Albeit a purpose-built resort with somewhat unattractive architecture, the holiday destination of Tignes is one of Europe's highest resorts and offers some of the best snow conditions in the Alps, with excellent snow cover and a place to ski almost year round thanks to the high-altitude Grand Motte glacier. An excellent lift system links the holiday resort of Tignes to its neighbour Val d'Isère and together they form the vast ski area known as Val d'Isère (formerly Espace Killy), with 193 miles (310km) of lift-linked trails and an area that is regarded as one of Europe's best and most beautiful ski areas.
Tignes is made up of three villages: Val Claret is the highest and is situated at the foot of the glacier; Tignes Le Lac, with its stunning setting on the lake, is the largest; and the modern Tignes Le Lavachet is further down. Two small villages below, Tignes Les Brévières and Tignes Les Boisses, are directly linked to the ski area and provide a more traditional atmosphere with charming chalets, narrow streets and picturesque churches. All five villages are connected by a free bus service.
The ski area is large and varied, with terrain suitable to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. Val d'Isère is known for its fantastic off-piste and has good lift access. The Grand Motte glacier, at 11,335 feet (3,455m), has a wide variety of runs, from beginner slopes to challenging off-pistes for experts.
Beginners will also find plenty of nursery slopes in the villages and some nice easy runs in Val d'Isère; most beginner trails are lower down and therefore less favourable during the summer skiing season, although snow machines are used. Longer green runs are available in the Val d'Isère area, with special lift tickets offered. Skiing and snowboarding schools teach all levels in private or group lessons.
Intermediates have a large choice of groomed runs in both Tignes and the Val d'Isère area, with Bellevarde offering some challenging runs. Expert skiers and boarders have some of the best off-piste skiing in France at hand and an assortment of steep, narrow slopes, cliffs and deep gullies to choose from. The Aiguille Percée downhill course is famous in this area, but avalanches are prevalent; other well-known runs are Lavachet Wall, and the Double M. For those who enjoy the challenge of moguls there are some excellent runs at Tovière.
With more than 150 shops, holiday visitors wanting to shop till they drop will be able to find almost everything in the resort area, from upmarket French boutiques to sports equipment and tourist items. Markets offer homemade goods with a traditional French flavour.
Many restaurants in Tignes cater to the different tastes and budgets of all holidaymakers, with a wide selection of international cuisine and local Savoyard fare, from American-style fast food, pizzerias and a taste of Mexico to crèperies and chicken cordon bleu.
The nightlife in Tignes is relatively quiet, and those seeking a more active scene will have to head to neighbouring Val d'Isère. Numerous bars and cafes cater to the off-the-slopes crowd, and several discos shake until the early hours, but the village authorities do not tolerate wild partying in the streets and general rowdiness is likely to bring on a large fine or a visit to the local jail. Tignes Le Lac and Val Claret are the liveliest villages.
Non-skiing holidaymakers will find lots to do in Tignes, including dog sledding, paragliding and hang gliding, ice and rock climbing, horse riding, walking, mountain biking and ice-skating. There are also fitness and spa centres that offer Jacuzzis, saunas, beauty parlours and swimming pools. In March and April, scuba diving tours under the ice (Tignes Le Lac) are run by the Adventure School. Summer skiing is also available on the Grand Motte glacier with over 25 miles (40km) of runs open.
Tignes is a purpose-built resort and those seeking a traditional French-chalet style atmosphere may be disappointed. The resort is popular and prices are accordingly high. The nightlife and après-ski action is limited.