Getting up at 4am is never fun, especially on a cold and dark winter morning, but when you’re heading to the Espace Killy for a few days’ skiing across some of the world’s most beautiful and snow-sure slopes, it really makes the process a whole lot easier.
I’d never visited Tignes or Val d’Isère before, but I’d heard nothing but good things from my colleagues and seasonaire friends, many of them returning year-on-year to make the most of the buzzing après scene and fantastic snow. This is one of the main selling points of the Espace Killy: it’s pretty much guaranteed snow from December right through to April.
Tignes and Val d’Isère share 78 lifts and 300km of pistes, with terrain suitable for all abilities, so whether you’ve never stepped foot on snow or you’re only happy hitting the toughest black runs, it’s a perfect choice. We stayed in a lovely chalet-apartment in Tignes Le Lac, which is one of the main villages that make up the resort. Just above is Val Claret at 2,100m, which offers the best access to the lofty Grande Motte glacier. These two areas are perhaps the most convenient places to stay in Tignes for après-ski action and all the essential amenities. Just below is Le Lavachet, which is home to many ski in/ski out apartments, and further down the mountain are Tignes Les Boisses (also known as Tignes 1800) and Tignes Les Brevieres, which have their own lifts for access to the rest of the incredible skiing.
Chalet Alfredo was our home away from home for 2 days. It’s a brand new chalet just 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of Le Lac and just 50m from the piste – a truly fantastic spot. We could almost ski back to our front door, which is preferable to an uphill trek back from the centre of town after a long day! The hosts were lovely and the food and chalet wine was delicious: we started the day with a cooked breakfast, refuelled with afternoon tea and finished with a lovely four-course evening meal.
It has to be said that Tignes isn’t the prettiest of resorts – it was purpose built, after all – and it can’t compete with neighbouring Val d’Isère in terms of architectural charm. That said, its rich range of ski/ski out properties, mainly apartments and hotels, make it very attractive to keen skiers.
The Espace Killy is a diverse and challenging ski area with more runs than you could ever squeeze into just 2 days, but we tried our best! On the first day, we hopped onto a piste near the chalet and skied down to the Chaudannes lift. We then skied back down to town and headed over to Val d’Isère, where I somehow forgot how to ski and proceeded to have a melt-down on a green run (It definitely wasn’t a green!). I made it down in the end, enticed by a beer at Loop Bar on the horizon! The second day, we focused on Val d’Isère, starting from the main lift stations near the village centre. We headed up towards Le Fornet to enjoy some gentle runs to get warmed up. We ticked the ‘up-and-over’ chairlift off our list, enjoying one of the most breathtaking views in the area. We were so lucky with the weather during our trip – blue skies and beaming sunshine makes all the difference.
Of course it would be rude to go to Tignes and not sample the vast array of bars in town. We took part in ‘resort orientation’ on our first night, which involved sampling Loop Bar, Underground and of course Jack’s nightclub in Le Lac – brilliant fun! La Folie Douce over in Val d’Isère was at the top of our list too, so we spent a couple of hours dancing on the tables on Friday afternoon – something everyone has to try.
All in all, I would certainly recommend the Espace Killy to anyone in search of a vast and exciting ski area — particularly early or late in the season — and I was more than impressed with the snow conditions. Tignes and Val d’Isère have something for everyone and they’re definitely on my list of top 5 places to revisit!