April Off piste skiing in Tignes may be considered too late in the season to offer quality and that is the reason that this period is considered low season. Although that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you choose the right resort a late April ski break can bring some huge advantages. We were lucky enough to experience these on our end of season trip to Tignes and Val d’Isere (20th to 24th April 2014).
What are the advantages of Skiing in April?
So what are the perks of the late April ski trip? Well, as long as you don’t ski over Easter, April is not a peak time which means you’ll find fewer skiers on the slopes, shorter lift queues and so more skiing time, and most importantly, cheaper prices. Skiing in April is also easier on the wallet – the price of a lift pass can sometimes be reduced right at the end of the season and many chalet operators and hotels will have fantastic reduced rates or special deals to entice customers to book right up until the lifts close. As we found on our trip to Tignes and Val d’Isere the weather can often be perfect in April. Beautiful sunny days and longer lift opening times make for fantastic skiing conditions. While April snow quality may not be quite as good as mid-winter, big snowfalls in April are actually very common and especially with the higher resorts powder skiing is not uncommon with a whole winters worth of snowfall as a good base.
The Alpine Answers Staff ski trip in April
At Alpine Answers our end of season trip is usually based in Val d’Isere although there are a good variety of other resorts that suit late April skiing such as Obergurgl in Austria, Val Thorens in the 3 Valleys and Zermatt in Switzerland along with a couple of smaller resorts. However, the Espace Killy ski area suits us perfectly as it has something for everyone from cruiser greens and blues to steep blacks and some serious off piste. There are also mountain restaurants and bars to suit all budgets, Tignes Quisine located in Tignes Le Lac is a personal favourite of mine serving really tasty wraps and noodles for prices even the most frugal skier would find exciting, to the more luxury and high budget L’Edelweiss located above the hamlet of Le Fornet serving savoyard specialities and plenty of alpine charm. The resort also stays open until early May so is definitely one of the safest bets for good snow late on in the season. The two resorts differ slightly as Val d’Isere benefits from plenty of north-facing slopes while Tignes has very high-altitude skiing on its Grande Motte glacier (3,400m) allowing it to remain open nine months of the year. The combined 300 kilometres of high-altitude slopes attracts everyone from families to free riders.
Before heading out to the Espace Killy on our trip some of the staff in the office were slightly worried that the weather forecast showed heavy snow every day over our 4 day trip. However, what actually happened couldn’t have been better. Every evening around 8pm just as we were sitting down for our evening meal, like clockwork the snow would start to fall and top up those powder supplies the resort needed. Then as morning came we were greeted with bright blue skies and clear sunshine. As most of us in the office love the white stuff we were out and about straight away after breakfast hunting for that late season snow. As you can imagine the slopes at this time of year can become a little icy early in the morning but they soon warm up to provide perfect corduroy runs to blast down with minimal people around to get in the way. After a couple of groomers to warm up, our next port of call would often be one of the Glaciers either in Tignes or in Val d’Isere. In my opinion the Tignes glacier is slightly better connected, a quick ride in the underground train then up Grande Motte Express and you are at 3,488m and so the snow is more quickly accessible, whereas in Val d’ Isere there is definitely some excellent skiing to be had but it just takes a little longer to get to it.
My favourite April off piste ski routes in Tignes
One of my favourite spots is a relatively un-skied section just underneath the Vanoise chairlift just below the Tignes Glacier. At around 3,000m the snow doesn’t turn to ice over night and after a couple of snowfalls we had about 40cm of fresh light powder just waiting to be skied. This amount of snow also provided a perfect landing pad for tackling some of the cliffs under the chairlift. When you have enough snow and a good base its one of my favourite things to do, there’s something about seeing the ground so far away from your feet that really keeps skiing exciting and bringing me back for more. From this section you can traverse over towards skiers left to tackle a narrow couloir which has a steep entrance and some exposure below, but soon opens up into a fantastic powder field and then joins back onto La Face piste back down to Tignes Val Claret, as you can see in the photos below highlighted in red.
My favourite April off piste ski route in Val d’Isere
Another route which is particularly enjoyable late on in the season, when lots of other routes are tracked out is the Pisteur’s Couloir in Val d’Isere. This long narrow couloir is accessed from the top of the Grand Pre chair; from here it is a 20 minute hike up, round and along the ridge. The coulouir looks incredibly challenging from a distance but although it is narrow, steep and dangerous, especially the first 50 meters where a fall could be potentially deadly, it is not actually as bad as it looks. It’s a lovely hike with fantastic views over both the Solaise ski area and Val d’Isere itself, and with good snow the couloir can be a truly exhilarating experience. If you are not sure whether you’re ready to ski this one, you can always change your mind when you get to the top and ski down the other side of the ridge which is a lot milder and brings you back down just below the Grand Pre chair.
Even if there is a lack of snow in April, it’s still a great time of year to get your skis on. You will get a tan, enjoy empty slopes and you will most probably save yourself some money compared to ski holidays taken earlier in the season. If you would like any advice on which ski resort to go to, or which ski chalet to stay in or simply to discuss the best off piste routes then please do give me a call on 020 7801 1080. I would be more than happy to help you find something that is right for you.
A video of April off piste skiing in Tignes and Val d’Isere featuring myself, John Fish.