Tignes Resort History

Posted by George Biffen

Last updated on November 24th, 2017 at 09:49 am

Since the 13th century the ancient village of Tignes was located on the banks of the river Isère at a height of 1650m above sea level and was principally a farming community.

A typical Savoyard village, Tignes was isolated in the far end of the valley, until the building of the Col de l’Iseran road crossing in 1936, linking the valleys of the Tarentaise and Maurienne. Tignes was divided into Tignes Les Brévières and Tignes itself.

The traditional life of Tignes soon changed after the second world war.

The reconstruction of the country required a lot of electricity, and the French national electricity company was urged to exploit natural resources, especially hydro-
electricity in the mountains and construct a barrage at Tignes.

It was estimated that damming the river at Tignes could at the time provide in excess of 10% of the country’s electricity requirement.

The building of a large barrage and the formation of the resulting artificial Lake Chevril, effectively doomed the village of Tignes, which together with most of its hamlets was to be flooded.

The inhabitants of Tignes attempted to preserve their ancestral heritage by all means, legal and otherwise.

However on 10th March 1952 the schools were closed and on 26 March 1952, the prefect of the department of Savoie ordered to open the floodgates and the lake filled up, with the ancient village of Tignes lost forever.

The barrage of Tignes is 180m high; the artificial lake of Chervil has a maximum volume of 230,000,000 cubic meters.

Every 10 years the flood gates are opened and Lake Chevril is emptied for the dam to be thoroughly cleaned.

During this period the old buildings of Tignes reappear as if by magic and memories of the original inhabitants are rekindled.

The new village of Tignes was built 6km from the ancient under the lake. The village church was built based on the model of the former one.

In 1957, 5 years after the inauguration of the barrage, the inhabitants of Tignes decided to set up a ski resort.

The resort is located at a height of 2100m and consists of Tignes Le Lac, Le Lavachet and Val Claret.

In 1973, the glacier of la Grande-Motte (3430m) was made available for summer skiing.

With the neighbouring ski resort of Val d’Isère, Tignes has forms the extensive ski domain called the Espace Killy (after Jean-Claude Killy, the legendary alpine skier, who was brought up in Val d’Isère).

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