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Surrounded by the Savoie Alps, Tignes is set in a natural bowl in the mountains, with year-round snow, a stunning glacial lake, 186 miles of ski runs (which link with neighboring Val d’Isère) and sweeping views all the way to Mont Blanc. The building of France’s highest hydroelectric dam in 1952, the region’s most dramatic manmade landmark, submerged the original town under Lake Chervil. In its place, five villages were built to meet a wide range of needs and budgets, which are a model for accessibility and adaptive winter sports (the 1992 Winter Paralympics were held here). With Tignes Le Lac, with its sociable vibe and popular après-ski scene; glacier skiing at Val Claret; and the family-friendly Tignes 1800, there’s something to suit everyone. Freestyling is a particularly popular winter sport here, as is ski touring; there’s also a sledging course, snow tubing, ice climbing, paragliding, and, in the summer, a whole host of watersports on Lake Tignes.
Two hours away, Chambéry (CMF) is the nearest airport by distance, and Grenoble (GNB) and Lyon (LYS) are also nearby options. But most visitors will want to fly into Geneva (GVA), which is a three-hour drive but offers all the major international routes, as well as regular bus transfers to Tignes. You can also take the train from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, the nearest big town, with high-speed trains from London and Paris and a bus service connecting to the resort itself that takes an hour. Within Tignes, there are free shuttle buses running 24 hours a day between the villages and the various ski destinations, and a gondola that links Tignes with Val d’Isère.
The ski lifts operate year round, and there’s summer skiing on the Grand Motte glacier, but the main season lasts from November to the end of April. In March, the resort regularly hosts one of Europe’s biggest winter sports competitions, where the greatest freestyle skiers in the world compete, while summer brings trail running events such as the High Trail Vanoise in July and the Tignes Trail in August. A festival atmosphere prevails year round; in March, the LGBTQ community celebrates European Snow Pride, and in April, the Live in Tignes music festival marks the start of the summer season. Les Brévières holds a popular Bastille Day festival in July, while the Fêtte du Lac in August culminates with fabulous fireworks over Lake Tignes.
In summer, the lake’s teal-blue waters stand out against the rich green of Vanoise National Park, and it even has its own beach. In winter the lake disappears beneath the snow and freezes so thickly you can walk and skate across it. That doesn’t stop some adventurers choosing to plunge into its cold waters — ice jumping is a sport here.
At an elevation of 1,500 metres, Les Brévières is the lowest of the five villages, but it’s also the oldest and prettiest. As well as strolling its picturesque streets dating back to the 13th century, you can marvel at the Tignes dam and try to make out the fading remains of the Giant of Tignes on its wall — a massive painting of Hercules created in 1989.
You don’t want to miss the spectacular journey to the very top of the Tignes resort, home to the world’s first high-altitude cable-car roof terrace. A quick ride on the funicular connects you to the cable car, which climbs 500 vertical miles and deposits you at 3,456 metres, where you’re surrounded by the peaks of Grand Motte, Grand Casse, Grande Sassière, and Mont Blanc.