Tignes is a high-altitude ski playground with some of the advantages and disadvantages that this implies:
However, there are a few assumptions which don't apply to the area. For example, many glacier areas have the advantage of a long season and high altitude, but are generally quite small and undemanding, compared to non-glacier areas.
And high-altitude resorts in general are frequently restricted in the area covered because of the terrain or by environmental concerns.
This isn't the case with Tignes. The glacier is linked in to the main ski area and that main ski area forms one of the largest in the world with the links to the other extensive ski area of Val d'Isère. (The title is still being disputed between a few areas depending on how it is measured.)
The Tignes skiing is located on three sides of a dead-end valley (the open end is where the road heads up from Bourg-Saint-Maurice):
The Grand Motte funicular - an underground train - is situated at the end of Val Claret and speeds skiers up from 2100m to over 3000m in altitude. There is a restaurant at the top station for those who find the exit into the rarified air a little bit too refreshing.
As opposed to most glacier areas, the skiing is harder the higher you get. The Grande Motte cable car is the principal way up to the highest point in the area at just under 3500m and can get busy in peak season or at times of poor snow. From the top station there are a few interesting shortish red runs around the cable car area and off beside the drags on the left as well as the black run, frequently bumpy, beside the Leisse chairlift.
Those who are looking for something a little easier will find a few short blue runs on the glacier, while the Génépy blue run back down to Val Claret is a nice cruisy alternative to the popular red Face piste under the Les Lanches chairlift.
This is the side of the valley which skiers will use to access the Val d'Isère part of the Espace Killy. Links to the ridge are provided by the fast Bollin-Fresse chairlift from Val Claret or alternatively the Aeroski bubble out of Tignes Le Lac.
Experienced skiers will enjoy the scope of the runs available on the far side but will want to leave enough time to sample the few black and red runs down to the villages on the Tignes side of the mountain. The Trolles and Campanules black runs pop up on lists of people's favourites, while the Paquerettes is an example of a Tignes speciality: a 'natural black', where it is left ungroomed in its natural condition. There are a number of other similar runs dotted around the resort.
Intermediate skiers will enjoy the cruisy area on the other side of the Col de Fresse and they also have some decent long runs back down to the resort in the shape of the Prariond and H blue slopes.
The skiing on the right hand side looking up the valley can be split into three connected areas: the lifts above Val Claret to the Col du Palet; the lifts above Tignes Le Lac to the Aiguille Percée area; and the runs above Tignes Les Boisses and Tignes Les Brevières.
The Tichot chairlift is the route into the Col du Palet area from Val Claret. This accesses the old Col des Ves chair with its 'natural black' run underneath or alternatively the lifts going up to the Col de Palet itself. There are some nice blue runs back down to the resort from both the lifts or alternatively the bumps of Le Mur followed by the red Competition run back down to Val Claret.
Heading over to the Aiguille Percée area via Merles there are more long blue runs heading down into Tignes Le Lac. The chairs going higher go up to the spectacular 'eye of the needle' rock formation which gives its name to the area.
Off the back of this ridge is the Sache area. The Sache black is a favourite for many skiers when it is good condition (it can get icy and patchy) and it is possible to do a long 1200m descent to Les Brevières (with a gondola back out or the local bus service up the valley again). An alternative black - usually full of steep bumps - is the Silène run to the bottom of the Marais chairlift above Les Boisses.
But Les Boisses and Les Brevières are not restricted to those who fancy a tough challenge - a long and winding combination of blue runs leads all the way down to the bottom hamlet (snow conditions permitting) and can be piqued with an injection of red at various points along the way. The way out of both resorts is generally by way of bubble, although those pressed for time at the end of the day might find the bus a quicker option to get back to the top part of Tignes.
A large scale image of the Tignes/Val d'Isère ski area can be downloaded from the official tourist office site: Tignes Map