Tignes, France : Notes
I've just got back from an incredible week in Tignes, and thought I'd jot down some notes before I forget. I realise most of you are on the other side of the pond, but you never know - someone may find it useful...
We chose a flight into Chambery (a smaller, lesser-known airport) rather than the more common Geneva, as it cut down the coach transfer to 2.5 hours (from 3.5 hours).
Tignes is one of the highest-altitude resorts in the Alps, and as we were going early season (mid December), this really paid off - the snow was amazing.
Tignes is made up of two major, separate villages - Le Lac and Val Claret (a free bus runs regularly between them). Le Lac appears to be bigger (and possibly have more facilities, like the swimming pool), but we chose Val Claret, which is slightly higher, and has access to better lifts (and the Funicular up to the Glacier). However, if you're a beginner, Le Lac possibly has the better beginner slopes.
Tignes is linked to the (famous, especially for the nightlife) Val d'Isere resort, so it's worth investing the little extra for the 'area' lift pass, which will more than double the amount of mountain open to you. However, on our trip, we tended to stay mostly Tignes-side (and the valley between the two resorts), as the mountains here seemed to have better snow, and were a little less busy (though nowhere was busy). Val d'Isere is slightly lower, which may account for this. If you're heading to Val d'Isere for a night out, a taxi back will cost about 40 Euros.
For pistes: our beginner friend stuck mainly to Grattalu (up the Tichot, then Grattalu lifts), which is a beginner-snowboard-friendly steepness (enough to turn, but not too steep), and nice and wide (plus it has the sun on it nearly all day). There's a cafe at the bottom of it too, so a beginner can get stuck in all day.
From the top of Grattalu, the rest of us sometimes headed off to the left (lac, up the Grand Huit lift, down perce-neige then anemone or combe), which are all blues, but have really interesting shapes off the sides of the pistes to play around on, and plenty of kickers. After perce-neige, we also sometimes took the aiguille-percee lift up to the red 'cyclamen' piste, which, about half-way down, you can turn left onto some easy off-piste powder bowls. I'm pretty new to riding powder, so this was a great place to try-it-out without too much stress; after about 10 minutes, you end-up back on the piste (you'll see the route whilst going up the aiguille-percee lift; even though it hadn't snowed for about 5 or 6 days, we still managed to find plenty of powder to make fresh tracks in).
We usually chose combe over anemone: it is a fun little valley/'V'-shaped piste - tons of natural bumps and dips and sidewalls to play on.
Taking this route, you'll end up in Le Lac, where you can take the Aeroski gondola up to the other side of the mountain. From here, you could take Piste H back down to Val Claret (again, this has plenty of stuff to the side of the piste to play on), or - better - take creux then edelweiss down into the middle valley (between Tignes and Val d'Isere). Where edelweiss stops going 'across' the mountain and starts going 'down' (I think where it joins the 'Tines' piste), you'll spot a tiny little 'V' shaped off-piste dip to the left, probably with a few people going down it. This is one of the coolest little bits we played on; it's a really tight little 'V', with plenty of bumps all over it (it actually gets a bit mogul-y towards the end of the day; go before lunch). It's just like a little bumpy V-shaped half-pipe, but without the stress of having people watch you...
It's worth a trip up the Funicular to the glacier (Grande Motte). Amongst the other pistes up here, there's an 'easy' black (leisse), which again has lots of easy off-piste powder to the (left) side of it (near the second half). The red 'Double M' piste (which was nice and soft) should be your preferred route down - do NOT take the blue 'genepy', which we were warned my multiple people has a VERY long flat bit in it (someone mentioned having to walk for over an hour to get off it...).
Other routes with long flats to avoid/be aware of: the blue 'santon' run into Val d'Isere (about 500 metre flat at the end), the green col de fresse track, and the blue cornisse piste towards Le Lac (though it'll only be a quick uphill hike, but still, it's not a fun piste).
Note that the Tommeusses lift is the main bottleneck back from Val d'Isere to Tignes, so you really don't want to be getting here too late in the day, when the crowds build up. The Aeroski gondola (the main bottleneck from Le Lac to Val Claret) is similar, but at least you have the choice of getting a bus as a last resort.
We stayed in Hotel Curling, which was the cheapest we could find... It's not the most modern of hotels, but it does the job fine, and the staff and bar are friendly, and the food really good. It's also in a not-bad location, with only a couple of minutes walk to one of the most useful lifts (Tufs), which you can also ride back to at the end of the day. It also has one of the loudest bars underneath (Crowded House), which can be a pain at 2am, but does mean you only have a 20 second walk in the evening for one of the best bars. There's also a really good patisserie right next-door to the hotel, an AMAZING snowboard shop around the corner (Black Cats ? check-out the range downstairs...), and a supermarket about 30 seconds down the road (handy for cheap food and cheap beer, which you'll need in Tignes, as the beer is pretty expensive - up to about 6 euros for a pint; I'd guess this currently equates to about 8 dollars).
Can't think of anything else at the moment... If I do, I'll add it in!