A Tignes ski holiday guarantees snow and high times all round

We want it all when we go on holiday. And if you re skiing, above all you want snow. But be careful what you wish for. Tignes is one of the highest resorts in the Alps and considered snow-sure 1 . For those going at Easter, it has to be one of a few good bets for an array of open pistes. And most of the ski area above Val Claret is tree free.

But the downside of being at 2,100m hits when the snow is falling and falling. For those brave, foolhardy souls finding their way around a vast expanse of unfamiliar pistes, the shortage of landmarks can be a problem. Not such a problem that it excuses Mrs Byrne sliding 20 yards into the powder right beside a large fluorescent sign showing her the piste had turned the other way. But it shows how bad the conditions were.

And we weren t streaking down a precipitous black run this was on a blue piste. Several times I stopped, under the impres sion my goggles had steamed up, only to find that, no, the visibility really was that bad. After a couple of hours, we retreated to a warm and welcoming bar at the foot of the main lift area in Val Claret in the hope the blizzard would go. It didn t.

A Tignes Ski <b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Guarantees Snow And High Times All Round All white: Tim on the slopes

Val Claret is well served with restaurants and cafes, better than the larger Tignes Le Lac, oddly. But beyond that, off-piste attractions are more limited in Val Claret.

Le Lac has the Le Lagon, a 25m swimming pool, slides and spa and the Tignespace sports centre has a sports hall, squash courts, climbing wall and trampolines should the weather really turn. Frequent shuttle buses cover the 2km between Val Claret and Le Lac 24 hours a day if you want to travel for your apres-ski or you can t face the bracing walk across the frozen lake between them although this did give us the chance to watch dog-sled huskies. The shuttle is also handy if you run out of steam in one of the satellite resorts. Les Brevieres and Tignes 1800 hog most of the architectural praise for their Alpine charm, but they also have the fringe benefit of trees to offer some well-defined runs in the bad visibility, which continued into our second day on the slopes.

A Tignes Ski <b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Guarantees Snow And High Times All Round Nightfall: Tignes and the Grande Motte in the background

We didn t have to look too hard for well-informed advice on where was best to go for some better conditions in the falling snow. Mark Warner, which runs Chalet Hotel L Ecrin, our base for the week, provides a winter sports expert to direct you to the best pistes for your abilities. In fact, most of the British staff are winter sports fans who will share their passion. Fortunately, the weather changed after just a day on the lower slopes, and revealed why Tignes is so popular.

It has enough pistes to last a month, never mind a week, half-pipes, snow parks, slalom courses, airbags and one of the longest ski seasons. A few lifts over the mountain, Val d Isere has something of a reputation as a serious skiers resort. But that may be just so they can charge more. Espace Killy is the key area where skiing is possible all-year round on the Grande Motte glacier this is reached via the subterranean train out of Val Claret.

The area has plenty of off-piste areas well served by lifts and helicopters. If you can t find a hatful of favourite pistes in the Espace Killy, named after France s downhill master Jean-Claude Killy, you never will.

A Tignes Ski <b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Guarantees Snow And High Times All Round Busy: Ski lift at Tignes ski resort, Rhone-Alpes, France

It s the shared enthusiasm for winter sports which makes this type of Discount Holidays © holiday a great pleasure. Chalet hotels generally mean sharing your dinner table with complete strangers. But everyone has a tale to tell about their experiences on the slopes from the minor falls of the beginner to the truly heart-stopping cliffhangers from the adrenaline junkies. The Ecrin was taken over by Mark Warner in September 2014 and is subject to a radical refurbishment to increase capacity to 56 rooms. The company wisely held on to the hotel s wooden-clad Alpine roots and expanded to cope with the demands of its almost exclusively British clientele.

Manager Matt Davis is an experienced hand in the Alps and has an enviable team of young British staff to supply top-class accommodation, delicious dinners and essential afternoon cake after a hard day on the slopes. Ecrin is four-star rated but that doesn t stop them treating you like royalty with friendly polite efficiency. It s also good enough for the French national rugby team to base their summer training camp here.

A Tignes Ski <b><i>Discount Holidays ©</i></b> Holiday Guarantees Snow And High Times All Round Landmarks: Scenery at Tignes, Winterlandschaft

The ratio of child carer to children beats the UK standard and, even though we visited the week after the peak period, which coincides with the UK half term, there were plenty of children and parents taking advantage of the facilities. The hotel is a 10-minute walk to the lifts in ski boots or a one-minute drive squeezed on to the free shuttle bus which stops 50 yards from the door to the locker room. But the room is too cosy and short of benches. Manoeuvring yourself in and out of ski boots can be frustrating enough after a few hard days on the slopes without feeling like you re doing it inside a shared phone box. Perhaps hotel designers are too intent on preserving space for their pool and spa area, in which case I can partly forgive them because the Ecrin has a lovely one.

It s large enough to rack up lengths with lots of jets to massage aching muscles. You ll wake up the next day ready for some serious schussing. If that s not enough, you can book yourself in for an actual massage. Tignes boasts of being the sportiest ski resort and I wouldn t argue with that, even with the weather giving me a day and a half off the slopes, I wouldn t have had the energy to do any more.

Get there

Mark Warner2 has 7nts at the Chalet Hotel L Ecrin in Tignes this winter from 578pp inc flights from Gatwick or Heathrow, transfers, welcome drinks, breakfast, afternoon tea, three-course dinner with wine, evening childcare and children s high tea. Manchester and Birmingham flights are also available.

Six-day ski hire costs from 69, boots 43, helmet 8, child ski hire pack from 57. Espace Killy lift passes cost 198 for six days, inc access to the Lagon swimming pool and loan of ice skates on any two days. Child lift passes cost 159.

Tourist info: uk.rendezvousenfrance.comsavoie-mont-blanc.comtignes.net345

Time zone: UK +1hr

Currency: Euro 1 = 1.36


  1. ^ considered snow-sure (www.mirror.co.uk)
  2. ^ Mark Warner (www.markwarner.co.uk)
  3. ^ uk.rendezvousenfrance.com (uk.rendezvousenfrance.com)
  4. ^ savoie-mont-blanc.com (www.savoie-mont-blanc.com)
  5. ^ tignes.net (www.tignes.net)

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