A knockout day in Tignes

7th February 2010, by Chris Gill

All-purpose avalanche warning, widely ignored

All-purpose avalanche warning, widely ignored

Sunday – day two of our six-resorts-in-six-days trip, based in Bourg St Maurice. It dawns grey, but the forecast is unequivocal: two days of uninterrupted sun. So it’s a day to hit one of the treeless resorts on the menu, and we plump for Tignes, 40 minutes’ drive away.

It turned out to be one of the best days I can remember here, in terms of pure pleasure. The weather, for a start, was perfect – a deep blue cloudless sky, not a breath of wind, temperature consistently below freezing. (When we drove in at 9am it was minus 13, when we drove out at 6pm it was minus 11.) The snow – well, I have had better snow, but not often. The pistes (with one or two exceptions I’ll come to later) were in near-perfect condition. Off-piste was dreamy in quality, if not in recently arrived quantity. All day, when we could, we were straying off the pistes into shin-deep powder.

Our day started, for logistical reasons, in Val d’Isère, but before long we were up at Tovière, on the frontier with Tignes. Piste H towards Val Claret was in excellent shape and not too crowded, and near the bottom the black Aster run (one of Tignes’ ungroomed “Naturide” runs) gave us our first taste of fluffy powder just outside the poles. Then it was up the funicular to the Grande Motte. I’ve never enjoyed the 900m vertical red back to Val Claret as much as today – and that’s basically because it wasn’t super-busy, and there were countless safe opportunities to get into the fluffy stuff outside the poles.

We spent the morning playing in lovely conditions on the west side of the valley, working our way towards our late lunch target – Lo Soli, attached to the Alpage at the top of the Chaudanne chair out of Lac de Tignes. This is our Editors’ Choice restaurant in Tignes, and retains that position following an excellent meal in calm, civilised surroundings. It is, I know, expensive. But it delivers; in so many places in France you will pay half of what you’ll pay here, but you get much less than half in terms of food, surroundings and service.

On the way back to our car in Val we had time to play around in a favourite area high on the eastern side of Tignes – the slopes in Combe Folle, served by an isolated draglift. Yet again, lots of easily accessible off-piste, and few people competing for it.

We ended the day skiing down from the top of Combe Folle to La Daille. I couldn’t remember the last time I skied the Triffolet red to the valley, so we took it. Mistake. The top part was fine, but lower down ... After a day spent on perfect pistes and luscious powder, it came as a real shock to be confronted by a run scraped bare of snow over considerable areas. At one point I couldn’t see a way of getting down without damaging my precious Missions, so I climbed up a bit to get across to safer territory across the piste. The run should have been closed, and the fact that it wasn’t indicates simple incompetence in the VdI lift company. Still.

We’ll be back tomorrow to ski the Val d’Isère slopes, and to check out the resort’s swanky new sports centre. Watch this space.

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