Last Updated on 20th June 2023 by Steve
Why choose Tignes ski resort?
Tignes is a classic high-altitude ski resort in the French Alps. Originally a hamlet for the summer pastures, the different resorts which make up Tignes can date their skiing history back to the 1930s when winter visitors started to make the trek up from Bourg St Maurice down in the valley.
The real development took place in the 1950s, when the original hamlet of Tignes was submerged under the waters of a reservoir.
The village of Les Boisses was supposed to replace the main village and its surrounding hamlets, with the church being constructed in the same style as the one underwater, and the six bells representing the six hamlets which no longer existed. Eventually however, Tignes Le Lac became the main administrative centre of the area.
Tignes ski resort as we know it now really started in the 1950s with the first large-scale apartment complex at the lake. The highest hamlet, Val Claret, was developed in the late 1960s and the lifts on La Grande Motte glacier were built at the same time.
The higher hamlets of Tignes (collectively known as Tignes 2100) are all ski-in ski-out, with ski lifts rising in all directions and ski trails heading directly through the accommodation.
Those staying at Tignes Les Boisses (Tignes 1800) can also ski down to Tignes Les Brévières (Tignes 1550), which is the only hamlet where skiers and boarders are forced to take a lift up to get onto the slopes.
Where is Tignes?
There’s no good way around it – Tignes is a fair distance away from major traffic routes and airports. It’s part of what makes it attractive as a ski resort – high glacier skiing in the middle of the mountains.
Having said that, connections have improved steadily over the years and the journey from the airport or up from the motorway through Moutiers and Bourg St Maurice is no longer the endurance test that it once was.
Where is the closest airport to Tignes?
Chambéry is the closest airport to Tignes. The airport is used by a number of low-cost carriers and some of the British package holiday operators.
The traditional option was always Geneva, with a massive amount of choice of flight destinations and both scheduled and charter traffic.
Grenoble originally served the more southerly resorts but is becoming somewhat popular with the Tarentaise resorts – again it offers mainly low-cost flights and charters from the UK.
Lyon is the second choice as far as the number of options available, again with a good mix of charter, low-cost carriers and scheduled flights.
|Airport||Distance to Tignes|
|Chambéry Airport||135 kilometres|
|Geneva Airport||180 kilometres|
|Grenoble Airport||215 kilometres|
|Lyon Airport||240 kilometres|
Getting to Tignes by train
Tignes has no railway station – the closest is at Bourg-Saint-Maurice 30km down in the valley. There is a TGV service to Bourg from Paris which connects with the Eurostar service from London. Eurostar offers a Direct Ski service during the winter season which runs from London St Pancras. Once at the railway station there is a regular bus service up to Tignes run by Altibus from early in the morning to late at night as well as taxis from the town.
Driving to Tignes
Tignes is near the end of the long Tarentaise valley with all of the associated ski traffic heading to and from ski resorts on busy weekend changeovers. Drivers coming from the French motorway network in any direction will need to make their way to Albertville and then through Moutiers to Bourg St Maurice.
From Bourg St Maurice a local road heads up towards Tignes and Val d’Isère. Naturally, with the high altitude of the Tignes hamlets, good winter equipment is obligatory.
Where to stay in Tignes
The highest hamlet of all is Tignes Val Claret, which has excellent access both to La Grande Motte glacier skiing and the links across to the neighbouring ski resort of Val d’Isère at Tovière.
Tignes Le Lac would probably be thought of as the ‘main’ settlement. Ski lifts here connect to Tovière and, on the other side of the village, to the skiing at the Aiguille Percée.
Tignes Le Lac merges into Tignes Le Lavachet, also with its own connections to both sides of the valley and the routes to the lower hamlets. These three settlement are sometimes called Tignes 2100.
Tignes Les Boisses is on the shore of the Lac du Chevril (not the lake referred to in the name Tignes Le Lac!) and Tignes Les Brévières is the lowest hamlet at 1550 metres but also the most convenient to get to and the closest to the valley.
The map below will give potential visitors an idea of where the hamlets of Tignes are located. To see accommodation availability in the winter, enter dates of a potential stay in the boxes provided and zoom in or out using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons. Zooming in will also reveal more accommodation options. Click on the accommodation to see more information and pricing.
Tignes ski area
There are two lift ticket options for skiers in Tignes: the local area lift pass, which covers the slopes around the different settlements but not the journey over to the Val d’Isère slopes, or the entire Espace Killy ski pass covering 300km of runs with nearly 100 lifts.
The Tignes area lift pass is probably only best for those who are either just spending a day within the limited area of the resort or for hesitant intermediate skiers who don’t plan on skiing all day during their stay.
If necessary, an upgrade for a day’s skiing in the Espace Killy ski area can be purchased for a multi-day Tignes pass.
Tignes is a high-altitude ski playground with some of the advantages and disadvantages that this implies:
- the snow is generally in good to excellent condition
- the season is very long
- the slopes can be very inhospitable in bad weather
However, there are a few assumptions which don’t apply to the area. For example, many glacier areas have the advantage of a long season and high altitude, but are generally quite small and undemanding, compared to non-glacier areas.
And high-altitude resorts in general are frequently restricted in the area covered because of the terrain or by environmental concerns.
This isn’t the case with Tignes. The glacier is linked in to the main ski area and that main ski area forms one of the largest in the world with the links to the other extensive ski area of Val d’Isère. (The title is still being disputed between a few areas depending on how it is measured.)
The Tignes skiing is located on three sides of a dead-end valley (the open end is where the road heads up from Bourg Saint Maurice):
- looking up the valley, at the end is the settlement of Val Claret with the Grand Motte glacier and the runs down behind it
- to the left are the lifts up to the Col de Fresse and Tovière which access the skiing on the Val d’Isère side
- to the right are the lifts up into the Col de Palet – Aiguille Percée area and the runs down into the hamlets of Les Boisses and Les Brévières
Skiing on La Grand Motte glacier
The Grand Motte funicular – an underground train – is situated at the end of Val Claret and speeds skiers up from 2100m to over 3000m in altitude. As opposed to most glacier areas, the skiing is harder the higher you get.
The Grande Motte cable car is the principal way up to the highest point in the area at just under 3500m and can get busy in peak season or at times of poor snow. There is a restaurant at the top station for those who find the exit into the rarefied air a little bit too refreshing.
From the top station there are a few interesting shortish red runs around the cable car area and off beside the drags on the left as well as the black run, frequently bumpy, beside the Leisse chairlift.
Those who are looking for something a little easier will find a few short blue runs on the glacier, while the Génépy blue run back down to Val Claret is a nice cruising alternative to the popular red Face piste under the Les Lanches chairlift.
Skiing on the Tovière side
This is the side of the valley which skiers will use to access the Val d’Isère part of the Espace Killy. Links to the ridge are provided by the fast Bollin-Fresse chairlift from Val Claret or alternatively the Aeroski bubble out of Tignes Le Lac.
Experienced skiers will enjoy the scope of the runs available on the far side but will want to leave enough time to sample the few black and red runs down to the villages on the Tignes side of the mountain.
The Trolles and Campanules black runs pop up on lists of people’s favourites, while the Paquerettes is an example of a Tignes speciality: a ‘natural black’, where it is left ungroomed in its natural condition. There are a number of other similar runs dotted around the resort.
Intermediate skiers will enjoy the cruising area on the other side of the Col de Fresse and they also have some decent long runs back down to the resort in the shape of the Prariond and H blue slopes.
Skiing on the Col du Palet – Aiguille Percée Side
The skiing on the right hand side looking up the valley can be split into three connected areas:
- the lifts above Val Claret to the Col du Palet
- the lifts above Tignes Le Lac to the Aiguille Percée area
- and the runs above Tignes Les Boisses and Tignes Les Brévières
The Tichot chairlift is the route into the Col du Palet area from Val Claret. This accesses the old Col des Ves chair with its ‘natural black’ run underneath or alternatively the lifts going up to the Col de Palet itself. There are some nice blue runs back down to the resort from both the lifts or alternatively the bumps of Le Mur followed by the red Competition run back down to Val Claret.
Heading over to the Aiguille Percée area via Merles there are more long blue runs heading down into Tignes Le Lac. The chairs going higher go up to the spectacular ‘eye of the needle’ rock formation which gives its name to the area.
Off the back of this ridge is the Sache area. The Sache black is a favourite for many skiers when it is good condition (it can get icy and patchy) and it is possible to do a long 1200m descent to Les Brévières (with a gondola back out or the local bus service up the valley again). An alternative black – usually full of steep bumps – is the Silène run to the bottom of the Marais chairlift above Les Boisses.
But Les Boisses and Les Brévières are not restricted to those who fancy a tough challenge – a long and winding combination of blue runs leads all the way down to the bottom hamlet (snow conditions permitting) and can be piqued with an injection of red at various points along the way. The way out of both resorts is generally by way of bubble, although those pressed for time at the end of the day might find the bus a quicker option to get back to the top part of Tignes.
Online ski hire
Our ski equipment rental partners Skiset offer big discounts on resort prices for online bookings in advance.
Visitors booking through SkiResorts.net get an additional 5% reduction on the prices by using the code ‘alpineconcepts’: