Tignes and Val d'Isère are connected by chairlifts and are together known as the Espace Killy. Although Tignes is a little less popular than Val, the Espace Killy is still one of the most famous ski areas in France, and one of the most frequented by foreign tourists.
While Val has a bigger party vibe and is generally considered prettier than Tignes, you will still find plenty of seasonal workers, in particular British, at Tignes.
Moreover, Tignes has better terrain than Val so tends to attract better riders, in addition to being home to one of the biggest terrain parks in Europe and the European Winter X Games.
The Espace Killy opens in late November and closes in early May - a long season due to the strong snow conditions and high elevation of the resorts. La Grande Motte glacier at Tignes generally opens up by early October for skiing.
Photo - Tignes ski resort on a sunny day (c) Andy Parant
Tignes is located right next to the Italian border in south-eastern France in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France.
If you are arriving internationally, the closest airports are at Geneva (218 km – 2.5hrs drive), Lyon (242 km – 3hrs drive), Grenoble (160km – 2 hrs drive) and Chambéry (130 km – 1.5hrs drive). There are direct transfers to Tignes from the airports through shuttle companies which cost a little extra than the train/bus option.
If you are arriving by train, the closest station is at Bourg St Maurice, around 30km away, which serves as the arrival point for a number of high-speed trains including the TGV, the Eurostar and the Thalys.
From Bourg St Maurice, there are regular public buses to Tignes and Val Claret which take about 45 minutes. A local taxi is also possible and will cost around 70 euros.
If driving to Tignes, take Autoroute A430 to Albertville then the N90 to Moutiers. Once at Moutiers, head in the direction of Bourg St Maurice still taking the N90, from where you take the D902 to Tignes.
Tignes is very much a walking village so you don’t really need a car for the season. However, a car is handy if you want to go on day trips to other resorts nearby as the buses can take quite a while.
There is a free bus to get you between Val Claret, Le Lac and Les Boisses. Les Brevières is only linked by chairlift which makes it more difficult to get home after a night out.
Les Trois Vallées is a huge ski resort area which is about an hour's drive away and is great for a few day trips throughout the season.
Le Lac is the central part of town next to Lake Tignes. Val Claret is another accommodation area on the other side of Lake Tignes at the base of the La Grande Motte glacier. Le Lavachet is next to Le Lac. It is around 3km between Val Claret and Le Lavachet as Tignes is quite spread out.
Tignes 1800 (Les Boisses) and Les Brevières are two smaller and quieter towns lower down the mountain which, although linked by gondolas to the central area, are nonetheless a bit isolated and have limited shopping and food options.
Tignes has a less cozy vibe than Val d’Isère, with a lot of ugly, concrete 1960’s-style hotels and accommodation and less in the way of nightlife.
The village is purpose-built, before design and flow were really taken into account for ski resort villages, and the village is only slowly improving its aesthetic as new, better designed buildings go up. There is an almost barren and remote feel to the village as there are virtually no trees while tall mountains loom over the village and the pretty Lac de Tignes.
Val is considered to have the more spectacular scenery of the two resorts.
Tignes has more expert and extreme riders as the terrain is better. Also, the park at Tignes is one of the best in Europe which attracts a lot of exceptional park riders.
You will find plenty of British seasonal workers as Espace Killy is one of the most popular places for Brits to work a snow season. You will also find plenty of Scandinavians, although probably more so in Val.
Photo - View over the village at Tignes - (c) Andy Parant
Tignes has great terrain, some of the best terrain in France and certainly better terrain than Val d’Isère. The combined Espace Killy area has over 300km of pistes and 78 lifts. Tignes has an incredible vertical drop with runs possible from the top of the glacier cable car at 3,456m down to the village at 2,100m.
Tignes is well-known for its excellent choice of off-piste runs and plays host to some of the best big-mountain and freestyle events in Europe.
While there is very little in the way of beginner areas, there are a lot of long intermediate runs and good selection of advanced on-piste runs. Those who prefer more expert terrain to tackle over the season usually spend a lot of time in Tignes, even if working in Val.
The lift infrastructure is mostly efficient, although there are a few linkages that could do with an upgrade.
Up the top of the mountain is La Grotte de Glace – the glacier on which there is year-round riding. The top of the cable lies at 3,456m, meaning snow is usually guaranteed. There are some beautiful wide-open runs up here. As you advance throughout the season, you will likely also dip off the side into the ‘Palet’ area which has a bit more advanced terrain off-piste. Make sure to check avalanche conditions before going off-piste.
Another great off-piste area is ‘le Spot’, accessed by the Col des Ves chair, which is a dedicated off-piste area for those looking to work on their off-piste skills.
Other great off-piste areas include La Tovière, the ridge which separates Tignes and Val, and around the ‘eye of the needle’ which is Tignes’ famous rock sticking up from the ground near l'Aiguille Percée peak.
Night riding is possible from Le Lac and Val Claret meaning extra time on the board or skis after you finish work.
Over at Val, the best runs are lower down and around the trees. The Val glacier is also a nice area for blues and reds and generally good snow conditions.
Some nice off-piste areas at Val include Vallée Perdue, Tour de Charvet, Col Pers and Le Grand Vallon.
The park at Tignes is truly world-class and arguably the best in France, if not Europe. It is around 2.5kms in length and includes every feature you could want from jumps to rails to pipes and a bordercross course.
The Winter X Games are held at Tignes each year. This is one of the best events of the season as the top riders in the world come to display their talents.
The snow conditions at Val/Tignes are generally among the best and most consistent in France. Of course, the snow in France is not as good as the snow in Japan or the Rockies in North America and a good season might see five meters of snow.
The riding is better in Tignes than Val due to its higher elevation. Val d’Isère can get a little mushy on warmer days and most of the nice runs in Val are lower and through the trees.
At both Tignes and Val d’Isère, the best and most consistent snow is up at the glaciers.
It gets quite busy in Tignes particularly during the school holidays periods for Britain and France. April is the best month as the snow is usually still good but the crowds have thinned.
Given that Tignes opens a little earlier than Val, businesses will start accepting applications a little earlier, around August and September. The local jobs generally require a good level of French unless you are working at English-specific ski schools or with a tour company.
Tour companies start looking for applicants during the summer, particularly around July/August.
For those outside Europe, you will need a valid French working visa. See Work a Season in France for working holiday visa details.
To find a job at Tignes, there are several resources:
www.pole-emploi.fr is a French Government employment resource. In the search bar, do a search by post code by typing in the post code of Tignes: 73320.
Telephone: 04 79 06 42 08
The local town hall (La Mairie) has a list of jobs available (in French) under ‘offres d’emploi’ See www.mairie-tignes.fr/fr/information/4777/offres-emplois. This is generally a good way to find a local job.
Hotel, Restaurant and Sport
There are a number of snowsports schools in Tignes, including Ultimate Snowsports and Apex Snowsports. These schools hire English speakers to cater to the English-speaking tourists.
You will need to convert your instructing certificate to the French instructing certificate before they accept your application. See Work a Season in France for further information on how to do this.
Tour companies are another good way to find work, particularly if you don’t speak French (French speakers will of course have an easier time finding a job with a tour company). These companies offer full-service packages to tourists and include jobs such as airport transfer, ski guides and chalet hosts.
See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
Many tour companies British run and some only accept British citizens. You will mostly work 6 days a week with some time off each day either in the morning or evening.
You could expect to earn around 80 pounds a week with accommodation, season pass and food included, although company reps could make a little extra through tips and commission.
A tip - it's a good idea to cut deals with restaurants early in the season as well as the instructors from whom you might get commission and free lessons.
Tour companies that operate in Tignes include:
Staff accommodation comes with many of the tour operator jobs. If you work for a bar or a restaurant, they might offer you staff accommodation but often they won't.
You can expect staff accommodation to be very basic with sometimes nothing more than a mattress and a room. Usually staff accommodation is close to the centre, at least. However, it's much, much cheaper than finding a place by yourself.
If you are paying rent, you should expect to pay around 600€ per month for a studio. You can find places up to 10,000€ per room for the season in a share house.
Where to live
In terms of places to live, Le Lavachet is quite cool. The Chalet Club in Val Claret is another big place for seasonal workers to live.
You can find cheaper rent down in Les Brevières and Tignes 1800 (Les Boisses), but if you don't have a car then it can be quite a hassle to get home after going out in Tignes, unless you have friends at Tignes 2100 with whom you can stay.
Val Claret, Le Lavachet, Le Lac and Tignes 1800 are linked by a free shuttle bus that runs 24 hours a day, once on the hour after midnight. This does make it possible to live in one town and work in another, although it is not ideal.
In terms of groceries and shopping, you will be better off shopping down the valley at the Super U, or in Bourg St Maurice, if you have access to a car.
Of the two resorts, Val has the better bar and après scene, while Tignes is a bit tamer. The spread-out nature of the town means you do need to plan your night a little.
Most of the après-ski at Tignes is found in Val Claret and Le Lac, while Les Brevières and Tignes 1800 are very quiet.
Dropzone in Val Claret is one of the best places to go after a long day riding or working. There is a fun vibe with DJs, pool, sports and it turns into a club later on.
Also in Val Claret, Couloir has some great live music with good food at the restaurant. For a more sophisticated vibe, head to Grizzly's for cocktails or Whitney Bar for gourmet nibbles.
Lavachet Lounge is one of Tignes older bars and also does nice cocktails.
For dancing, Jack's Club goes until very early in the morning while the Blue Girl club is a bit more upmarket (though they sometimes knock you back if you don't speak French!).
There is also a bowling alley at Tignes for a change of pace.
Over at Val d'Isère, La Folie Douce is a super famous bar with a heaving crowd and pumping music every day of the week. You should definitely go here at least once over the season.