan extremely carefully.
The Tovière sector provides links with Val d’Isère, and is accessible by taking the Aeroski bubble from Tignes-le-Lac or the Tufs and Bollin chairlifts from Val Claret. You can enjoy a number of gentle blues and more challenging reds, particularly the Combe Folle which leads into the mogul covered, steep black Trolles piste down into Le Lac. This area tends to be busy as it is the link with Val d'Isère and the whole area.
The lowest part of the Tignes ski area, Les Brévières is a nice little sun trap from early on in the morning, making it the perfect resting point for a spot of lunch on a sunny day, especially in the warmer months of the season. The pistes in this area mainly consist of easy wide blues and slightly more challenging red runs. There is some lovely off-piste skiing to access here, handy in a white-out as there's plenty of trees.
There is also a snowpark at the top of the Grattalu chairlift, giving riders the chance to try their hand at some freestyle jumping, rails and big air. The features here are not that big, so it's a good place to head to if you've not much park riding experience.
Probably the best freestyle feature that Tignes has to offer is its halfpipe. This sits at the base of the Les Lanches chairlift at the top end of Tignes Val Claret. The pipe itself is impressive, not many resorts in France have one.
Rather uniquely Tignes also has a vibrant summer ski scene with snowparks up on the glacier, well-groomed pistes as well as gentle nursery slopes. It attracts ski teams, racers and freestyle skiers and snowboarders from around the world.
Val d'Isère ski area
Val d'Isère has to be one of the most beautiful French ski resorts, nestled in a valley at the foot of the mountains with its chocolate box chalets and hotels, spread between the central town and its outlying villages. It remains a firm favourite with both British and French holidaymakers, many who come here year on year, to take advantage of some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world.
Located in a steep valley, it is these steep slopes that have attracted the hardcore skiers since the resort opened for downhill skiing in the mid-1930's. With a variety of pistes to suit both beginners and advanced skiers, this resort is perfect for all ages and abilities, and as and when the snow is falling there's always fun to be had.
Beginners are unlikely to leave the slopes of Tignes to travel here, but there is a vast choice of slopes in the high Alps where intermediate skiers and boarders can sample the stunning views and learn from those on the steeper pitches, on the bumps and in the snowpark.
The three areas to know are:
- Le Solaise
- Le Fornet
This is the resort's central skiing area and it's very popular, meaning at times it can be the busiest. Overall, it's the best area for beginner and intermediate skiers and is divided into three smaller sections: Glaciers Bowl, L and Mattis - all areas that offer easy skiing on sunny wide slopes. The Madeleine, Arcelle and Manchet pistes are comprised of beginner and intermediate level slopes and are often busy with groups under instruction. The Tête de Solaise/Plan is generally the run used back down to the village, but it is recommended for intermediate and advanced skiers only, so those with tired legs would be wise to take the Solaise cable car or chairlift down to the village.
If you want to enjoy some gentle rolling pistes to get the legs warmed up then head over to the Bellevarde side of the mountain, and take a few laps of the beautiful green Grand Pré piste and the blue Club des Sports pistes off the top of the Grand Pré chairlift. Normally a place for fantastic snow and only a few skiers (including some beginners), with nice conditions all day long it can be the perfect spot to start or end the day.
This area offers a wide range of skiing because it has slopes facing three different directions in a triangular shape bowl. The East facing slopes face Val d’Isère itself and include Épaule du Charvet and the ex-Olympic Face which are steep pistes reserved for good skiers only. Santons is classified as a blue run for intermediates, but be careful on this slope as it runs through a narrow valley and can get extremely busy and full of moguls by the end of the day.
Finally, the West/North West facing slopes offer an excellent view of the Grande Motte, Grande Casse and Mont Blanc. This area includes many long and gentle slopes which lead down to La Daille (Diebold and Verte) as well as more difficult options for intermediate skiers. Orange piste can be accessed from the top of the Olympique bubble or from the top of the Funival from La Daille. If you love moguls then the best piste in Val d'Isère is the Épaule du Charvet. This steep black ungroomed piste has the biggest moguls in the Val d'Isère valley and is definitely a leg burner.
Bellevarde is accessible via the Olympique cable car or the high-speed Bellevarde Express chairlift from the town centre. From La Daille, the Funival, La Daille bubble or the Étroits chairlift will take you there. It is also linked to Tignes by the Tommeuses and Borsat chairlifts.
Le Fornet is a quiet part of Val d'Isère and has some easy long, open and often empty pistes and is guaranteed good snow since it has glacier skiing up to 3,456m. The area has 1,500m of vertical descent along blue runs all the way from the top of the glacier to the bottom of the resort at 1,930m. The Cascade red piste (off the top of the Cascade chairlift) is a particular favourite of ours and always seems to be in top-notch condition. Another favourite is the gully Piste L. Accessible from the Solaise Express and just a short ski away from the bottom of the Glacier chairlift, this lovely blue piste is a gully all the way down to the Laisinant chairlift and can be great fun with kids.
Le Fornet also has some of the most easily accessible and best off-piste, with runs like Point Pers and Col Pers delivering nearly an hour of off-piste skiing for less than a twenty-minute walk. Off the side of the piste under the Cascades chairlift, there is a gentle wide open powder pitch that due to the altitude and quiet nature of the area stays fresh longer than most other areas in Val.
Connections to this area are via the Fornet cable car from Le Fornet village, or on the Leissières chairlift from the Solaise area.
When is the ski area open in Tignes?
The winter season usually runs from mid-December to mid-April, with any early lift openings depending on snow conditions (check Ski Lift Opening Dates for this winter's schedule). Your holiday will be very much determined by the weather and snow conditions, and therefore the time of year you choose to visit is important. If it's sunny pistes and a cold glass of wine on a mountain restaurant terrace, come in March or April. If your perfect ski break is about quiet slopes and lots of fresh snow, then January is the time to come. Or if you want numerous activities organised for your children during their school holidays, February is for you.
Whenever you choose to come, as long as the lifts are open, the local pisteurs will make the best of the snow (real and/or artificial), and groom the pistes to perfection so that you get the best possible conditions.
Beginner areas in Tignes
Tignes has four different nursery slope areas; Val Claret, Tignes Les Lac, Tignes Le Lavachet and Tignes Les Brévières. Across these nursery slopes there are various beginner specific lifts ranging from drag lifts to chairlifts, and in Val Claret there's a specific children’s beginner area with a magic carpet. All these lifts are easily accessible from the villages.
Tignes has developed a three-step "Ski Start" progression programme located on the gentle snow fronts of all four locations. These dedicated beginner areas have been designed so that you can learn by yourself or with an instructor (recommended!) on slopes suited to mastering new skills and building your confidence.
The "Ski Start One: Discover" and "Ski Start Two: Learn" areas will allow you to get used to the feeling of sliding on snow. Lifts here are free, and then once your confidence grows you can try the "Ski Start Three: Practise" areas, which consist of a series of gentle blue runs where you can work on your technique and style. Ski Start Three zones require a Tignes local area ski pass (half or one day options available).
In a nutshell, if you're taking to skis for the first time in Tignes, it's unlikely you'll need to buy a ski pass for at least the first day or so.
Advanced areas in Tignes
Tignes has a number of extremely challenging and advanced pistes. With a host of "naturide" (un-groomed) black runs, steep pisted blacks and some reds that are verging on blacks you can test skiing and enjoy some of the challenges Tignes has to offer.
Val Claret is the highest village of Tignes, and if you head off from the top of the Tommeuses lift and down Piste H from here you can go straight up the Grande Motte glacier. Once up here all the red runs are worth skiing, they hold fantastic snow and wonderful views. The challenging runs here are the red mogul run, Le Mur and Col des Ves, which is a naturide piste. Parmecou is a tough steep black run.
The Piste H run down from the top of Tommeuses heads back into Tignes le Lac - it's a wide black run with a steep pitch, and once you've done that one go up Aeroski and do Paquerettes, a naturide run under the lift.
Once in Tignes le Lac, go up to the top of the Palafour lift, then take either Grand Huit and Aiguille Percée lifts for a host of red runs. Epilobe is a naturide run off the Chaudannes chair.
Over in Les Brévières, La Sache is the area's longest and most demanding run, an exhilarating 10km black run that descends from the top of the L’Aiguille Percée and 'the eye of the needle', through a spectacular valley. Providing the snow conditions are good, it can be a fantastic run. There is an escape route on Echappatoire and Pavot if it does prove too tricky.
Silene is a black naturide piste under the Marais lifts, it's not always open so if it is, it's definitely one to try.
Snowparks in Tignes
In Tignes, the Snowpark and Easy Park can be found at the top of the Grattalu chairlift. The park here is on a long flowing run with a good high-speed chair at the bottom or you can also use the Col du Palet drag lift.
- Easy Park - the features here are better suited to beginners and intermediates as the kickers, tables and rails are perfect for getting used to freestyle. And if you're new to all this you may find it easier to use the Grattalu chairlift to access the park, the drag tow that runs up its side is long and maybe a little tricky if you're still finding your balance.
- Snowpark - the red and black jumps allow freestylers to pull off stylish, clean slides and rotations. If you're not quite there yet, go watch and be inspired by some of the greatest park riders that come to train in Tignes.
- Halfpipe - probably the best freestyle feature that Tignes has to offer sits at the base of the Les Lanches chairlift at the top end of Tignes Val Claret. The pipe itself is impressive, not many resorts in France have one.
- Gliss'Park - located at the foot of the Palafour chairlift in Tignes le Lac at the bottom of the Anemone run is a parallel slalom and mini boardercross. Pit yourselves against your friends and family for the fastest times.
- Boardercross - if you're after a full-sized course head up to the Col du Palet lift for more than 1,200m of banked turns, whoops, bumps and corners.
Best Pistes in Tignes
Perfect for mixed ability groups and families, the Tignes ski area offers a range of pistes. With wide open runs, some steeper skiing and tree-lined pistes, you're sure to find your favourite piste this winter.
Off-piste areas in Tignes
Given the size of the resort, it's no surprise there's plenty of places to head to on a powder day.
Has some lovely off-piste skiing and can be especially handy when it is a white-out as you can pick and choose some lines in between the trees. From the top of the Aigulle Percée chair if you head to the right there is some off-piste that you can tackle, but be warned the mountains can leave you stranded at the bottom not knowing which way to go so make sure you plan your route extremely carefully.
There are also plenty of off-piste sections to slide down by the side of the marked runs and pistes, and normally from the lifts you can spot the best off-piste snow next to the runs.
This side has the most off-piste to offer, with three well known off-piste areas:
- Banana - Very large vertical drop, snow heats up quickly so head here early.
- Charvet Tour - Best known off-piste in Val, again head here in the morning, it's south-facing and prone to sliding.
- Face du Charvet - Lots of challenging off-piste, high avalanche risk and stay high to avoid cliffs. The route down is full of long steep descents.
Bad weather areas in Tignes
There are certain runs that offer more contrast, providing vast amounts of skiing/snowboarding when the flakes are falling. The trick is to head for the pistes that are tree-lined; the trees help provide definition when everything else seems to be white.
If you're already up the mountain when the weather closes in around, head slowly down as safely as possible. Usually, the lower you are on the mountain, the more visibility there will be as the cloud starts to get thinner.
If you do fancy heading out on the slopes (despite the bad weather) then one of the best areas to head to in poor weather conditions in Tignes is the bottom of the Les Brévières area, as the trees running down the sides of the lower pistes will provide much better visibility. Alternatively, you can try tackling some of the lower pistes of the Grande Motte where the cloud may be thinner and might provide better visibility.
Always make sure you are prepared before embarking on any off-piste skiing or snowboarding. Check out our Avalanche Safety guide. It's always advisable to hire an off-piste guide who will have extensive knowledge of the area and the mountains.