April 19, 2022 | Jane Peel, Tignes, France
Last modification on April 25, 2022
Head to Val d’Isère for the 5-star experience, head to Tignes for the skiing. This is what we often hear about these two French resorts linked by ski lifts. But things change, and a real estate company is at the forefront of efforts to turn Tignes’ villainous sister into Cinderella. It also extends to other stations. UPDATE
At PlanetSKI, we love skiing at altitude in Tignes.
However, it is not, in our humble opinion, the most architecturally beautiful of ski resorts.
Until recently, there weren’t even too many high-quality hotels for those who prefer to be pampered while on vacation.
When we arrived in town for the first time in over two years, it was clear that a transformation was underway.
The newest hotel is the Vous Vous which opened in December 2021.
This is currently a 4 star hotel but has already achieved 5 star status for the 2022-23 winter season.
It belongs to the property company Les Etincelles (The sparks in English), which appears to be carrying out a massive takeover of Tignes.
Les Etincelles is an independent company backed by a small number of Swiss and English investors who have invested huge sums of money.
In less than 5 years, it has acquired 10 hotels in Tignes – 70% of the total – and bought more.
Some of its properties have already been modernized, others are being redeveloped.
The Levanna on the snow front in Tignes Le Lac was a 3 star hotel. The interior has been redone and it is now a 4 star.
Some properties will be demolished and rebuilt.
Arbina is one of them.
It will eventually be a 5 star hotel.
La Gentiana will be completely rebuilt with wood from the Jura mountains.
Properties that are rebuilt from scratch are expected to open for the 2024-25 season.
Low carbon technical materials will be used to achieve sustainability goals.
The people behind the company think they know what skiers and snowboarders want.
“Moving upmarket is a trend. People want to spend more… This is changing and very fast.
“The mass market is over.”
The words of CEO, Nicholas Chatillon, a Parisian banker who launched his career and teamed up with four-time freeride world champion and native of Tignes, Guerlain Chicherit, to launch Les Etincelles.
We have some social media reactions from locals and regular visitors to Tignes at the end of this article.
Many are unimpressed.
Their goal is to offer a premium service.
“We take care of our customers – as they do in Austria but not always in France”, Nicholas tells us.
This includes flexible check-in times, a 24/7 concierge, and a ski rental lounge with a “butler” to adjust your boots and skis.
Another perk is that half-board guests can eat at any of the company’s restaurants across the resort for a bit of variety.
Le Vous Vous, where we stayed, is considered an entertainment hotel.
“The concept is an alternative to the Folie Douce, an entertainment hotel but more exclusive than some on the market”, explains Nicholas Chatillon.
Next winter, he promises his guests a private evening with exclusive sets in the hotel bar area of internationally renowned British, American and French singers.
“I’m not allowed to say who, but they are very famous. The names will be announced in September.
These musicians are hired by Les Etincelles to give concerts once a week throughout the season at the Le Strike nightclub.
The Strike, home of the former bowling alley, is another of the Etincelles’ acquisitions.
The company also owns residences such as Village Montana.
The Collection Carte Blanche by Les Etincelles currently has 15 chalets in Tignes.
They include the exclusive Quezac in Tignes Les Brévières.
It was built and designed by Guerlain Chicherit before the birth of Les Etincelles.
Voted Best New Ski Chalet at the 2014 World Ski Awards, it certainly has its own unique style.
Its facilities include a swimming pool, hammam and sauna and are full of Guerlain’s many trophies from his career as a skier and rally driver.
The chalet sleeps 16 and is fully staffed with a butler, chef, housekeeper and driver.
If you are wondering, it will cost you around €70,000 to rent it for the New Year week or €25,000 for the first and last week of the season.
Nicholas Chatillon, Guerlain Chicherit and their Etincelles team are making great strides to realize their vision of Tignes.
But it’s by no means the only resort in their sights.
Les Etincelles already has properties in Val d’Isère and La Plagne and plans to expand to a handful of other high-altitude resorts in France.
“We have selected 9 out of 120 in the French Alps which are the only ones that can guarantee snow for 23 weeks of the season,” says Nicholas.
“These are Tignes, Val d’Isère, La Rosière, Les Arcs, La Plagne, Courchevel, Val Thorens, Alpe d’Huez and Les2Alpes.
“We are not looking for property in another complex.”
This, he says, is because climate change means skiing at many lower resorts is “over”.
And what about further?
Well, for now, there are already a few ski areas in Switzerland on the Etincelles radar.
And…. “We could bring the concept to the United States,” says Nicholas.
Then the world?
PlanetSKI readers reacted on Facebook:
Oonagh Griffith “As I read this, I fear that mere mortals will be expelled from this fabulous complex. I suspect that the rumors of the death of mass tourism may be exaggerated. Also, while we were in resort this season, we heard from regulars that the new nightclub (former bowling alley) is keeping guests, who have rooms that face this lane, awake due to poor soundproofing .
Frank Atherton – I don’t see how “general public” skiing is dead? Many of us here cannot afford a €70,000 chalet any more than going to the moon!
David Preston – Skiers who want to live the 5* experience are not skiers, they are just wealthy people who make their way to the front of the line! Great skiing at Espace Killy but horrible prices unaffordable for the common man.
Alexandra Beuchert- I haven’t skied anywhere else (really) in the last 12 years; one of the things that appealed to me about Tignes was the affordability, after a steady rise in prices at our favorite restaurants and bars in the Three Valleys, where we were annual multi-trip holidaymakers. Obviously, high altitude resorts will be the way to go for investors and skiers, but in terms of infrastructure, friends this week (after reading this article) who have traveled to other resorts (the Austria was memorably named by a few) saying Tignes is well behind that, and if skiers want a 5-star holiday on all fronts, major lift upgrades will be needed.
Caroline Simpson – I love Tignes for its classy skiing and unpretentiousness – 5 star hotels will massively change the dynamic
David Sincock – I tried to figure out what to do with all this. There is no doubt that Tignes is moving upmarket. But there must be a limit to the number of visitors willing to pay the high prices already demanded by newer, more luxurious hotels. The large blocks of (rather) cheap self-catering accommodation such as the Home Club, which tend to attract those mainly there for skiing (like me), are not going away. Hopefully their prices won’t catch up with the new swanky hotels. Further down it is difficult to see satellites such as Les Brevières becoming bigger centers as long as they rely on the hopeless bottleneck of the former Aiguille Rouge chair. This needs to be replaced, but I think the construction work has been delayed by the pandemic. Being myself already of a certain vintage, I hope in a way that good old pre-bling, non-gentrified Tignes will see my ski before selling me completely.
Claire Phillips – I’m afraid that my family and I will be overpriced the resort. We have been going to Tignes at least two weeks a year for 20 years. I fear that the station’s new lofty ambitions show no loyalty to the commitment and investment of their existing customers. Over the past few years we have booked self-catering accommodation which means we have supported local supermarkets and restaurants. I fear the cost of this accommodation will also increase if owners perceive Tignes as “upgraded”…..Although I realize that change is generally a good thing – if 3 and 4 star hotels are still being replaced by hotels 5 stars, then loyal Tignes customers can also be replaced.
Jane stayed at Hotel Do You Want by Les Etincelles in Tignes Le Lac. It closes for the season on April 30. Prices so far are from €200 per night for two people sharing a double room on a B&B basis.
Rates for the 2022-2023 season: From €225 per night for the opening week of the season (December 9and to December 16and). From €333 per night for the low season (from January 7 to February 4 then from March 4 to the end of the season).
All prices are for two people in a double room with B&B.