Two villages either side of the Domaine de Balme ski area, Le Tour and Vallorcine are ideal for those in search of a quiet getaway in a traditional Alpine village.
Le Tour and Vallorcine sit at either end of the Col des Montets, a winding mountain road that cuts through a stunning area of national park. Both are close to the Swiss border and are perfect examples of traditional Alpine life; locals outnumber tourists, farms outnumber apartment blocks and cows probably outnumber cars.
There is no tourist information office in Le Tour, but there is one in Vallorcine right opposite the railway station and lift car park. They are open daily from 09:30-12:00 and from 14:30-18:00 during school holidays, out of peak season they close at 17:30 and are not open at all on Sundays or Wednesdays.
Le Tour and Vallorcine are connected to the rest of the Chamonix valley by bus and train (both free with your carte d'hôte).
Le Tour & Vallorcine in winter
The Domaine de Balme ski area is ideal for leisurely skiing and snowboarding, interspersed with a hearty lunch and topped off with a fine view from a sunny deckchair. The runs are wide and gentle, meaning that although the area tends to attract beginners there is plenty of room for everyone. The front side down into Le Tour has a good selection of blue and red runs, with a large green slope at the foot of the mountain (you can buy a cheap pass if you only want to use the nursery slope). The back side down to Vallorcine has a lovely long tree-lined piste that takes you all the way into the village, great when visibility is poor.
Locals know that Domaine de Balme is one of the best spots on a powder day, while everyone else is swarming all over Les Grands Montets the off-piste here is epic and often untouched (although I guess that cat is out of the bag now...). Book a mountain guide
to explore off-piste terrain safely and find the best powder stashes.
Le Tour & Vallorcine in summer
In summer this end of the valley comes into its own with flower-filled meadows, the melodic sound of cow bells and plenty of outdoor activities. Hiking is the most obvious; signposted trails will take you through nature reserves and Alpine pastures, through ancient hamlets of quaint stone chalets and past traditional farms producing cheese and honey. The lift system remains open and gives access to some of the best downhill mountain bike trails in the valley; fast and flowing descents into France on one side and Switzerland on the other.
Mountain Lifestyle favourites
- Try cross-country skiing on the tracks between Le Buet and Vallorcine; you can even ski at night on certain dates when the trees are hung with light bulbs.
- Summer hiking through the Aiguilles Rouges Nature Reserve where you're likely to see marmots, bouquetins (ibex) and chamois.
- Visit one of the local farms; many of them sell their own cheese. Bring a freshly baked baguette and, et voila, you have a picnic lunch.