The area of Domaine de Balme is a great mixture of 22 easy and intermediate runs and is a popular destination for the ski schools.
Accessed either from Vallorcine or Le Tour; Le Tour is slightly closer to Chamonix town and is on the main bus route, but Vallorcine rarely has any lift queues and can be accessed directly by train station.
La Vormaine is the beginner's area at the foot of Le Tour; the gentle terrain is perfect for getting those out of practice ski legs back into action before taking on the tougher runs elsewhere in the valley. Generally, this area is the quietest of the Chamonix Valley as everyone tends to rush to Les Grands Montets when they first arrive or to an area closer to their accommodation and the main town of Chamonix.
The Autannes chairlift at the front of Le Tour gives access to some good intermediate runs, Les Ecuries being the most obvious as it runs below the lift. You can then carry on down the Charamillon run to the carpark and then take the gondola back up, making a nice long run that you can keep on lapping until the corduroy is all gone. The Autannes chairlift avoids having to use any of the draglifts that also service this area; additionally, as your confidence grows there are numerous small jumps and gullies that you can get your first air on. The front of Le Tour is littered with gullies, which during the winter fill in with snow and form themselves into natural halfpipes; look out to the left from the Autannes chairlift and you’ll notice one right next to the Ecuries piste.
Also just to the side of the Autannes chairlift is the timed slalom course; you just scan your lift pass to have your run filmed and timed then go to the website afterwards to see how you did.
The Tete de Balme chair at the backside of the Domaine de Balme offers fast access to some steeper runs and excellent off-piste through the trees. 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.
Don’t forget the Aiguilette des Possettes draglift as it gives access to some great open powder fields skiers left down towards the Esserts piste. Make sure you don’t take the skiers right though - although it may look tempting, this area is highly prone to avalanches. There is also a fabulous little mountain restaurant located at the base of this drag lift – the Alpages des Balmes – which serves one of the best vin chaud’s in the valley!
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