The new luxury ski break – a transformed Tignes

Often dismissed as less than glamorous, Catherine Cooper discovers a new, more luxurious side to this corner of the French Alps


If, like me, you last went to Tignes in the 1990s, you would barely recognise it today. Back then, on a student ski trip, we crammed into basic no-frills apartments that were typical of the resort, while dining didn’t get much more elevated than pizza and cheap beer.

Today, in common with many other high-altitude resorts, things are moving distinctly upmarket, from new five-star hotels opening to residences being renovated and upgraded.

And with the village of Tignes Le Lac at 2,100 metres, more than 300km of pistes between 1,550 and 3,450 metres, plus glacier skiing available too, one thing hasn’t changed; there are few places in the Alps which are as snow-sure.

If that combination of luxury and all-but-guaranteed powder isn’t enough to tempt you back, you can add in several snow parks, cross-country skiing and plenty of other activities on offer for all ages, ranging from calm and gentle, such as spa treatments or husky-sledding, to high-adrenaline experiences such as ice climbing and — new this winter — an introduction to free diving beneath the ice of Tignes’ frozen lake.

Rather than either extreme, I opted for a couple of new activities which promised rather gentler thrills.

The first, moonbiking, is open to anyone over the age of 18 with a driving licence. On offer at a couple of locations across the resorts, the electric vehicles are a little like a lightweight motorbike with mini-skis instead of wheels.

I found that while it was pretty easy to master driving around a flat circuit, once you factored in a slope (especially when also trying to turn) it was a little trickier. The motorcyclist in our group fared much better and found it a breeze though.

Ice floating requires even less skill, a relaxation activity which comes from Finland.

First, you get into a bright orange survival suit (worn over your ski gear with a hood which fits tightly round your face), before being led to a hole in the iced-over lake to get into the water and float. It might sound like it would be scary but it really isn’t.

In the same way that it’s seemingly impossible to sink in these extremely buoyant suits, quite literally designed for survival, it’s also quite hard to manoeuvre yourself around in the water to drink the herbal tea thoughtfully supplied at the side of the ice (in large, lidded receptacles with straws).

Perhaps there are more zen-like people who would find it relaxing, but for us, bobbing about like satsumas led to far more giggling at the silliness. Unlike anything I’ve tried before, it was definitely memorable.

Of course the main attraction of the resort is still the slopes and with such a large area to explore in the Tignes-Val d’Isère domain, there is plenty of choice to keep everyone happy across the two linked resorts — a total of 300km of pistes, ranging from free ski lift areas for total novices up to the glacier at around 3,450 metres.

The brave might enjoy the 10km Sache run, one of the longest black runs in Europe, while those who prefer to take things easier will find plenty of blue and green runs. Or the Naturides pistes are steep and unprepared but still monitored, promising some of the thrills of off-piste but with fewer of the associated risks.

Tignes itself is made up of several villages, ranging from the traditional chalets of quieter Tignes Les Brévières at 1,550 metres and Le Lavachet, which is linked by free shuttle bus, up to Tignes Le Lac at 2,100 metres and Val Claret, with a large Club Med and plenty of nightlife.

In between, Tignes 1800 pays architectural tribute to the old Tignes, which was submerged when the dam was built between 1946 and 1952.

Our own base was the five-star Diamond Rock Hotel in Tignes le Lac, which opened in December 2021.

Conveniently located close to the centre of the resort and the main lifts, it’s decorated in warm tones with plenty of wood, stone, marble, custom-made furniture, and fleecy throws and cushions. There’s a brasserie and bar with panoramic views, as well as a Savoyard restaurant and a relaxing spa with indoor pool.

The hotel is also very child-friendly with its own bowling alley, arcade games, kids’ club for children aged four to ten and a cosy cinema room for all ages. Rooms and suites are decorated in natural materials and muted colours and come with Diptyque products, with family rooms and suites for those who want more space.

There’s also a Bernard Orcel Ski Room on site so you don’t even have to go out in the cold to rent your equipment.

In between skiing, it’s important to eat well, and there is now plenty of choice for high-end dining if you want more than a quick sandwich (although that’s still an option too).

Set at 3,032 metres, the high-end restaurant Le Panoramic is already tempting for its 360-degree view, including of Mont Blanc.

With a cosy wooden interior for bad weather days and a sunny terrace for the bluebird ones, the menu includes plenty of vegetarian options such as homemade tagliatelle with black truffle, grilled romaine lettuce hearts with Beaufort cheese, hazelnuts, mushrooms and truffles or grilled cauliflower with aubergine mousse and roasted sesame seeds.

Many of the dishes are cooked over an open grill — you can also opt for an entire John Dory for two, with the fish accompanied by lemon hollandaise sauce. The dessert buffet is also particularly impressive, and its extensive cellar is packed with more than 750 different wines and spirits.

The added bonus of this restaurant is that while you can enjoy a full haute-cuisine lunch and obviously pay the associated price for the food and wonderful location, you can also opt for the self-service area or the takeaway bar, which offer simpler, more budget-friendly dishes while still maintaining the ethos of having absolutely everything made fresh on site.

Set at the top of the Perce-Neige funicular, non-skiers needn’t miss out and if the weather closes in or you decide you prefer the easy way down after eating too much pasta, you’ve got an alternative to skiing back. The Bouvier family, who own the restaurant, haveg several others around the resort as well, including Michelin-starred Ursus.

Another of Tignes’ new upmarket additions, the five-star VoulezVous Hotel, has its own great restaurant and ski shop, where you can leave your ski boots to be kept warm and replaced with comfy slippers — a lovely touch for squashed feet part way through the day.

Strolling in from the huge lobby, featuring colourful modern animal sculptures, the light-filled Il Savoia Restaurant overlooks the nearby pistes and the Grande Motte glacier, with a menu featuring Italian options alongside traditional local Savoie dishes, such as truffle pizza, gravadlax salmon and homemade pasta.

The same group has been responsible for upgrading several residences in the resort; next year, it is due to open some new high-end individual chalets with saunas and hot tubs in Tignes Les Brévières 1550 — one designed as a Banksy tribute, another containing part of a 1950s aeroplane fuselage, and the brightly coloured Chalet Rock ‘N’ Love, which features guitars signed by rock stars.

For years, neighbouring Val d’Isère has generally been considered the more stylish option, with its traditional chalets winning out compared to the mostly purpose-built Tignes.

But with a new luxury look for Tignes, times are changing — and it’s time to rediscover it for yourself.

Getting There

Flights to Lyons or Geneva cost from around £44 return with easyJet.

Double rooms at the Diamond Rock Hotel cost from around £305 per night.

Moonbiking costs from around £70, and ice floating from around £50. For more information visit

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive