A Guide to Off-Piste Skiing in Tignes and Val d’Isere

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In the Espace Killy, we are so lucky to have such challenging, unrelentingly steep, interesting and beautiful off-piste skiing which is so accessible and just on our doorsteps.

The following off-piste routes are ones that experienced riders from Chardons have done over the years in Tignes Les Brévières. It is by no means a definitive guide to off-piste itineraries in the region, but rather a selection of our favourites with the emphasis heavily on the Les Brévières side of the mountain where most our chalets are located.

DISCLAIMER – As with all skiing or snowboarding in un-patrolled areas away from marked runs you should always employ the services of a qualified mountain guide or ski and snowboard instructor who will have knowledge of how the snow conditions have evolved throughout the season and will know what is, or is not, safe on a particular day. The routes shown are merely to demonstrate what is possible and not what can be achieved on any particular day. They should not be used as a substitute for professional advice. Chalet Chardons and its representatives accept no responsibility for the use of this information. Skiing or snowboarding off-piste may result in injury or death even with a professional mountain guide or instructor.

To do any of these runs, you’ll need avalanche transceivers and know how to use them, as well as having one of the many guides in the region to show you around for the day. Don’t dawdle and don’t go in a large group. Ride safe and don’t take risks just to seem impressive – off-piste skiing can be fatal, never forget that.

Tignes Les Brévières

Tignes Les Brevieres offers some of the best and most isolated ski and snowboarding runs in the Espace Killy. And they can be especially great in bad weather where there are good trees to play in.

Route 1 – Vallon de la Sache

At the top of the Aiguille Percée chairlift, walk up to the top of the ski slope on the right. From here there are three couloirs going down to the right ranging from terrifying to about 35 degrees. You may have to jump a wind lip but the drop is not large (about 2 to 4 metres). All couloirs exit into a large flat area.

Continue across this, then down two more steep sections to the flatter area in the Sache valley. You will need to either walk to the piste from here, or use tracks made by earlier skiers and snowboarders to access the piste. Go along the piste to the hut in the middle of the “Sache” black run then drop away to the left. Either stay high to re-join the “Sache” run lower down, or head down the very steep pitch into the gorge at the bottom of the Sache valley.

CAREFUL – if you go down too far, you will end up above a 30 metre frozen waterfall so walk out along the fire road before the bottom of the gorge (follow earlier tracks). From here, re-join the piste and continue to Les Brévières.

Route 2 – Vallon de La Sachette

Walk up the same ski slope as route 1, but head left at the top. There are several wide and not too steep north facing couloirs into the top part of the Sache valley. Keep your speed up to make it over the flatter area at the bottom and then carry on down the valley to join the end of Route 1.

At the bottom, you can go through the trees having walked a short way along the fire road. Only do this if there is a lot of snow and you are very expert at skiing and snowboarding as the trees are steep and contain a lot of drops and other hazards hidden beneath the snow cover.

Route 3 – Black Sache

From the top of the Aiguille Percée, come down the blue “Corniche” run, to then join the “Silene” black run and cut left after 2Km just before it gets steep. Many variations of this route take you back onto the “Sache” run. Use the piste for the flatter parts, then cut away left from the road and down the steeper sections through the avalanche barriers into Les Brévières, re-joining the pistes at the bottom.

CAREFUL – the avalanche barriers are a known trigger point so avoid this area after heavy snowfalls or strong winds.

Route 4 – Silene

Again, find your way to the “Silene” run and cut away left just AFTER it gets steep and traverse the ski slope. Alternatively, walk to the top of the peak to the left of the run (about 10 minutes walk). There are many skiing routes down the face, re-joining the chairlift at the bottom, or carrying on down to Les Brévières via the trees.

CAREFUL – there are a lot of difficult drops and cliff bands in the trees above Les Brévières and there needs to be a lot of snow to cover the hazards in the trees. Route-finding is also difficult here as the mountain gets steeper at the bottom and is hard to see whilst in the trees.

Route 5 – Les Boisses Couloirs

This run is a skiing and snowboarding favourite in bad weather. Take the bubble up from Les Brevieres and through the mid-station at Tignes 1800 up to the toip. From here cut away immediately right on the piste coming back to Les Brévières. Follow under where the old two-man chair lift used to be down some very steep terrain to Les Boisses.

CAREFUL – this always slides, though seldom catastrophically. Alternatively, traverse the flat section at the bottom of the first section to find a steepish couloir that re-joins the piste above Les Boisses. Once in Les Boisses, take one of the many ski routes through the trees at the side of the “Summer Road” to get back to Les Brévières.

Route 6 – For serious backcountry hounds only!

WARNING – this route is very risky. So, as for all the runs, ensure you never go here without a guide and the right equipment. Hazards include extreme exposure to risk (cliffs below the slope you are descending) and high avalanche probability.

Make your way to the Vallon de la Sache again. In the middle of the Sache valley, cut away left, and either put on your snowshoes or skins for a 25 minute walk. Descend the very exposed, but not too steep pitch above the cliffs then cut away right to traverse into the trees. Find the very narrow and steep couloir which links the two levels of trees then traverse back left under the cliffs to find the final pitch into Les Brévières. A great skiing and snowboarding route, as you often see chamois and other animals on the trip.

Tignes Le Lac

There are several quite interesting skiing and snowboarding routes in Tignes Le Lac but they do have some short vertical drops and fairly intense level of steepness.

Route 1 – Lavachet Wall

Take the Toviere lift from the bottom of Le Lac up to the top and then descend the piste to the left till you get to the top of the Combe Folle drag lift track. If the drag lift is closed use the pisted track to get over the flatter area till you reach the start of the Lavachet wall. Several ski routes are possible, including a reasonably hairy one through the avalanche fences, all ending up on the pistes in Le Lac.

CAREFUL – This wall is very unstable if the weather is warm or there has been windy weather and many avalanches occur here.

Route 2 – The Fingers (easier route)

Take the Toviere bubble up to the top again and take the “Henri” blue run, then take the right fork towards Le Lac. On the left are several possible entries to ‘The Fingers’, ranging from quite steep and narrow to easy. The easier ski routes end in a long traverse back to the Toviere bubble, whilst the harder ones will end in a walk to the bus stop, or across the lake. It is very advisable to scope these routes from the bottom before attempting them, as some of the narrow couloirs contain either quite large drops, or often sections of blue ice which pose obvious hazards. If there is not much snow, some can be impassable and these are better suited to the end of the season when there is more snow.

CAREFUL – The narrower couloirs require a high degree of capability as you may need to turn in not much more than the size of your skis or snowboard on very steep and unrelenting terrain. A fall could see you hitting rocks in an unstoppable slide – especially if the snow is hard. We would never suggest attempting these runs without a helmet.

Route 3 – The Fingers (harder route)

Come up the same way as before and again take the blue “Henri” run towards Val Claret and on to the flat section. Head off the piste to the right after a small summit. The flatter section then drops away into the various couloirs. At the bottom, traverse across the flatter sections and get the bus near the chalets in Val Claret. All of what is written about the easier route applies here, only more so as these couloirs are very steep and narrow and some are not passable without quite large jumps, though the more obvious ones are more scary looking than technically difficult.

Route 4 – ‘Mickey’s Ears’ and Lavachet Wall

Take the Toviere bubble again and this time head left at the top over the “Cretes” red run. Instead of dropping down with the run, take off your skis or snowboard and walk along the crete ridge towards the radio antenna on top of the crete. After twenty minutes walking, drop down below the antenna and climb back up to the crete where you will find the descents on the north facing side of the crete.

There are several possibilities here and they all are steep (up to 50 degrees at the top), though quite wide and generally have good snow as they never receive sun. At the bottom, bear left to take you onto the Lavachet Wall, and down to Le Lac to get the bus.

CAREFUL – the Lavachet Wall is often unstable and very prone to avalanches especially in warm weather or after westerly winds have formed wind slab. At the end of the season it is possible to carry on down to the Lac du Chevril as long as the water level has dropped enough to expose the old bridge under the water. Check this before setting out. Once you arrive at the lake it takes about 20 minutes to walk over the bridge and back up to the main RN90 road connecting Val d’Isère to Tignes. You should have left a car here or have an understanding partner or friend to pick you up.

La Daille

La Daille is a really nice ski and snowboard area with extensive north facing slopes and interesting terrain.

Route 1 – La Spatule

From La Daille, take the Funival funicular to the top of the Rocher de Bellevarde then head down the “OK Coupe du Monde” red run. At the first steep section traverse right, keeping as high as possible till you come around to the north side of the Bellevarde. From here there are a multitude of skiing and snowboarding routes down to La Daille through various couloirs and trees. Most of the routes are not too steep and there is lots of interesting terrain (boulders, drop-offs and bowls) to play on as well as good quality snow due to the north facing slopes.

Route 2 – Vallee Perdue

Take the Toviere bubble from Tignes Le Lac or the Tommeuses lift from Val d’Isère side of the mountain to the top of Toviere, then descend the piste to the Combe Folle drag lift. Remove skis or snowboard here and walk along the ridge for about ten minutes. Take one of the many not too steep couloirs from the top or any of the more open skiing routes.

After a steeper section, you will come across a fairly flat and open area which needs speed or earlier skiers’ tracks to cross. Once over the flat there are two options: Go into Vallee Perdu, or keep left to end up above La Daille. If you go through Vallee Perdu be prepared to crawl through holes and negotiate some very tight sections at quite high-speed. This is loads of fun, especially for the less confident ski or snowboard enthusiast, as the run is technically undemanding but rather akin to a mini rollercoaster and is seldom full of deep snow. The run to La Daille is straightforward but be aware that there is often not a lot of snow on the last pitch as it faces South.

Rocher de Bellevarde

There are some good steep skiing and snowboarding routes from the Rocher de Bellevarde but be careful of the avalanche danger in areas that are in the sun for a long time.

Route 1 – La Banane

Take one of the many ski lifts to the top of the Bellevarde then go down the start of the “Face de Bellevarde” black run. Cut right as soon as possible to find a short pitch before dropping into one of several quite steep couloirs. Keep speed to get over the flat bit at the bottom, then keep right to drop onto a very nice open section which ends up in the road to Le Manchet. Walk back to the ski lifts and do it all again!

CAREFUL – the cross-hatched area is extremely prone to sliding as it is in the sun all day so this ski run is one to do in the morning, but even then it is very dangerous. Snow is normally transformed or spring snow, often with a crust, except in early season on this route due to the sunny exposition. This can be a lot of fun on a snowboard but misery on skis unless you are very good.

Route 2 – Orientation Couloir

This one is worth bragging about as it’s almost a morning out just for this one run. From Val d’Isere, Take the “Olympique” lift to the top of the Bellevarde and from here walk up about 10 minutes to the start of the Olympique Downhill run.

Take a look at this and imagine what it would be like to launch out of the start gate and go straight to the first corner – scary! After the downhill start, keep going till you find the orientation table and continue on till you find a steep but wide couloir on your right. There are other options here but you need to be seriously good as all the other descents further on end in cliffs so a fall is not an option.

After the initial steep part, the couloir opens to a lovely wide field that has several options. If you keep right, you will re-join the “Face de Bellevarde” black run. Go straight and you will end up coming through the trees to the middle of Val d’Isère but watch the route as the more left you go the more likely you are to have to jump rock bands or negotiate very narrow tree runs with avalanche fences in them.

Solaise

This is often a surprisingly good area for skiing and snowboarding when the snow cover isn’t so good as it seems to catch a lot of snow, especially when there have been strong westerly winds in the preceding days.

Route 1 – Les Danaïdes

Take the Telecabine de Solaise bubble and drop away onto the ski slope to the left of the summit. Either bear left to miss the avalanche fences or go straight through them and descend into the obvious valley below. There are several options which take you back to the bus stop at the end of Val d’Isère. This ski run always seems to collect a lot of snow and has great terrain for free riders with lots of drops, hips and boulders to play on.

CAREFUL – the trees to either side of the valley have a lot of cliff bands in them making some of the lines through impassable unless you are prepared to do some fairly big jumps.

Route 2 – Les Danaïdes Variation

At the top of the Telecabine de Solaise bubble go immediately left. Drop down the steep open face, taking great care of the cliffs to the right. Locate the narrow and steep couloir to join the “Piste L” run in the valley below.

CAREFUL – route finding is quite hard here as the mountain is rounded and drops away from view getting steeper as you go lower. There are cliffs at the top which pose obvious hazards.

Route 3 – Solaise Couloirs

At the top of the Telecabine de Solaise bubble, traverse the piste to the right and keep as high as you can to enter one of several obvious couloirs below. At the bottom, use the piste road to take you back to the lifts via Club Med.

CAREFUL – in warm weather this slope is often fairly unstable and prone to wet snow avalanches. It has also become something of a Meca for the emerging sport of speed skiing in which you take a tiny paraglider and fly down, touching the snow from time to time at up to 70 MPH. This could be the only ski and snowboard off piste slope where you have to look up as well as down to avoid collisions!

Le Fornet

Le Fornet is a nice area but suffers from too many AGNIs (All the Gear, No Idea), all tearing up the ski slopes after even the merest sniff of snow. There are also some very good ski routes over the back of the glacier but these are beyond the scope of this guide.

Route 1 – Signal

From Le Fornet, take the Fornet cable car to the top and take the left hand drag lift. Note that this can be a tricky drag lift for snow boarders. Walk 10 metres straight on at the top to access Les Grands Vallons. From here, many straightforward routes take you back to the cable car via some good tree runs at the bottom. After snow every man and his dog from Val d’Isère goes here so if you want to do it, get there early.

Route 2 – Fornet trees

There are lots of variations of the tree routes under the cable car route in Le Fornet. Fantastic if you can find them untracked as they are steep and nicely separated. Like Les Grands Vallons, it suffers from the same over-use troubles though it is usually too steep for the masses to attempt.

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