Off-Piste Skiing in Tignes: Why One Local Loves It

Most of us can remember the moment we fell in love. For some, skiing can be love at first sight or a slow burner. For James, co-founder of Cabinista Travel, it was the discovery of a new kind of skiing. He recalls what first made him fall in love with the mountains, and explains how they might just lure you into a new love affair.

Published on Thu 17 Jan, 2019

James at Cabinista Travel writes:

Tignes is a special place. I had skied for many years whilst working winter seasons before I travelled to Tignes for the first time, but it’s the place that really led me to fall head over heels with snowsports. 

The people are the friendliest I’ve met in the mountains, and it’s unsurprising why when you look at the playground they have access to every day. 

Once you know where to look, the off-piste skiing is so accessible and varied that it can really introduce you to a new way of skiing or riding. And once you’ve tasted a quiet bluebird powder day, I’ve got to tell you, it will change your life!

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So Why is Off-Piste Skiing in Tignes so Special?

The History of Europe’s Most Forward-thinking Resort

It all started with Hervé Favre; a ski instructor, entrepreneur and forward thinker, his aim back in 1987 was to start a ski school with a difference, one that offered ski adventure options alongside traditional on-piste ski lessons. 

His legend is still present today, and although his school has grown to an enormous 500+ instructors working across 3 continents, he still lives in Tignes, and his mission to push the limits of a traditional ski holiday are felt by the town in so many ways.

Tignes has evolved as Evolution 2 has grown, taking Hervé’s approach to the snowsports industry and led the changes we see across France today. Over the past 30 years, it has welcomed tourism with open arms, and has pushed from the outset to become the most modern ski resort in Europe. It hosted the European X-Games until 2012, has plans for an artificial wave in the future, and continues to offer the most fun and varied ski holiday options in the Alps.

Off-Piste Ski Terrain in Tignes

The town centre is dominated by the main lake and the incredible stone gulleys known simply as the ‘Fingers’: 5 couloirs varying in difficulty dominate the Tignes skyline. Although reserved for the more advanced skiers, their presence inspires many to push their limits and serves as a constant reminder of the power of the mountains.

Tignes and neighbouring Val d’Isere (both included in the same pass) have a combined area of 300km of pisted runs, but it’s outside of these carefully groomed lines that has led me to return again and again and again.

There’s a great variation in height (1550m - 3456m), which guarantees good snow almost year round, and helps to beat difficult weather conditions. A mass of differing slope gradients around the two resorts mean there is something for everyone. Most importantly though, the Espace Killy is centred around many different ‘bowls’, which ensures great access to off-piste riding without the time-consuming and leg-draining task of the normal hike-outs. Go with an off-piste guide for a morning, and you’ll experience more off-piste in 3 hours than you would normally have access to in a day. Beginning to see the appeal?

First Time Off-piste Skiers in Tignes 

I started my off-piste journey in Tignes and it sounds clichéd to say so, but there really is something for everyone. Of course it’s always recommended, whatever your level, to go with a guide; you’ll learn as you go, including learning how to stay safe off-piste, and most importantly, make the most of the mountain by skiing the best runs.

With so much relatively easy off-piste close to the town, you can try your hand at powder riding with just 1 or 2 lifts out of the centre. My first forays began at Le Golf (or bus-stops as the locals know it, due to proximity to a free shuttle bus stop at the end...a real bonus!).

From there, you can move to reasonable off-piste exploration on the Grande Motte glacier, or the easier Les Brevieres tree runs, if the visibility is poor. By the end of the week, you could be skiing through the ‘Hidden Valley’ run between Tignes and Val d’Isere, a relatively easy run through trees and tunnels - of course, as the name would suggest it’s not so easy to find without guidance.

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Advanced Off-piste Skiing in Tignes

Of course, it wouldn’t be such a hotspot for European off-piste riding if there weren’t some runs designed to excite and intimidate the best skiers amongst us, it’s what keeps us going back - right? There are enough guided hikes out there to keep you in ski or snowboard boots for the rest of your life!

Most notable for me would be the ‘Mickey’s Ears’ reverse heli-ski run; a one-lift, one-hike run through varied terrain of gradient and slope-style, leading to a beautiful lakeside vista and return pickup via helicopter. This is an absolute must-do in Tignes for any intermediate/advanced rider, not only is it a once in a lifetime adventure, but you’ll be shocked at how cheap it is for a group to do. Alongside that there is the infamous Sache ‘Mousehole’, Couloirs de la Balme, etc etc. Believe me, the list goes on!

The instructors in Tignes are some of the most passionate, knowledgeable and friendly in the world. The terrain; one of the largest. The resort; the most lively, varied and fun I’ve ever visited.

Adventure is on your doorstep when you book an off-piste getaway to Tignes. For accomodation, you will find some great deals, with even 3 and 4 day stays available. Check out some of the deals we have here at Cabinista Ski.

Cabinista Ski offer modern ski travel options for adventurous skiers, based around private rental properties and an easy-to-use website.

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