Hurry for a late flurry: With high altitude and pistes for all abilities, Tignes is ideal for an end-of-season family ski break
Aim high, aim late and there will always be great end-of-season deals for skiers. And where better than Tignes?
It never fails to delight, not least because this former Olympic venue sits beneath a glacier (on the other side of the hill from Val-d’Isere).
We were there with our three not-quite beginners, then aged 12, 11 and eight. After all those years of someone wailing about something (usually a painful ski boot), we actually got to the point where we could cruise all over the mountain without a grumble. Even our youngest was a happy Tignes-ager.
It helps that the vast ski area, known as the Espace Killy, has pistes to suit all ages and abilities. It also helped that we were travelling with Club Mark Warner, masters of the family holiday. We stayed in Val Claret, the highest part of Tignes, at the Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin, which has all the facilities of a top hotel — including spa and indoor pool, every child’s idea of the perfect apres-ski.
However, Club Mark Warner goes for a chalet atmosphere tailored to the UK family market, with plenty of kids’ club activities, board games, big-screen action, family quiz nights and a hefty teatime spread waiting at the end of every afternoon. It is run by an English-speaking team of cheerful, can-do staff with plenty of experienced regulars in the mix.
Robert Hardman sings the praises of Tignes, above, a former Olympic venue
One of the added advantages of its formula is that its charter flights go on Sundays, using the small terminal at Grenoble. It means you are spared the Saturday logjams at the big airports, the ‘changeover day’ tailbacks on the mountain and the queue for ski hire. The half-board package includes a full English breakfast and a similarly substantial three-course dinner.
Our one error was not booking ski school lessons in advance for our children. That meant taking private lessons for a couple of afternoons and they weren’t cheap at £70 per child per afternoon. However, the results were so dramatic that it was probably worth it in the end.
Even in a peak holiday period, the lift queues were minimal in Val Claret. We started out on the green/blue runs beneath the dramatic Aiguille Percee (Eye of the Needle) rock. Here were endless, broad uncluttered runs which lead down to the lower parts of Tignes.
Though it is busier heading in the other direction towards Val-d’Isere, the six-man Bollin chairlift soaks up the queues in no time. For first-class mountain scoff at not-absurd prices, the terrace of Le Trifollet, a well-run family affair on the piste leading down to La Daille, is very hard to beat (do try the Tarte Beaufort).
Robert and his family enjoying their time in Tignes
Lunch prices are, of course, cheaper off the mountain.
Half way through our week, we even had a minor miracle after my wife managed to drop her phone off the Madeleine chair lift high above Val-d’Isere one morning.
We’d assumed it had vanished for ever until I called it later on the off chance. A delightful ski guide answered, having found it in the snow on his rounds, knew Club Mark Warner and arranged to meet me in town later.
‘It’s your life and your memories,’ he said, refusing any sort of reward. The odds of the same thing happening on, say, a London bus, would be much longer.
Club Mark Warner’s Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin is available from £2,798pp for April 2 flights to Grenoble from Gatwick (and other airports). Bookings for next season start at £1,329pp from December 12. Call 033 3130 2725 or markwarner.co.uk.