A sporty weekend in Tignes: from snowshoeing to off-piste skiing

Why should you go to Tignes? First of all: to ski your socks off! Tignes is known for being one of the most beautiful and extensive ski resorts in France and Europe. This is thé place the winter sport-lover desperate for a vacation filled with adrenaline, sports and good old fun in the snow.

Tignes and its neighbor Val d’Isère are good for some 300 kilometer spectacular ski-slops, known as Espace Killy (named after France’s Olympic skiing champion Jean Claude Killy).  Tignes is also one of the highest ski-resorts in the world, making it even possible to go skiing in summer, on the glacier La Grande Motte.

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Jempi couldn’t have been more happier to visit Tignes; as an ex-ski instructor who hadn’t seen much snow the last couple of years, he was freaking out with enthusiasm to hit the slopes. I however was a bit in doubt whether there would be something for me to do during this short trip; I don’t ski and although our hotel was fantastic, I had no intentions to just stay indoors and do nothing. Not skiing doesn’t mean I don’t like sports or being active.

So the challenge was to find things to do we both liked. Curious what we end up doing? Here’s a little summary.

1. These boots are made for snow walking

While Jempi was getting his kicks on the ski slopes, I decided to try snowshoeing. “The weather is not excellent but you’re still going to love this,” my guide said when we were strapping on our snowshoes. I had to admit I was already a snowshoe-fan: no heavy ski boots, skis or other equipment to carry, no standing in queues at ski lifts, no crowds… True, those snowshoes were no Louboutins (it’s like walking with shoes on that are three sizes too big) and the views over the valley were a bit blurred by the fog, but it still felt good to be outdoors.

Bonus: walking with snowshoes is really easy; it took me less than 5 minutes to get used to my new plastic shoes.

Out little walk took 4 hours and it was pretty exhausting walking through the snow – continuously uphill and downhill again –  but it was just like I had imagined it: alone in a white landscape where there’s barely any sound, being blown away by the beauty of nature… I would have loved to enjoy the 360° view on top of the little mountain we climbed, but because of the fog all I could see was a white blur. But still: I was no longer a snowshoe-virgin and I definitely want more of this!

2. Say hello to man’s best friend

When they said dog sledding I thought we were going on a real adventure into the white wilderness, with a sled pulled by a couple of Huskies.

Turned out our dog sledding trip took place only in and around Tignes-le-Lac and on the frozen lake. So no wild nature or big adventure. Was that a disappointment? Well, it could have been, but the dogs were so funny and the instructor was really great. All we had to do is cuddle the dogs, sit in the sled and enjoy the ride.

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3. Taking the plunge

Would we like to try ice diving? Euh, yes, sure. So there we were, feeling very uncomfortable in our special ice diving suits, looking at a hole in the ice, wondering whether this was a good idea. “It’s going to be fine”, our instructor from Evolution 2 said, and after a short but thorough safety brief we just took the plunge.

 

Was it cold? Yes! Was it something amazing? Absolutely! Don’t expect any encounters with fishes like you would when diving in the Red Sea, but the lights and colors under the ice are breathtaking.

4. Off piste skiing: “Just let me die here.”

“I just want to die. Leave me here and let me die.” All Jempi could do when he got back from his first time off piste skiing experience, was to crash on the bed and just lay there. “I’ve never been so tired”, he moaned.

Although it had been nine years since Jempi actually went skiing, his guide had found his skiing level and his physical condition good enough to try off piste skiing. After putting on the full equipment (avalanche transceiver, avalanche air bags, shovel…) and a short warming up on the regular pistes, the two of them headed of to a steep off piste pitch.

“Why did you let me do this? I had to climb up a mountain, for miles! I was knee-deep in snow, I fell so much my butt is bruised. I’m exhausted. Snow is evil and unforgiving, it’s the Devil’s invention, I finally realize that now.”

All I could say was “Ow, really. Hm, who knew…”. I had just finished my first try on snowshoeing and was still in an zen-like state of mind, my head filled with memories of nature’s beauty.

“So euh, I guess you didn’t really like it?” I tried.

“Ow no,” he said. “I loved it! It was the most brilliant and amazing thing I’ve ever done. The mountains, the fresh snow, the silence, the feeling like you’re one with nature… Pure magic. Skiing down a mountain in the fresh snow, in such an amazing landscape… heaven!” And then he closed his eyes. Not to die of-course but to sleep, just long enough to load up his batteries before we had to hit nightlife in Tines.

If you’re into off piste skiing you’ll definitely get your kicks in Tignes; the resort boasts a variety of off piste routes, both within the resort and in the back bowls. You can book a guide to go with you, individual or in group. Lessons are also available.

4. Things we didn’t do, but should have

Our time in Tignes was too short to try everything, but these activities will definitely be on our agenda during our next visit:

  • Go paraglidingNo, I don’t ski. But I wouldn’t mind  flying over the mountains.
  • Driving a snowmobile, at night. Illegal on the pistes during the day but once the slopes are closed it’s time for snowmobiling!
  • Get an adrenaline overdose on the Bun J Ride

I don’t know who invented this thing, but he or she should get a medal. Think of it as a combination of ramp jumping, bungee jumping and zip-line riding. Just watch the promo video below, and I’m sure you’ll be hooked too.

 

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About Tignes

Tignes is located in the Tarentaise Valley, a Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. It has good transport links in and out of Lyon, Geneva and Chambery.

The resort is know as a Walhalla for snow-sport addicts, but Tignes is also a great destination for an active summer holiday (with lots of free activities and free lifts).

www.tignes.net – francs-montagnes.com

More about where we stayed in Tignes here and our ice diving adventure.

37 comments

  1. Tignes is so nice to ski! But I didn’t know you could go dog sledding there! 😮 I have to go back!
    Great post

  2. sounds like a trip bursting full of adventures. I have never been skiing and whilst I would love to try I seem to focus so much on the fact that I could break a bone that knowing my luck that is exactly what would happen.

  3. That’s a really good article with excellent photographs. I took up snow shoe trekking here in the south of France a few years ago and was surprised how easy and cheap it is. Enjoyed it so much I bought a pair, they are also very cheap to hire. My wife and I don’t bother with a guide we just use local guide books and are careful to only venture out when the conditions are perfect.

    I also had a bash at ski rando with the local Alpine club and found that a wonderful experience but physically exhausting.

    It’s great to encourage people to look beyond just skiing, good for you.

    All the best.

    Peter Horrocks

  4. The picture of the river that you took while snow shoeing was worth the weather, I bet. The same could be said for dog sledding. They are some of the biggest sled dogs I’ve ever seen.

    I’ve never tried ice diving but it’s on my list.

    1. Hi Lesley, thx a lot for your comment. It was very cold but the beautiful surroundings made it worth big time indeed. If you ever go ice diving, let me know if you’ve loved it as much as we did. Cheers 🙂

  5. Wow! What fantastic pictures. My favorites (of course) were of the gorgeous dogsledding dogs and you holding them. How sweet. The plunge…are you serious? No freaking way!

    1. Hi Melody, thx! The huskies were adorable (some of them) and big fun. About the plunge…c’mon, you should give it a try. Trust me, I’m sure you will love it afterwards. Cheers 🙂

  6. INCREDIBLE!! Thanks for inspiring me to add Tignes to my list. My husband and I ski a few times each year and have been searching for a new spot to try. I’d love to do the dog sledding as well, but don’t think I could handle the ice plunge 😉

    1. Hi Andrea, we’re happy that you and your husband like the review of our trip. Tignes has a lot to offer if you’re an active wintersporter. The dog sledding is absolutely big fun and you should try the ice diving if you have the chance. You will be so proud of yourself afterwards 🙂 Cheers.

  7. Snow shoeing looks like so much fun and I adore the photos of you and the dogs. So cute. I felt ever so slightly terrified looking at those photos of the plunge though. I couldn’t never do that I think. I would be too scared to get lost and not being able to find the hole out again.

    1. Hi Tammy, thx for your kind comment. Nina loved the snowshoeing a lot, she had a great time doing it. About the ice diving, it’s actually not so scary and dangerous than it looks. You’re always guided by an instructor who stays beside you every inch of the diving trip. So you don’t have to worry about getting lost at all. Cheers 🙂

  8. Wow, die hondenslee, heel gaaf lijkt me dat! Maar dan wel goed ingepakt, want ik hou echt niet van kou. 😉 Dat water in onder het ijs zou ik dan ook echt noooooit in mijn hoofd halen, haha. Maar wel super om vanaf mijn warme bankje thuis even te kunnen meekijken. 🙂

    1. Hoi Yvonne, tof dat je het verslag over onze trip leuk vond. Wij houden eerlijk gezegd ook liever van de warmte hoor maar helaas heb je voor wintersport echt wel winterse toestanden nodig 🙂 Groetjes.

    1. Hi Gemma, we had a great time indeed. Each of the things we did were intensive but big fun. It’s also nice to perform a different sport each day instead of skiing 3 days in a row. Cheers 🙂

  9. I was a bit skeptical at first. I’m a tropical girl and those pictures made me shiver, but the sled dogs sold me. I think snuggling with a husky in the snow makes it all worth while!

    1. Haha, we adore and prefer summer time too. But it was a great experience and it’s big fun to practice something completely different then skiing. Some of the huskies were really adorable and would love you to snuggle with them all day long, but be careful not to let your ass freeze off in the cold 😉 Cheers.

    1. Hi Fiona, thx for your kind comment. Nina did enjoy the snowshoeing a lot. About the ice diving, it’s not so scary and dangerous as it looks. You should really try it when you have the chance. Cheers 🙂

    1. Hi Elaine, thx for your kind comment, we’re happy that you enjoyed the post and consider to visit Tignes. Cheers 🙂

  10. Your photos are amazing and so tell the story, especially the ones with the dogs. I have always found skiing to be totally exhausting but that all over ache tells me I have had such a great workout. So far I have only skied in the US and hear that the European resorts are quite different. I love that you highlight a number of other things to do at this resort other than just skiing, the snowshoeing looked like a fun thing to try for me while my husband would love the more adrenaline filled options.

    1. Hi Sue, I can’t tell you about the difference between the ski slopes in Europe and the USA because I haven’t skied in the USA yet. The result after a complete day of intensive skiing will be the same tough…completely strikes out 😉 Cheers.

  11. So cool (quite literally)! I don’t know if I would be brave enough to dive below the ice, very badass! Snowshoeing seems great, would love to try it:-)

    1. Hi Lotte, haha indeed quite literally 🙂 You should really try the ice diving if you have the chance, it’s absolutely not dangerous and there’s always an instructor right beside you. Nina was very enthusiastic about the snowshoeing. Cheers 🙂

    1. Hoi Carolien, ik hou zelf ook meer van de warmte maar wintersporten kan je helaas enkel uitoefenen tijdens de winter (en dan moet er voor sommige sporten nog genoeg sneeuw liggen ook). Zelf heb ik het sneeuwwandelen niet gedaan omdat ik toen aan het “sterven” was buiten de piste maar Nina was in elk geval heel enthousiast erover 🙂 Groetjes.

  12. OMG those huskies look so adorable. I would have taken them home in my suitcase 🙂 I love snowshoeing btw, too bad it’s still upcoming and not possible in many places. I really should go back to the snow someday soon!

    1. Hi Antonette, yeah the dogs (some of them) were really adorable. You don’t wanna know what it will cost to feed such a bunch of Huskies 🙂 Finally there’s fresh and enough snow in the French Alps, so now is the time to go 😉 Cheers.

  13. Skiing and winter is not for me. I love active living and nature but when temperatures start dropping below 10 degrees I’m off t better places if possible. The dog sledding looks fantastic, I would love to do that one day!

    1. Hi Ivonne, to be honest…we prefer sun sea and all the other stuff that comes with the high temperatures too. But some sports can only be practiced during winter time and in fact they are big fun. Cheers 🙂

  14. I thought this post would be about the regular skiing or snowboarding, so I was surprised by the dog sledding and diving in the ice cold water. This sounds really cool! And the best thing is that it’s just a few hour drive (well, if you drive fast :p ) from the Netherlands.

    1. Hi Aniek, thx a lot for your kind comment. Diving beneath the ice was indeed a truly great (and cool) experience. The dog sledding was absolutely big fun! PS: do you drive a Ferrari? 😉

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