Not that I’m really concentrating on the scenery. For the last four days I have been carrying around an engagement ring, and finally I have found the right moment to ask THE question.
Fortunately, I’m in luck, this incredible backdrop from one of the highest peaks in the Alps does the trick, and I, along with my new fiancée Gosia, can begin to relax and take in the views back down the valley towards the ski resort of Tignes, France, another thousand metres below.
Tignes is located in the Savoie region, and is made up of five villages: Val Claret, Le Lavachet, Tignes Les Boisses, Tignes-les-Brevières, and Tignes Le Lacs, which is our base for the next few days.
While the largely purpose-built resort might lose out on looks and après-ski when compared to its sophisticated neighbour, Val d’Isère, the same can’t be said for the skiing.
Both resorts share the huge Espace Killy ski area – offering 300km of pistes for all abilities, served by 78 lifts – but, it is Tignes that comes out on top due to its dramatic glacier, which is even open for six weeks’ of summer skiing.
Before you start your descent, consider stopping at Le Panoramic restaurant. It’s not cheap, but how many times are you likely to sit on the side of a glacier and drink your morning coffee? Plus, the snack and beverage prices are comparable with elsewhere lower down the mountain, with a cappuccino and tea at €4.
The runs back down are surprisingly easy, especially the Dahu 8 blue run, which is perfect for children and beginners. The views are predictably jaw-dropping all the way back down into Val Claret, which provides access to the rest of Tignes’ terrain, spread across Col du Palet, Tovière and Brévières.
While this area has some of the best pisted slopes in the Alps, it is the vast off-piste sections which make it a ski paradise for expert skiers and boarders. One such freeride zone is Le Spot, reached via the Tichot lift from Val Claret.
We stay on the lifts towards the Brévières ski area and Tignes’ lower villages, which is ideal if the visibility is poor. The long, twisty slopes snake down towards the lake and through the treeline to Les Boisses and Tignes-les-Brevières.
From here, it is just a short lift ride and ski back into Tignes Le Lac. Our hotel, Langley’s Tignes 2100, sits conveniently right in the heart of the village, and is just 50 metres from the slopes. The modern, stylish accommodation punches way above its three-star rating, perhaps partly due to the fact that it does not have a pool or steam room, however, there is still a sauna with mountain view. And, when you are ready to cool down, you can even step out onto the terrace and into the fresh snow. Rooms all come with balconies, but try and get one on the back of the hotel, where you’ll really get an appreciation for the resort’s unique position on a mountain plateau, and the surrounding scenery.
The village itself is fairly compact, making it easy to get around. A few doors down is a large Sherpa supermarket; useful for picnics on the slopes. For après-ski, check out The Underground, a small, friendly bar that has the best happy hour deals in the village, with a large beer starting at €4. On Thursdays and Sundays, there is a market on Route Lavachet, selling delicious local cheeses, meats and nougat. If it’s a poor weather day, or you have time after skiing, use the swimming pool and ice skating ring, which are both free with your ski pass – kids will love the indoor slides. If you are looking for relaxation, there is a spa connected, which has four jacuzzis, a large steam room, and three saunas.
Once we’ve covered the Tignes ski area, it’s time to head over to neighbouring Val d’Isère, where the skiing is generally considered more difficult. You have two choices to travel from Tignes to Val d’Isère, via Borsat or Tommeuses.
There has been heavy snowfall for the second successive day as I cross, closing the gentle blue run, Santons. Unluckily for me, the alternative is the fearsome black ‘Face de Bellevarde’, which was used for the 1992 Olympic men’s downhill. With a gentle start, I wonder what all the fuzz is about. That is at least until it becomes very steep, very quickly. Not only that, but the moguls seem to be getting bigger the further I go. To make matters worse, today there’s double the number of skiers nervously edging their way down due to the Santons closure.
We finally arrive in picturesque Val d’Isère, with my nerves shredded. The Solaise ski area – reached via a new, comfortable gondola – has wide, cruisy runs, and comes as a welcome relief. If you fancy staying in Val d’Isère for a few hours and sampling the après-ski, there are buses costing €6 between the two resorts. We opt to turn back and ski the La Daille area, which has lots of long, swooping blues and greens.
Another very good reason to stop here is to visit one of the most famous names in après-ski, La Folie Douche. Every afternoon, the Val d’Isère /Tignes franchise turns into a party palace, drawing hundreds of skiers from both resorts to drink and dance with the backdrop of divas, DJs, and all manner of weird and wonderful visual performances. There’s nothing quite like it when it comes to high-altitude clubbing, and it’s the ultimate way to finish off our visit to Tignes. Now, I just need to find an even better location for the wedding… Mount Everest perhaps?
Crystal Ski Holidays (www.crystalski.co.uk; 020 8610 3123) offers a week’s half board at the three-star Hotel Tignes 2100 in Tignes from £753 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from Gatwick or Manchester to Chambery and transfers (price given is for departure on 6 January 2018). Direct flights available from all major UK airports.