© Creative Commons / Wilka
Gondola cable cars:
The main winter season runs from early December until early May, but skiing doesn’t stop there. The glacier is open for summer skiing from mid-June to late August and then re-opens a few weeks later in mid- September right through to the following May. Tignes is now the only French outdoor ski area fully open in October and November and has the longest ski season in France.
Tignes alone offers an enormous variety of terrain; add Val d'Isère into the mix, and visitors can easily ski a different zone every day of the week. Lift passes are available for Tignes only or the entire Espace Killy area with its 300km (187 miles) of linked piste. Most of Tignes' ski area is served by state of the art lifts accessed by hands-free passes, meaning queues are usually kept down too.
Complete beginners can take advantage of the free Rosset chairlift, around which their first lessons take place on the nursery slopes of Tignes-le-Lac and Le Lavachet. There is a good choice of ski schools, including the École du Ski Français (ESF) in Tignes-le-Lac and Val Claret (tel: 04 7906 3028; www.esf-tignes.com) and Evolution 2 (tel: 07 6091 2031; www.evolution2.com/tignes) in Tignes-le-Lac.
Intermediates have a huge choice of blue and red cruisers on either side of the valley or up on the glacier. For experts, Sache is an epic black run (when snow conditions are good), descending from the 2,478m (8,130ft) Aiguille Percée down to Tignes les Brévières (1,550m/5,085ft).
The off-piste skiing in Tignes is fantastic, but the less experienced should head first to Le Spot, a specially marked off-piste zone. Skiers and boarders can seek advice from the 'ski patrol' at the chalet, then practise using avalanche transceivers. The Naturides are a good next step (ungroomed, but patrolled black runs), before progressing on to unpatrolled terrain.
Tignes ski resort is particularly good for snowboarding as there are relatively few flat areas (unless you head over to Val d'Isère) and plenty of wide, groomed trails. There's a good terrain park under the Palet chairlift, with jumps and rails for all levels, plus beginner and advanced halfpipes and a boardercross course.