Snowparks in the Espace Killy
Freestyle skiing and snowboarding has been growing in popularity since the likes of Glenn Plake and Scott Schmidt brought it to the wolrd in the "Blizzard of Aahhhs". Since then we've seen the birth of snowboarding, the evolution of twin tip skis and snowboards, and the inclusion of freestyle in the winter Olympics.
Freestyle has made household names and millionaires of teenagers with bad hair cuts and tendency towards mono-syllabic conversation. If you are new to the slopes it's a good chance that you'll be wanting to try your first kicker or rail soon. If you have been skiing or snowboarding for a while then it's more likely that you have tried you first kicker or rail and realised exactly why those rubber-limbed freestyle monkeys make the money they do. It's hard and it can hurt. But freestyle is great fun and if you want to learn there is no better place to head than the Tignes park.
Both Tignes and Val have their own parks but they are sufficiently different to warrant trips to both.
The Val Park, as it's known, lies in the centre of the Bellvarde bowl just under the Mont Blanc chairlift although it is serviced by the drag tow that runs up the side of the slalom course.
The park is clearly set out in different sections so that the jumps (kickers) are grouped together depending on their difficulty. Like pistes they are green, blue, red and black and like pistes if you are new to the slopes it is best to start on the greens.
The Val Park also has a section designed for riding rails and there are some easy boxes here as well as some more technical rails.
The park is well maintained by a dedicated team and some of the kickers here are specially shaped for photo shoots and competitions meaning that they can get quite big and can change. The biggest problem with the Val Park is not the kickers and rails within it, they are uniformly good, it is it's location. Although it lies in a natural sun trap and is sheltered from the wind it is a short, wide run meaning that the lifts that access it run first along it's base and then up it's side so you will easily spend more time on the lifts than you do on the features.
Over in Tignes the park has been moved several times in the last five years but now seems to be a at home at the top of the Grattalu chairlift.
Unlike the Val Park the freestyle park in Tignes is on a long flowing run with a good high speed chair at the bottom. The features here are better suited to beginners and intermediates as the kickers are not that big, certainly smaller than the biggest in Val. If you are new to the slpoes you may find it easier to use the Grattalu chairlift to access the park as the drag tow that runs up it's side is long and may be a little tricky if you are still finding your balance.
The park is sponsored by Swatch which means it is fitted with their "Shoot My Ride" system. This is a series of cameras placed in the park that are activated by your lift pass. Simply swipe your pass over the sensor, ride down through the park and swipe again at the bottom. Your run has been filmed and saved on line where you can view, download and share it to your heart's content.
The park in Tignes is also fitted with an airbag which is free to use and open daily. A perfect place to try new trick with out fear of injury.
Probably the best freestyle feature that Tignes has to offer is it's pipe. This sits at the base of the Les Lanches chairlift at the top end of Tignes Val Claret. The pipe itself is impressive, not many resorts in France have one, but the fact that it is the site of the European X Games makes it truly unique. Although it is specially cut for the competition the pipe in Tignes has been the launch platform for some of the biggest names in skiing and snowboarding and it is open every day to anyone with a lift ticket!
Which ever park you choose to ride in it is important to stay safe, for more information on safety in the park and park etiquette visit our page Park Safety.