We're all familiar with the winter holidays the French Alps offer with their endless kilometres of snow-covered fun, but have you ever considered one of the world famous ski resorts as a summer holiday destination? When all the snow has melted away, beautiful mountainous surroundings reveal themselves for endless possibilities of outdoor fun.
This year we decided to check out the summer scene in Tignes and share our experience with you. Think endless outdoor adventure, lots of adrenaline in the saddle, stunning views, gorgeous weather and a much smaller price tag than the winter equivalent.
An article in Outdoor Fitness magazine on mountain biking in Morzine peaked our interest and inspired us to find a suitable European destination for an adrenaline filled week of riding downhill. There are numerous winter resorts in the Alps that transition to mountain biking as temperatures rise and days lengthen.
Morzine, Alp D’Huez, Les Deux Alps and Les Gets were on our shortlist, all with a good variety of trails and features. An article on Worldbikeparks.com listing their top 10 bike parks in the world offered several European options, including our eventual destination.
We visited Tignes this April for a snowboard holiday, so we were drawn to the idea of exploring the same area in a different season. Interestingly, the uplifts are free in Tignes, all you need to do is pick up your lift pass in town. This is not the case in most areas in the Alps and a welcome difference from the winter prices! So we went ahead and booked an apartment in the centre of Tignes Le Lac for less than half its winter cost (£400 in summer vs. £1200 in winter for a week in a 4pers. chalet).
Same person, same location, different season, but both rad t-shirts!
On arrival, in a heartbeat we knew Tignes was the right choice with a breath-taking view from the chalet, one worth making the trip South for. We were immediately surrounded by mountains, green landscapes and a distant view of the glacier.
Looking for a summer break that didn’t drain us financially, we bought some food and drinks in the UK and prepared a few meals before departure. The shops in the mountains can be a bit priced up, so this way we allowed some of our budget for post-ride drinks and holiday treats.
We also invested in additional protection and padding and it is fair to say these were essential. After a few days of growing in confidence and racking up speed, we upgraded to a full-face downhill helmet and a chest and back protection vest. The helmet was only €10 per day to hire and is not a high price to pay to spare your head around rocks and bumps. Protection is essential; don’t skimp on it, your face and body will be grateful. Plus, you don’t want to cut your holiday short for something you could’ve prevented.
Tignes offers a good variety of trails, with 5 lifts running from early July until the end of August with 30 trails, covering 150km from Beginners (green) to Advanced (black), and a choice between cross country, enduro and downhill.
Our first day we cautiously started off on a green trail, but the sharp turns and lack of gradient meant it had little flow. With an inkling of doubt about our level of experience, we moved onto the blue trails and noticed that these were much more fun and suitable to our riding. They had sufficient opportunity to pick up a few red obstacles and jumps to gradually grow our skill set.
Our favourite trail was 'Kangooride' because of its feisty bermed corners, numerous and varied jumps, a good distance and decent speed. The trails on the 'Tufs' side of the mountain were less gravelly than the ones near the 'Palafour' in the centre of town.
Returning home on a red on day, we could feel the increase in difficulty with a few gap jumps, a steeper descent, more gravel on a rocky base and a notable drops off the edge of the mountain. We arrived safely back to the chalet despite a full body flip over the handlebars.
We never thought we’d be able to shred the European slopes in July and actually didn’t want to believe it until we were there with both feet strapped to a snowboard. A glacier in an Alpine resort where you’ve got snow throughout the entire year is a great selling point.
Passes were €35 per person per day, giving you access to 7 lifts running from 7am until 1pm. You need the early morning start because under the hot sunshine and blue skies the snow quickly softens.
The slopes are pretty icy at dawn, so maybe give it half an hour or 45mins after opening hours, because that’s all it takes to let it soften up a bit. Plenty of space and opportunity to board at the top, with a few good runs and a snow park. As soon as the icy cover vanishes, we had comparable riding conditions to back in April on the lower slopes and made the most of it.
Gradually the slopes got stickier so by 12pm we’d had the best conditions and realised it was only going to deteriorate from there. It left us enough time and energy for a few trails on the bike that afternoon after a relaxing lunch at the apartment.
Making the most of the mountains like a true #tignaddict - snowboarding in the morning, mountain biking in the afternoon. All day we ride! Check out @daveb22glower 's air time. Welcome to paradise. #mtb #mountainbiking #mountainbikelife #downhill #downhillmtb #mtbtrails #vtt #thealps #thefrenchalps #alpineriding #snowboarding #snowboard #snow #snowboardlife #boardlife #tignes #tigneslelac #snowinsummer #justride #thinkoutside #mountains #airtime #feelathome #summer #sunshine #thegoodlife #outdoorsisfree #paradise #outdoorsradar
Visiting Tignes with a group of people who love their time active and outdoors promises to be a great holiday. The resort has endless activities and entertainment on offer during its summer season besides the downhill riding. It’s extraordinary what was hidden under the layers of packed snow from back in Spring.
Happy Weekend! Forgot to share this last week (so much rad stuff happening) - Tignes is also the perfect place for water madness & idiocy. This slide can make you look like either an incoherent clumse or a very stylish launchee. Let's dive into the weekend! Thank you @boomerangfrominstagram #boomerang #boomerangapp #weekend #happyweekend #friyay #lakes #tignes #tigneslelac #waterslides #waterfun #slide #outdoors #outdoorlifestyle #summer #lakejumping #travel #mountains #airtime #fly
In town they've got a basketball field, skate park, football field, sandy beach area for volleyball, football or Frisbee, a petanque lane, slack line area, mini golf and of course the lake with all that it has to offer including SUP-boarding and lake jumping.
As part of our welcome at the apartment, we received a Tignesport-card that gave us free access to all the activities above and more.
The French Alps are a stunning destination for a summer holiday. The area wasn’t too busy, the people are really friendly and it’s great value. We were stunned about the variety of activities available – you’re either on the board, in the saddle or by the lake, always feeling close to nature and enjoying the sunny outdoors.
The opportunity to get out the board in summer was a special experience. After tucking them away in April, counting down to the next winter joy, it felt cheeky to strap the boards on for a few hours of cruising in July. It was amazing to have all of this available so close to home.
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Ladies! Do you find yourself riding the same riding spots all the time or wishing you could try somewhere new but are unsure if your ability fits the location or where to go once you get there? Glower Rides are a series of events for women (which guys are welcome to tag along to – no barriers here!) we’re holding this year to help introduce riders of beginner to intermediate levels to new awesome riding spots.
If like us, you’ve always toyed with the idea of integrating vanlife into your regular travels and bike adventures, let us share with you our first experience of the rolling home. Guaranteed, it won’t be long until we’ve convinced you to ditch your car.