Do NOT attempt any of these routes. You WILL die. This guide is purely for my own memories and future reference. Do NOT try and follow them. If you are going Off Piste only do so with all the appropriate training and a guide who knows what he is doing. And even then you might die!
Tignes and the Val D’isere ski valleys or the Espace Killy as it is collectively known is a haven for off piste skiing. Having been there for three weeks in total now I have still barely scratched the surface of what is out there. Below are some of the off piste runs I’ve done (excluding the off piste which is immediately accessible from the side of the groomed slopes or under the lifts.
Some of these were found from the links below, and some from a day out with a guide from the ESF. This is a very affordable way to get shown around bits of the mountain you wouldn’t otherwise dare to reach!
We did a couple of routes into the Sache Valley. These are easily accessable and very doable runs. Something to remember here is when the valley flattens out try to keep the piste in view to your right. When you spot the ski patrol hut, head back over to the piste. This may be a difficult trek but the bottom half of the valley is not really worth the effort and dumps you on a horrible walk-out to rejoin the piste further down with a scary looking drop into a frozen waterfall!
So anyway, the access to the start of these routes is simple – at the top of the Aiguille Percee and Marais chair lifts, take the small hike up to the right of you (as sat on the Marais chair) or directly in front and to the left of the Percee chair – you’ll see it – it’s obvious. There are two options. Head left at the top and you can drop in around the back of the valley into a wide open, not massively steep bowl, or head right and tackle one of the coulouis. The first couple will scare the pants off you, but if you go far enough, you’ll find one which has a bit of a narrow, steep drop in, but quickly opens up into a huge bowl. You can’t go too far wrong once you get to the bottom of these drop-ins, though as above – if you can head back to the piste to avoid the second half of the valley and the dodgy walk out.
Accessible with a short walk from the top of the Chaudennes chair lift it is possible to drop into the Glattier valley (shown on the piste map) crossing over the blue piste and down into the valley. You can drop through the trees at the end of the run and will eventually pop out on to the road where there is a bus stop where you can pick up the free shuttle back to the main resort areas.
Again, only a very short walk required from the top of the Merles chair. Drop in to the area marked “Lognan” on the piste map. There is a large area to explore here just in between the pistes marked on the map. You’ll end up on the road with a short walk back to Tignes le Lac or Val Claret.
As you look up at the mountain face at the Palafour lift, you will see a number of corridors dropping down on the right hand side. These are accessible with a short walk from the top of the Palafour lift. As you get to the top of the Palafour lift, you will see a short section of avalanche barriers. Walk on the inside (downhill side) of these barriers towards the corridors. Once you are done, you will drop back on to the red “Blouets” run which you can take to head back to the village.
More Tignes / Val D’isere Off Piste info
As I say, I have barely scratched the surface here, I hear there is some great stuff off the Montet and Signal drag lifts in Le Fornet, and up Grand Pre in Bellevarde – so something to explore next time I go 😉
I had decided to go to Fernie after years of following it’s epic snowfall on Twitter and having heard good things from friends who had gone before me (@andybell79 and @pkryder). Naturally then, me and @andybell79 went there with great expectation and excitement.
Sadly, in terms of snowfall we were to be disappointed. Seems the Griz had decided to coincide his two week holiday with ours (The Griz is a legendary creature who is said to fire his gun in the air and cause it to snow). Although we had a few inches slowly accumulate in the first week and one overnight dump of 7 or 8 cm, that was as good as it got. We did get some powder on that day but certainly not the snorkeltastic waist deep fun we were hoping for.
There was however full mountain coverage and some decent conditions to be found with a bit of hunting.
There was lots of varied, steep and challenging terrain, but the resort is let down a little by a lift system which results in a lot of traversing in order to hit the whole of the mountain, and having to do a loop of 2 or 3 slowish lifts in order to hit the same area again.
Polar peak on the 2 or 3 occasions we managed to get up there showed it had epic potential. The double diamond run we did when we couldn’t see more than 10m in front of us was particularly memorable! Unfortunately the lift and area did spend a large portion of the holiday closed due to either low/no visibility or bad conditions.
Some other favourite runs included Big Bang, the Knot Chutes, and the runs off the Elk Chair, which although a green had lots of trees and features to have some fun with! There are also a couple of short hikes directly above the lifts which are worth a walk if they aren’t fenced off for avalanche risk.
There are lots of tree runs which is great when visibility isn’t the best (which was quite often). A run to avoid is off the left side of the Timber Chair (as you go up) into Siberia Bowl. The black might be fun, but the massive, mostly flat blue traverse back certainly is not!
We took in a skiing lesson on our last day as about a week of no snow at all had left conditions scrapy, icy and no fun on a snowboard. I actually really enjoyed it, especially the eventful and slow run off the chairlift just before handing the equipment back. We are now officially green runners though, so that’s pretty much expert, right? I look forward to tackling something a bit more extreme next time I slap on a pair of planks!
The town itself is great with a number of decent bars, restaurants and shops. You can even take yourself for a drink in the Canadian legion if you want to chat to a load of old ex-pats (I don’t think there were any Canadians in there!), and get yourself down to the Fernie Hotel Pub the first Saturday of every month to help judge (or even take part in!) their monthly cook-off competition. If you happen to see Giselle, be sure to say Hi from me!
The ice hockey is also a worthwhile night out, and, as @andybell79 would testify a great opportunity to rest tired eyes and catch 40 winks 😉
In summary, it was a fab holiday and I did love Fernie but the lack of snow was a real shame. I’d definitely go back, but I’d be checking in with the Griz next time to see what his holiday plans were 😉
Text: Finally made it home. Shower and then bed methinks! Created At: Sun Feb 17 19:51:13 +0000 2013
Text: Apparently it was too foggy to land and we didn’t have enough fuel to keep circling! Made it now though and on the road home! Created At: Sun Feb 17 13:24:12 +0000 2013
Text: I’m sure Birmingham is lovely but the car’s in Gatwick :-S Created At: Sun Feb 17 09:40:09 +0000 2013
Text: Let it be known to the world that @andybell79 has just poured beer down the sink!! #disgraceful Created At: Sat Feb 16 06:07:07 +0000 2013
Text: @StephenShutt @pkryder @andybell79 so who’s up for a skiing trip to castleford next weekend. We’ll show you how its done! Created At: Sat Feb 16 04:54:13 +0000 2013
Text: Not sure where we are going for our final meal in fernie, other than nowhere fast! Powernap may be needed. Oh, and the cable is broke! Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:54:25 +0000 2013
Text: …but with a much higher potential for catastrophe!! Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:52:47 +0000 2013
Text: So my experience of learning to ski is that it was much easier and less painful than learning to board was… Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:52:29 +0000 2013
Text: @Lil_Miss_Lis can totally see how u broke your knee. Pretty sure on several occasions i had more than 2 legs pointing different directions! Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:45:13 +0000 2013
Text: @Lil_Miss_Lis deffo sticking to the one plank but will throw a pair of skis on again at some point. Be good to be able to do a bit of both! Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:21:34 +0000 2013
Text: @Lil_Miss_Lis it made a fun change! Conditions not been great for the boards for a few days now. Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:19:39 +0000 2013
Text: Had a good night at the brick house last night. Good food, good music and good booze!! Created At: Sat Feb 16 01:14:04 +0000 2013
Text: Good last day. Enjoyed skiing and even tackled a chair and a proper green run! Gnarly! http://t.co/I1nAGBpk Created At: Sat Feb 16 00:37:36 +0000 2013
Text: @pkryder @StephenShutt we are having a half day lesson! Created At: Fri Feb 15 14:44:13 +0000 2013
Text: @Rola_Cola mmmmm with your tweet you make me want to go to Tim Horton and buy 12 doughnuts 🙂 x Created At: Fri Feb 15 07:20:34 +0000 2013
Text: http://t.co/uSnZ81SH I am pretty sure Jim Beam will help me ski (backwards). Created At: Fri Feb 15 07:12:47 +0000 2013
Text: I fricking love music. Canada. England. Ghana. Its all groovy. #neilyoing Created At: Fri Feb 15 07:10:43 +0000 2013
Text: @Lil_Miss_Lis if a bear wears a hat on a Monday then does Ricki lake see it poo in the woods whilst skiing in secret? Created At: Fri Feb 15 07:08:15 +0000 2013
Text: Really fun day after a slow start. Got some good vids! Now me and @andybell79 are off out for a nice romantic valentines day meal!! Created At: Fri Feb 15 00:07:33 +0000 2013
Text: Snow snow everywhere! (except here!) Created At: Thu Feb 14 18:25:49 +0000 2013
Text: I think I’ve been nacho’d http://t.co/USVuNyPV Created At: Thu Feb 14 00:13:01 +0000 2013
Text: The only way things are going to improve here tomorrow is if there are hot girls riding in bikinis. #fernie #thegrizisonholiday Created At: Thu Feb 14 00:03:46 +0000 2013
Text: Who needs pancakes?! RT @andybell79 Yum yum. Chocolate coated cheesecake on a stick! http://t.co/2ixKYVLv Created At: Wed Feb 13 05:12:10 +0000 2013
Text: Action shots!! @andybell79 http://t.co/M6ylCIjI http://t.co/mWe7fucW http://t.co/JIIiboMO http://t.co/9kvbhU7A Created At: Wed Feb 13 01:26:17 +0000 2013
Text: Chairlift Mo-bot! http://t.co/aYHayBz1 Created At: Wed Feb 13 01:10:35 +0000 2013
Text: I seeeeeeeeee you!!!!! http://t.co/L7XoIjGL Created At: Wed Feb 13 00:59:45 +0000 2013
Text: Another fun day on the hill. Still no new snow but practising jumps, switch and carving instead 🙂 Created At: Wed Feb 13 00:25:38 +0000 2013
Text: That’s so weird. I dreamt just this morning about a chairlift being blown over. Hope everyone in the Lecht incident is OK! Created At: Wed Feb 13 00:23:09 +0000 2013
Text: Dear everyone, please come to Canada so I don’t have to come home. Thank you please. X Created At: Tue Feb 12 06:09:13 +0000 2013
Text: So much pizza… #elkvalleypizzashoppe Created At: Tue Feb 12 06:03:32 +0000 2013
Text: PLEASE SNOW!! @skifernie @pastordavemorton Created At: Mon Feb 11 23:55:26 +0000 2013
Text: Goggles turned up at lost property.. anyone want to buy some goggles?? Created At: Mon Feb 11 00:58:51 +0000 2013
Text: Rather fancy some “slackcountry” before the holidays out. Don’t tell @andybell79 😉 Created At: Mon Feb 11 00:57:44 +0000 2013
Text: Turns out drinking lots of beer & going to bed late isn’t conducive to a productive days snowboarding! Easy day and early finish! Created At: Mon Feb 11 00:57:20 +0000 2013
Text: http://t.co/u0Ioevr8 Off for a drink in the legion! With mostly English exiles!! @andybell79 Created At: Sun Feb 10 06:10:17 +0000 2013
Text: http://t.co/ywe0px0C Kraft cheese contest in the pub! Created At: Sun Feb 10 06:08:36 +0000 2013
Text: A small snack for breakfast… http://t.co/nsj1zCso Created At: Sun Feb 10 06:05:38 +0000 2013
Text: and Southampton beat man city in the face with an axe. Wtf! Created At: Sun Feb 10 06:02:06 +0000 2013
Text: Door doo doo dooo doo doo doo! Created At: Sun Feb 10 05:57:22 +0000 2013
Text: Bought some goggles. Drunk in the Canadian (British) legion. Talked to wigan fans, watched @andybell79 fall asleep at hockey.. #funtimes Created At: Sun Feb 10 05:54:20 +0000 2013
Text: So where to start? Had one meal, a gigantic breakfast at Smitty’s, drunk beer, judged a maccy cheese cook off won by crazy Giselle… Created At: Sun Feb 10 05:52:04 +0000 2013
Text: @StephenShutt yes, they fell off my head. No, as yet there is no snow pummeling our faces in the face. Created At: Sun Feb 10 05:47:46 +0000 2013
Text: @pkryder haha! Was actually going to get gloves but might not have the budget now! Created At: Sat Feb 09 17:14:27 +0000 2013
Text: So a day of food, beer, shopping and later, hockey. Need to replace my goggles which went missing somewhere on the slopes yesterday! Created At: Sat Feb 09 16:14:50 +0000 2013
Text: Having a day off the slopes today. Novel for me on a snowboarding holiday, but looking forward to an easy day after weeks of madness! Created At: Sat Feb 09 16:13:25 +0000 2013
Text: Polar Peak today. Awesome until the sun came out and fair weather skiers, tourists and sightseers skied it out! http://t.co/6VYbSDc9 Created At: Sat Feb 09 00:34:59 +0000 2013
Text: @MagnumJK d d d danger out to find you…! Created At: Thu Feb 07 13:45:23 +0000 2013
Text: Pretty sure at approaching 32, I shouldn’t be watching Duck Tales, but what you gonna do? #awooohhooo Created At: Thu Feb 07 05:49:07 +0000 2013
Text: “knot chutes” even! Polar peak double diamonds on the hitlist for tomorrow! Woop! Created At: Thu Feb 07 01:04:23 +0000 2013
Text: @pkryder apparently a group of noisy kids are arriving and it wouldn’t be good for them to see us wandering about in our pants Created At: Thu Feb 07 00:04:23 +0000 2013
Text: Perfect day – snow in the morning, blue skies in the afternoon. Hiked up to the “knot shoots” for sweet deep double diamond thrills! #fernie Created At: Thu Feb 07 00:04:21 +0000 2013
Text: Traversed and explored the bowls to find good snow yesterday and some ace tree runs. Snowed most of the day! Created At: Wed Feb 06 14:55:52 +0000 2013
Text: @pkryder we have been moved to a suite with two floors! Created At: Wed Feb 06 14:49:59 +0000 2013
Text: There’s outrage in Canada this morning because they have replaced the iron with a cat in #monopoly #whocares Created At: Wed Feb 06 14:48:13 +0000 2013
Text: On the plus side its snowing like buggery outside. A day to sit in the cafe, drink alcoholic coffee and watch it snow? 🙂 Created At: Wed Feb 06 14:46:53 +0000 2013
Text: @pkryder did you not see? Its DAM good! Created At: Tue Feb 05 15:13:21 +0000 2013
Text: Also got sideways air today when trying to slow down after straightlining it. Didn’t see the bump. Pretty funny! Created At: Tue Feb 05 06:08:35 +0000 2013
Text: On the plus side pistes are fast and true and getting lots of switch riding in! Created At: Tue Feb 05 06:06:32 +0000 2013
Text: @skifernie where’s the snow? Any tips on finding something fresh? Will do snow dance in return!! Created At: Tue Feb 05 05:57:47 +0000 2013
Text: Took a short hike today to find some good snow. From top of the white pass quad. Well trodden routes quite sketchy now. #snowplease #fernie Created At: Tue Feb 05 05:56:34 +0000 2013
Text: Beaver Buzz. Its dam good!! http://t.co/jxfzReZi Created At: Tue Feb 05 05:53:27 +0000 2013
Text: @Lil_Miss_Lis yes! In Fernie. In my defence though, I did at least a years worth of work in January!! Created At: Tue Feb 05 01:32:29 +0000 2013
Text: Right, look. Stop fannying around and just get snowing properly!! #fernie Created At: Tue Feb 05 00:02:06 +0000 2013
Text: First day, first lift to last lift and last on the bus out of the resort! #hardcore Created At: Mon Feb 04 02:08:17 +0000 2013
Text: Up and ready for day one. Feel surprisingly good. Must have been the awesome curry! Bring it! Created At: Sun Feb 03 15:15:17 +0000 2013
Text: Home for the next couple of weeks. Nice, even has a balcony. No doorbell though!! http://t.co/ndB3rlls Created At: Sun Feb 03 01:31:42 +0000 2013
Text: Wow, feels great to have had more than 3 hours sleep even if up at 6am! Bye bye Hotel Europa! Hello Gatwick.. Created At: Sat Feb 02 07:42:02 +0000 2013
Text: This hotel is awesome. We’ve even got a doorbell! #fawltytowers Created At: Fri Feb 01 22:13:53 +0000 2013
Text: Uh oh, need more pants and socks – hope there’s a C&A in Fernie??!! Created At: Fri Feb 01 12:01:12 +0000 2013
Text: When packing for holiday, most important is to make sure your tech is sorted out.. especially with a 8hr flight to look forward to! 😛 Created At: Fri Feb 01 10:59:09 +0000 2013
This is probably only part one of this review, having only been there for one week and not had the opportunity to explore the full area yet. It’s certainly on my list to go back to though!!
This resort is absolutely vast. Easily the biggest I’ve been too. It’s approximately the same size as taking all three of Banffs resorts and sticking them in one place. This is all serviced by a single lift pass which covers the whole area (there is also a cheaper lift pass available to cover just the Tignes area – i.e. not Val D’isere)
Here’s the mind boggling stats:
96 ski lifts: 2 funiculars, 4 cabin lifts, 4 cable cars, 45 chairlifts, 41 drag lifts
10,000 hectares and 300 km of ski trails
137 ski runs: 22 green, 64 blue, 35 red, 16 black
9 slalom stadiums and 2 mogul stadiums
2 half-pipes and 2 snow parks
(lord knows where the 41 drag lifts are, I think I remember seeing just 3 of them!)
Despite the vastness of this place though, the exceptional number, quality and well planned out layout of lifts make it easily possible to explore the whole area, no matter where you are based (a number of small villages sit along the valley at the foot of the hills). It’s just an incredible place. Take a lift in the Tignes area and take a moment to look around at the expanse of snowcapped mountains all around you – and more impressively – the lifts bombursting up them in all directions. Incredible.
The off piste is immense too, and easily accessible meaning even after 5 days of no new snow, you’ll still be able to make fresh tracks.
There are plenty of companies offering off piste lessons and guiding. Check out ESF (Ecole Ski Francais) who have offices in Les Brevieres and the Tignes main area (at least). They are by far the cheapest.
That being said, there is plenty you can do yourself without hiking miles from the pistes. We found some great stuff off the back of the Aigull Piercee chair into the Vallon de la Sache – a great off piste run all the way back to Les Brevieres (just be warned there is a very tricky and narrow traverse at the end with a sheer drop off to your left. There is also some easily accessible and steep stuff reachable from the Col de Ves chair.
If you do decide to go without guides but do not have appropriate back country gear, avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes can be hired at a very reasonable rate (16 euros a day) from “Twinner” in Tignes Le Lac (http://www.twinner-tignes.com/)
Park lovers will be at home too with at least two top class parks and an awesome looking half pipe.
Food and drink on the hill and even in the villages is pretty steep. A catered chalet is reccommended. We stayed in the fabulous Chalet Hattiers. The Spar supermarket in Tignes Le Lac and shops in the same complex offer good value sandwhiches and burgers for lunch if you’re happy to compromise on comfort and scenery. Frankly – why would you waste time on things like food and drink anyway when you should be out snowboarding this awesome resort.
The Nevis range was an excellent and varied resort. The couple of chair lifts provide a welcome break from all the buttons and t-bars, although, as is the norm for Scottish resorts, you’re going to have to ride a few tows to see the best bits of the mountain.
On a saturday with excellent conditions, it was surprisingly quiet.
The runs from the top of the “Goose” t-bar are reccommended for the more advanced rider.
A really excellent resort! This place just seems vast. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you’ll arrive at the bottom of yet another lift. They really do just bomburst off all over the mountain. On top of that you are free to explore what is, in terms of pure acreage, probably the biggest of the Scottish resorts.
Theres some steep stuff off the Cairnwell Chair, and beware of the Glas Maol Poma. It feeds an excellent and long run, but it will literally obliterate your private areas!!