The ski resort of Tignes, in the northern region of the French Alps, is arguably one of the best places in France to spend time playing in the white stuff. It’s elevation puts it high up on the list of European ‘snow-sure’ resorts, making it a popular choice for seasonnaires and tourists alike.
The Tignes only pass gives you access to a huge variety of terrain for all levels, including an extensive terrain park, plenty of world class off-piste skiing and some free lifts for beginners. And if a week exploring all of that isn’t enough to keep you entertained, then for a little extra cost, the Tignes-Val D’Isere ski pass ought to do the trick. With almost 100 lifts, 300km of ski runs and 3200 hectares of off-piste skiing, it really is no wonder that the area is so attractive to snow-hungry punters from far and wide.
Over the years, the town of Tignes has developed into a well-oiled tourist-pleasing machine, with first class services and hospitality to complement the high quality skiing. But the success of a town of any kind doesn’t happen on its own. The lure of the mountains also brought to Tignes a large group of people who loved it so much, that they stuck around and made a life for themselves there. And with that commitment to life in Tignes, came a drive to provide long-term quality in the businesses and services that they deliver to both the local community and visitors.
Tignes Spirit, an independent ski and snowboard company, is one such establishment that has done great things for the town. For almost 14 years, the owner Kieran Hicks, has been providing an affordable alternative to mass package holidays offered by tour operators. Their vision is for their services to be personal and specific, and they provide only the best and most up to date equipment at mega competitive prices. They run an excellent overnight board/ski maintenance service and their shop is well stocked with loads of great brands for both clothing and technical gear.
With their sponsorship of local riders, seasonnaire sales and Tignes Spirit Community Facebook group, they have successfully created a loyal following within the community, providing, amongst other things, a platform for locals to get involved in avalanche safety training and mountain awareness.
Is there anything these guys don’t do? Find out for yourselves at tignes-spirit.com or head down to their shop located in Le Lavachet.
Renelle Mortimer of Fresh Snowboarding is one of the world’s top snowboarding coaches, and yes, she happens to live and work in Tignes. She set up Fresh Snowboarding there to provide instructors, athletes and progressing snowboarders tuition and coaching like no-one else. Her approaches are alternative and engaging – and they work! Check out her Body, Mind, Board courses for more details.
Renelle is constantly pushing her own boundaries but also working hard to develop the sport. She is the only female in history to be invited to the role of BASI Snowboard trainer, a position she’s held for 10 years after attaining BASI Level 4. This enables her to train and examine Snowboard instructors at the very highest level, ensuring the standards are nothing less than first class. A true ambassador for the sport, she is fully submerged in the snowboarding development of the Tignes community too. If you love snowboarding and want to make improvements then I highly recommend a session with Renelle – if you can find a space in her busy schedule!
So you’ve got your mountain time covered, but where to go for your re-fuel? Ask any Tignes local for a recommendation of good value delicious grub (that isn’t smothered in yet more cheese), and they will undoubtedly point you in the direction of Tignes Cuisine. Their location at the bottom of Toviere lift in Tignes Le Lac, lends itself nicely to a convenient and quick lunchtime wrap or noodle bowl. But make sure you leave room for the après-ski menu which elaborates on the Asian theme, and delves into recipes from India, Malaysia, China and Thailand.
The owners, Paddy and Jose, have turned their simple set up into a bit of a hub for the Tignes community, and it is as popular with the tourists as with the locals – a real Tignes institution.
So with just under two months left until the end of the season, there is still time to get your fix of freedom in the mountains, and a visit to Tignes will not disappoint. But be warned, many holiday makers have made the trip for a weeks’ holiday in the mountains and found themselves still there years later.
So what is it that makes Tignes such an appealing place to settle?
Well aside from the obvious, the Tignes scene buzzes with excitement for the now but also for the morrow. The atmosphere is very much about creating permanence – in friendships, business and the future of the town. The population of most ski resorts are very transient, with huge numbers of seasonnaires coming and going before and after each season. But in Tignes, more and more people are in it for the long term and are investing in their futures there.
The resort doesn’t totally shut down at the end of season and is constantly promoting the mountains as a summer holiday destination too. You can ski on the glacier through July, and if you prefer life on two wheels then take advantage of free access to a couple of lifts that get you up to some of the most varied mountain bike terrain in the Alps.
Tignespace is also a major draw for skiers and boarders who aspire for more variety in their lifestyle. Built in 2013, the indoor sports and conference centre is open year round and has a huge range of facilities including a climbing wall, an 80m running track and a golf simulator – amongst many others. Another excellent facility, that you have free access to with your ski pass, is Le Lagon aqua centre – complete with slides and training lanes, and for an extra charge, spa facilities.
Tignes is more than just another ski resort. It is a town where people come to build families and businesses, to lay roots and nurture friendships. And everyone that comes, happens to have the common goal of getting as much out of life in the outdoors as possible.
Sounds like paradise to me!