So, I’ve been based in Tignes for three winters now, and each season I’m always surprised at how many new things I discover. Usually, most ‘resort guides’ show you what’s on the surface of Tignes: the obvious bars, the noticeable runs, etc. This guide is to reveal five things that you didn’t know about Tignes. I want to say that it’s from a local’s perspective, but apparently you’re not classed as ‘local’ until the French Tabac owner replies to you in French, and I haven’t reached that stage yet…
The first thing to know about Tignes is that Palafour, the blue run in the centre of Le Lac, means more to most people than just a run. Yes, it’s a blue and it’s good for getting your ‘ski legs’ back, but it’s also a run that can change every time you set off from the chairlift. There’s always more than one option back down and there’s forever kickers and lips appearing off the sides, making it the best run for jibbing. I know people who happily lap Palafour for hours because of the variety it holds. Without sounding over-dramatic, this is more than a run, and the reason why two of my friends have ‘I Heart P4′ tattooed on them for eternity.
Tignes is also home to Lo Terrachu, a bar, restaurant and hotel that is right on the lake at the edge of Le Lac, just before Val Claret. To some, this may cause shivers down them as it has been run by a certain tour-operator for the past five seasons or so, becoming quite run down in the process. I have worked in the Terrachu for this tour-operator for the past two winters, so I can hand on heart say that it is now totally different. Stepping into Lo Terrachu is like stepping back through time: The Rolling Stones are playing through the speakers, the purple walls are covered with music posters from the 60s and 70s, the bedrooms have been re-done and wicker chairs, incense and eclectic furniture adorn the rooms. Wood pigeon is served in the restaurant and amazing cocktails are served in the bar, all while Hendrix looks down on you from his psychedelic poster. This is definitely one of the coolest spots in Tignes. Don’t forget to look out for Terry the black cat that was born in the building’s attic.
Another hidden gem in Tignes is So. Bar in Lavachet. This little bar has been run by the two fantastic hosts JP and Fairy for the past three seasons. So. Bar is, thankfully, the antithesis of the big, generic ‘student/ seasonaire’ bars that have become popular in Tignes. It’s also without a doubt the best place to go if you’re a fan of the Vino. The bar offers fantastic wine as well as wine tasting, which, with JP’s copious knowledge on wine, makes it an unbeatable bar in Tignes. They also host regular open-mic nights, as well as their infamous ‘Anti-Quiz’. With incredible tapas and chilli also available, this is one of the best bar in Tignes.
The Hidden Valley
A literal hidden gem in Tignes is the ‘Hidden Valley’ on the way down to Val D’Isere, accessible from the top of the Tommeuses lift in Tignes. Now, this is not for the absolute beginner and often comes with an avalanche risk, but it isn’t the most difficult and can be done by the majority of abilities. It’s a natural off-piste run that takes a half-pipe/gully formation with boulders either side. Once you decide to take the route there’s no going back: there’s a reason why it’s also known as ‘Piste Perdu’. You also have to be prepared to take your skis or board off to clamber down rocks and crawl through ‘tunnels’. This ‘run’ down is definitely one for feeling a sense of achievement and adventure at the end of it, particularly when you join up with the piste and see looks of confusion on people’s faces as they wonder ‘Where did they come from?’
The Chardonnay Bowl
For all those powder hounds, there’s also the Chardonnay Bowl. This is a place where the punters will resolutely not head to, or know about. It’s about a half hour walk from the Merles chairlift, but it’s a hike that’s worth it. The Bowl is a dipped face that’s marked by five couloirs that act as access points. Below the bowl, is one of the steepest slopes in Tignes, with a seventy degree gradient in places. On a strong powder day, the snow allows a controlled but ridiculously quick run into the bowl. The face soon flattens out and that’s where you can enjoy laying down fresh tracks…. In the fresh pow, as we unfortunately say around here.
Like hiking to the Chardonnay Bowl, it’s worth going ‘off piste’ in the town of Tignes, as well as on the mountain, to discover Tignes’ hidden gems. And, if you find enough of them, the French Tabac lady might just reply to you in French one day.
Download the Tignes Piste Map here.
How to get to Tignes
The closest airport to Tignes ski resort is Chambery. Chambéry airport at 142 km or 88 miles away from Tignes and takes 1 hour and 50 minutes to drive. However, Geneva is the main gateway airport and is 177km or 109 miles away, taking 2 hours and 35 minutes to drive.
This post is part of our top ski resorts resource hub.