Vallorcine is a quiet picturesque village on the French/Swiss border, with regular bus and train links to Chamonix and the rest of the valley. It has a handful of restaurants, which tend to be friendly and traditional rather than overly-touristy, and a couple of small shops. It is perfect for a quiet family holiday or for a sports-based break, but if you're looking for lively apres-ski and vibrant nightlife then look elsewhere.
Dining options in Vallorcine are limited but those that exist are very good. Les Trois Ours (The Three Bears) is an old favourite that has evolved from cowshed to cosy restaurant over the years; they have a large terrace beside the river that is wonderful on sunny days. The railway station café has been packing in the locals for years and there's always a few mountain guides and pisteurs propping up the bar in there; the food is simple but satisfying and not too expensive. Café Comptoir is tucked away at the other side of the lift station at the end of the Vallorcine homerun, it is a charming wood cabin serving lunch and evening meals with daily specials.
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Being right on the Swiss border, Vallorcine is ideally placed for sightseeing in both France and Switzerland. Just a few stops on the train and you can catch the incredibly steep funicular up to the Emosson Dam, a huge hydroelectric dam surrounded by hiking trails and the famous dinosaur footprints. If you continue your train journey to Martigny you can also visit the Fondation Pierre Gianadda art gallery and the Roman amphitheatre. Vallorcine itself has a small museum of local history, which is fairly interesting but not what you might call a major attraction!
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Vallorcine's rugged terrain and beautiful scenery make it an excellent hiking base in the summer months, there is a multitude of trails criss-crossing the valley and venturing over the border into Switzerland. Downhill mountain biking is very popular, with the Domaine de Balme trails dropping down into Le Tour and Switzerland; gondola and chair lifts are equipped to carry bikes and there are a number of dedicated bike tracks. For something a bit different from the usual mountain sports, Vallorcine also offers canyoning; splashing your way through icy rivers, sliding over waterfalls and cannon-balling into crystal clear plunge pools amongst the pine forests. Winter is obviously all about the skiing and snowboarding, but it's not just the usual piste-cruising (although there's plenty of that in the Domaine de Balme). The gullies and couloirs of Vallorcine and the nearby villages of Le Buet and Trient make for wonderful ski touring, just be sure to book a mountain guide as avalanches happen all too often. Cross-country ski trails run from Vallorcine to Le Buet alongside the river, or you can tramp through the powder in snowshoes - you can rent equipment for both sports fairly cheaply from most ski hire shops.
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The nearest golf course to Vallorcine is the Golf Club de Chamonix, an 18 hole course in Chamonix Les Praz, near to the Flegere lift station. It has a driving range, club house and pro-shop where you can stock up on all the essentials. They hold regular competitions throughout the summer, the course is closed in winter.
Vallorcine has a high-speed gondola running directly from the train station up to the Domaine de Balme ski area. The ski area links Vallorcine to Le Tour, so you can ski the whole area and access both villages via the lift system. Domaine de Balme is known for its wonderfully cruisy pistes and easily accessible off-piste. There is a large beginners area at the bottom of the Le Tour side of the mountain and plenty of blues and reds to keep intermediate skiers and snowboarders happy. The Le Tour facing side is bathed in sunshine on clear days, while the forested Vallorcine side is great for poor visibility days. Both sides have a multitude of off-piste options that don't require a whole lot of trekking to get to; be aware though that certain parts of this area are notorious for avalanches, book a guide before venturing anywhere unknown.
Also see: Ski Areas in Chamonix, France
Vallorcine is not known for its apres-ski scene, it is far too quiet for rowdy bars and loud parties, but the café at the railway station is a popular place to call in for a drink at the end of the afternoon. They have a small sunny terrace and a cosy dining room that gets packed out with locals and tourists alike, it's particularly busy at lunchtime for its simple but hearty local dishes. Café Comptoir at the end of the homerun is also getting a name for itself for great food and a welcoming atmosphere, they often have live music of an evening.
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