L’Ecrin de la Crème – A Tignes Experience
At the beginning on the month, I had the pleasure of joining a Mark Warner trip to Tignes, Val Claret, to sample their new ‘flagship’ accommodation – Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin. Having been sat in the office whilst the Alps were scoring epic snowfall, it wouldn’t have been an understatement to say I was eager to get on snow and experience some truly heavenly, mid-season skiing.
Although I have skied Tignes many times now, there’s always so much more to see and do due to the size of the resort. Tie it in with the Val d’Isere side of the mountain too and you really are spoilt for choice. The Tignes based Tufs chairlift and the Val based Tommeuses chairlift connect to two areas with ease, giving skiers and boarders the opportunity to explore the 300km of pistes that make up the joyous L’Espace Killy ski region. If you twisted my arm and made me highlight one ‘issue’ with the ski area, it would be the lack of tree runs that make for improved skiing in bad weather. Tignes can be very exposed to the elements, so when the wind and weather hit, they hit hard.
After boarding the infamous Tichot chairlift from the bottom of Val Claret, you can access one of my favourite areas on the mountain, served by the Grattalu charlift. This zone is buzzing as it plays host to the boardercross course and the many snowparks that Tignes has to offer. There is certainly no shortage of quality ‘people watching’ here, as you are able to lap the chairlift whilst watching a swarm of skiers and boarders fire themselves off the big kickers.
If skiing more towards the Tignes Le Lac area, make sure you venture up the Aiguille Percee chairlift. At the top, you can witness one of Tignes natural wonders; ‘L’Aiguille de Percée’, which translates in English to ‘the Eye of the Needle’. The James Bond fanatics amongst you might remember this iconic rock formation from the 1985 film ‘A View To Kill’, where Roger Moore skis through it whilst escaping some ‘baddies’.
When your legs start burning, there a plenty of mountain stop-offs and restaurants to choose from across the ski region. One of my personal favourites was Le Triffolet, which is located on the Verte piste on the way down to the La Daille area in Val d’Isere. They have a lovely outdoor terrace that’s perfect for a relaxing coffee or beer whilst you watch the world (skiers) go by. Their food is very good too, with plenty of hearty dishes to choose from to fill a much needed gap after a hard morning’s shred.
PARTY ON THE PISTE
La Folie Douce Val d’Isere really needs no introduction…but I’ll give you a quick one anyway. In short, it is the party capital of the slopes; one of a chain of ‘Folies’ dotted around various other top French ski resorts. From about 3pm every day, this slope-side party haven kicks off with table dancing, roof top saxophonists, champagne spraying and enough free flowing beer to get everyone in the mood for the best après ski of their lives! La Folie Douce can be found at the top of the La Daille gondola station.
TIP: If staying in Tignes, make sure you catch the last Tommeuses chairlift back over the other side – otherwise you are in for an expensive cab ride around the mountain!
PARTY OFF THE PISTE
Before we get onto the bar scene in Tignes Val Claret, it’s worth highlighting that the resort also has a whole host of fantastic restaurants on offer to cater for all manner of meals. On Mark Warner staffs’ night-off, we ate at La Pignatta, a traditional restaurant recommended by the Mark Warner Staff. The food was superb – we cooked our own meat on hot plates, making for a more social dining experience.
After finishing your dinner, whether it be at your hotel or out-and-about, Val Claret’s lively bar and club scene allows you to carry on partying late into the night (and normally the next morning too!). Daffy’s Café Tex Mex bar, situated in the centre of Val Claret, is a great way to start your night – a couple of casual beers in a sports bar type environment. They also have a bottom floor complete with a pool table and table football for those amongst you who like a bit of friendly competition, Another good drinking hole is Couloir Bar and Restaurant, which in the later hours transforms into a great live music venue with a large drinks menu – perfect for cocktail lovers!
There are a number of clubs adding to Val Claret’s vibrant nightlife. The two we visited – Blue Girl and Le Melting Pot Discotheque – are everything you’d need from a resort nightspot. Lively tunes, big dancefloors, stocked up bars and open hours that cater for those brave ‘all-nighters’.
When arriving at the L’Ecrin, I was engulfed by the building’s aesthetic charm and alpine feel. From the moment you walk in, the inside décor makes you feel you are being welcomed into a family Chalet rather than a 51-roomed hotel, creating a warm atmosphere and luxurious feeling of retreat.
The bedrooms are finished in the same alluring mountainous design as the rest of building, boasting traditional Savoie wooden interiors and alpine artworks that complement the chalet feel. It was ‘a plus’ to find an ultra-modern bathroom and separate WC in my room – a small luxury I know, but very handy when sharing rooms with family members of friends.
After skiing, as usual it’s time to hit the bar! The open plan social area at L’Ecrin can accommodate a large number of people, allowing for a relaxed ambience even during the busiest of times. My favourite part of the bar was by the fire place surrounded by comfy sofas – an ideal spot to unwind after a hard day on the slopes.
My first night I was starving and could’ve easily settled for a greasy Big Mac, however I was treated to a stunning Merlot Poached Chorizo Bruschetta and Twice Cooked Pork Belly with Herbed Potatoes – a standard of cuisine more closely associated with a central London gourmet restaurant rather than a hotel at 2300m. I was a lucky man!
Following dinner there’s always time for a cheeky spa. The L’Ecrin has a swimming pool, sauna, hot tubs and even a Turkish bath. Like any hotel Spa and Pool area though, try to go during off-peak times to avoid the crowds.
On the whole, my experience in Tignes was nothing short of fantastic. Mark Warner’s Chalet Hotel L’Ecrin was the perfect base camp for a luxurious alpine adventure and certainly ticks all the boxes when it comes to top of the range accommodation. Tignes Val Claret certainly lives up to the hype too, with its abundance of cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs combining to make this an ideal location for any holiday goer.
I’m due to back in Tignes this March for another exciting week, this time round for the BRITS Festival 2015… It really cannot come soon enough – let the countdown begin!
Cheers for now.
James travelled courtesy of Mark Warner. He stayed at their new Tignes Val Claret property, Chalet hotel L’Ecrin. Prices for this holiday start from as little as £562 pp for the remainder of the 2014/15 season. Mark Warner have specialised in group and family ski trips for over 40 years. Ski Club members can save 10% off Mark Warner holiday bookings. Click here for more information.