Last modified: 2019-06-26 by ivan sache
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Flag of Tignes - Image by ND, 20 March 2004
The municipality of Tignes (2,358 inhabitants in 2016; 8,163 ha) is a ski resort located in the upper valley of Isè:re (Tarentaise) in the Northern Alps.
The ancient village of Tignes was located on the banks of river
Isère, at an elevation of 1,650 m a.s.l. It was one of those typical
Savoyard villages isolated in the far end of a valley, until the building
of the road of col de l'Iseran in 1936, linking the valleys of
Tarentaise and Maurienne (valley of river Arc). The main if not only
activity in the village was cattle breeding. In summer time, most
inhabitants of the village went with cattle in the upper elevation
pastures, a main event in the local life which was called emmontagnée.
From May until September (démontagnée), small groups living in
complete autarcy had to organize and live in very precarious conditions.
Accordingly, Tignes, as well as the other Alpine mountains, suffered from emigration. Most emigrants worked in Paris as packers for the auction rooms Rey and Drouot, a profession which is still a Savoyard monopole. Most of these emigrants came back to the villages for the summer season.
Tignes is described as follows in the Guide Michelin Les Alpes de la Savoie et du Dauphiné, 2nd edition (1928-1929): "In a nice location, Tignes groups its old grey houses around its rust-coloured bell-tower". At that time, there was only one basic hotel in Tignes.
The traditional life disappeared from Tignes soon after the Second World
War. The reconstruction of the country required a lot of electricity,
and the national company, Électricité de France, was urged to exploit
the natural resources, especially hydro-electricity in the mountains.
The building of an underground gallery, which had started before the war, resumed. On 15 May 1946, the Minister of Industrial Production signed the Decree of State Approval for the development of the waterfall of Brévières. The decree planned the building of a big barrage and an artificial lake, which doomed the village of Tignes and most of its hamlets to be definitively flooded.The inhabitants of Tignes attempted to preserve their ancestral heritage by all means, legal and less legal (sabotage, riots). However, the last class took place in the village school on 10 March 1952; on 24 March 1952, the exhumation of the dead from the village cemetery was completed. The village and the hamlets were blown up with dynamit. On 26 March 1952, the prefet of the department of Savoie ordered to open the floodgates to fill up the barrage.
The vault of the barrage of Tignes is 180 m high, including 20 m deep foundations. It was decorated by J.M. Pierret, who designed a 12,000 sq. m fresco called Le Géant on the external side of the vault. The man-made lake of Chevril has a maximum volume of 230,000,000 cubic m. The cumulated height of the waterfall is 1,000 m. Water moves turbines in the plant of Brévières (154,000,000 kWh per year) and is then sent down through a 15 km gallery to the plant of Malgovert (750,000,000 kWh per year).
The new village of Tignes was built 6 km from the ancient one near the
(natural) lake of Tignes. The village church was built on the model of
the former one.
In 1957, five years after the inauguration of the barrage, the inhabitants of Tignes decided to set up a ski resort. The core of the resort is located at an elevation of 2,100 m and divided into the boroughs of Tignes-le-Lac, le Lavachet and Val-Claret. In 1973, the glacier of la Grande-Motte (3,430 m a.s.l.) was equipped for summer ski. The glacier is served by a 3,400 m long, underground, funicular railway and a 125-seat cableway for the skiers only.
With the neigbouring ski resort of Val-d'-Isère, located upper in the valley, Tignes has set up the big ski domain called Espace Killy (after Jean-Claude Killy, the legendary winner of the 1968 Olympic Games and promoter of the 1992 Games in Savoy). In 1992, the first Olympic official competitions in acrobatic ski (mogles, jump and ballet) took place in Tignes, which since then has remained a reference place for that kind of ski.
Tignes is also a famous summer resort, being located on the northern limit of the Parc National de la Vanoise.
Ivan Sache, 20 March 2004
The flag of Tignes is white with the municipal logo in the center.
ND, 20 March 2004