90,000 vertical feet around the Espace Killy
It’s only a couple of weeks until I head out for the Monster Ski MS Trust charity event. For any of you that don’t know it, the Monster Ski MS Trust event involves skiing the vertical of Mount Everest (90,000 feet) every day for 3 days! This year it will be taking place in Tignes in the Espace Killy area of France. This is an ideal place to clock up the vertical and if you are leading a group it’s always good to have a route or plan before you head off. The Espace Killy area which includes Val d’Isere is vast – stretching from Tignes Les Breviere all the way to Le Fornet.
I’ve come up with a rough route around the area which takes in all the best sights and runs for anyone who fancies a challenge themselves. Set off at the base of Tignes Val Claret where you can get a few warm up runs on the free 6 passenger chair Bollin. It’s a fast lift and the run, though short, really gets the legs warmed up. Skate round to the base of the Tichot chair lift – this is where the Winter X-Games will take place this week and from the top it is an easy ski over to the Grattalu chair. A few circuits of the blue run (Grattalu) is a great way to blow off the cobwebs. The view from the chair lift takes in the freestylers trying out their skills in the park and to the right you get some amazing views across the Tignes valley.
Take the Lac run over the back which is a bit of a cruiser and then head up towards the famous ‘L’Aiguille Percee’ or the ‘Eye of the needle’ as we Brits call it. You can choose to climb up into the eye for a picture but this can be more tiring than the skiing and best to conserve the energy for the long run down to La Breviere especially as it is a black. It’s called the Sache and with good snow conditions can be one of the best runs in the area. It spirals down for miles and funnels into a natural half pipe finally ending in the picturesque village of La Breviere. The runs that starts at 2748 meters altitude ends at 1550 so it’s one hell of a run! The good news is there is plenty of time to rest the legs on the way up the Sache Gondola and Marais chair, both of which have spectacular views on your left hand side of the Lac du Chevril which has an old abandoned village in its depths.
Now time to take the long runs down to Tignes Le Lac, making sure you get enough speed at the bottom to avoid walking or skating to the Aeroski gondola that will take you up to Toviere where you pop over to Val d’Isere. From here you have around 1000 meters of vertical all the way down to the base at La Daille where they have the finish line for the World Cup Downhill ‘Premier Neige’. The run down is awesome and is usually immaculately groomed so perfect to notch up some speed. The Funival Funicular is there to whisk you up another 1000 meters to where the mens downhill starts and you have a choice of the nice blue run Santons or if you still have energy before lunch head down the Face which is a black and can get quite tricky if there are lot of people about or the snow isn’t ideal. Both runs end in Val d’Isere itself and from here head up to Solaise for a well earned lunch with great views down the Isere valley. I can recommend the Tete de Solaise which is self serviced and has a big sun terrace. It has good hamburgers and they do a decent Tartiflette but might not recommend this as there is an afternoon of fun skiing to come!
From Solaise you can make your way all the way to Le Fornet via the “up and down” chair, this isn’t its real name but it does go up over a ridge and back down the other side. The runs over in Le Fornet are fantastic and you could easily spend all day skiing on the Glacier de Pissaillas and down to the base. One thing to bear in mind though is the time of the last lift back over to Tignes. If you miss the L’Olympique cable car or the Borsat express chair it’s an expensive taxi ride back round!
Get back over to Solaise and down the red run very imaginatively named “Piste M”, up the L’Olympique cable car and into the tuck position to take you all the way down to the Tommeuses chair lift back over to Tignes. Once at the top of this you’ve made it! The cruisy blue run down to Tignes Val Claret is mostly a cat track and you can properly relax and enjoy the scenery.
Once down at the base you can choose to go for a well deserved beer as your vertical will most probably of been reached. If the lifts are still open and you are of a masochistic nature you could head up the funicular for a leg burning top to bottom blast of the Grand Motte Glacier!
Ultimately though, there’s so many amazing routes to take in the Espace Killy, and this one barely scratches the surface.