Birth of a Ski Resort
For those of you that know Tignes will know that modern day Tignes is made up of five villages: Le Brevieres, Le Boisses, Lavachet, Le Lac and Val Claret. In the 13th century, however, only Le Brevieres, then called Les Brenieres, and Tignes itself existed. These two villages were farming communities that also profited through smuggling from nearby Italy. Rumours started circulating in the late 1920s that a dam was to be built in the valley covering the original old town of Tignes. This was met with strong opposition from the locals (Tignards) who fought bitterly to keep their 900 year old original village. Unfortunately rumours became reality in 1952, when the original old village of Tignes was flooded as part of a hydro-electric power scheme which created the new "Lac du Chevril" over the old site. It was said that for many years locals tried to disrupt building work using what was referred to as a ‘resistance’ style movement. It is still possible to meet with some of the old Tignard characters who were sent to jail for their part in attempting to blow up the dam that caused their homes to be flooded.
The Tignes dam, which depicts a giant figure of Hercules on the front, had been designed to generate power for up to 10% of France. Ironically, France developed nuclear power a few years later and Tignes dam which has never been used became redundant. It now serves as a huge 'battery' with the ability to supply power to the ski resort in the winter if required. The lake is emptied every 10 years for maintenance work to be carried out on the dam and it is even possible to see and even walk around the remains of the old village.
The resorts of Val Claret, Le Lac, Le Lavachet and Le Boisses were built in the late 1950s, early 1960s, and the French architecture is wholly alien in comparison to the spectacular mountain setting at the foot of the Grand Motte and Grande Casse.
The new Tignes was created at an altitude of 2100m, with the main settlement at Tignes Le Lac. Government contributions meant that Tignes could re-invent itself as a ski resort. In April 1967, the developer Pierre Schnebelen and the Savoie Department were able to use funds originally intended for a 55,000 m2 development at Lavachet, to develop fully the resort at Tignes.