If you are just starting out in your snowsports career and have heard that Chamonix is only for the hardcore don’t believe it: you will find the Domaine de Balme area (also known by village names Le Tour & Vallorcine) is perfect for you.
The Domaine de Balme ski area is the gentlest of Chamonix’s snowy areas in the winter. It’s a mixed terrain that’s relatively rock free and where pistes tend to be wide cruisy blues or fairly easy intermediate reds (see the piste map). There are two access points to the ski area, from the villages of Le Tour and Vallorcine. Being right at the top of the valley means that it’s the furthest ski area from Chamonix town but it’s worth making the 20-minute journey up there either by car or the local free bus. You can also take a pleasant train ride to and from Vallorcine and the station is directly by the gondola. The train doesn’t go directly to Le Tour and instead has a stop at Montroc, about 1km from Le Tour itself which therefore requires a further bus ride to reach the main lift station area. From the top of the Domaine de Balme ski area there are some spectacular views across to the Emosson Dam and down to Switzerland.
For as much as it’s a great area for beginners, it also offers an expanse of off-piste skiing and can be a great place to learn how to ski or board in powder as you can stay relatively close to the piste, diving off when you feel confident enough to do so.
Best pistes in Le Tour & Vallorcine
The Tete de Balme chair at the backside of the Domaine de Balme offers fast access to some steeper runs. If the snow is good there’s always the possibility of skiing right down to the village of Vallorcine and riding back up on the gondola. With some great access to powder even a few days after a dump the backside of Le Tour is one of our favourite areas in Chamonix.
Read more in our guide to Best pistes in Le Tour & Vallorcine.
Beginner areas in Le Tour & Vallorcine
Le Tour not only has a selection of good, long green runs but also has the highest concentration of blue pistes in the Chamonix valley. Perfect for families, beginners and those who just want to cruise the blues all day long.
Off-piste skiing in Le Tour & Vallorcine
The front side of Le Tour (in between the pistes that fan out from the Autannes chair) is gentle and great for getting a feel for making your first turns off-piste. For those more advanced skiers the backside of Le Tour and over to Vallorcine offers a vast amount of terrain and tree-lined off-piste that will keep you entertained all day long.
Read more in our guide to Off-piste skiing in Le Tour & Vallorcine.
Backcountry routes in the Domaine de Balme
In one moment you can be skiing in France, the next in Switzerland, there are very few other ski resorts that can offer the same in backcountry riding. With some steep ascents, glacier travel and long powder field descents this area has a lot to offer those who want to explore. Just remember to take your passport!
Read more in our guide to Backcountry routes from Le Tour & Vallorcine.