"Beginner's Heaven plus nice off-piste" Top 5 Page for this destination Skiing Snowboarding Tip by firechick
Skiing Snowboarding, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc: 14 reviews and 17 photos
Domaine de Balme (formerly Le Tour) is a great place for beginning skiers - sort of a large (very) rolling hill - a giant cow pasture (literally) to ski down. However the 'backside' of Le Tour also has great tree-skiing towards Vallorcine and some nice off-piste. Located at the end of the valley, on the border with Switzerland - great views of the valley.
If you are a completely rank beginner, there are very flat green runs to the right of the main lift station ( with drag lifts ) - practice here or take a lesson, and when you feel up to it, take the lifts up and ski some nice rolling blues.
Snowboarders (and adventurous skiers) will also find great fun here in the natrual half-pipes (several) which form between the top and mid-station. For expert skiers/boarders, the 'backside' of Le Tour on the Vallorcine side of the Col de Balme lift has some great off piste, but go with people who know the area (there are cliffs).
Free but sometimes scary parking lot if it gets icey (on a hillside, so watch out and make sure you bring chains if it looks like snow).
In high season (holidays and school holidays) be sure to get here early if you are driving - or take the bus if you are leaving after 10am. The parking lot gets full and gendarmes will stop you and force you to park in Montroc or Argentiere and take the bus to Le Tour anyhow!
From the top of Le Tour there are beautiful views down the entire Chamonix valley. New in 2005 a lift services this area from Vallorcine France as well. Parking is easier on this side and the new lift is great.
Equipment: Skis or snowboard, lift pass, chains for your car if it looks like snow (this road is the highest elevation in Chamonix so if it is raining in Cham it's often snowing at Le Tour). Le Tour is also known as the Col de Balme in summer, and as a col, it is very windy - be sure you have enough warm clothes.
I highly recommend taking the free Cham Bus there (stops are all over town) if you are in an easy-to-reach hotel, as the parking can be gone quickly in high-season and you may end up being told by the police to park in Argentiere and take a bus anyhow (unless you get there before 10am). Out of high season it's easy to find parking. In school holidays - go to Vallorcine and take the lift from there. It is a bit further from Chamonix but the parking is easier and the new lift is fast without queues.
Address: Le Tour, France
Directions: From Chamonix in the direction of Argentiere/Vallorcine - go past the Grandes Montets and through Argentiere and turn right off the main road - follow the signs to Le Tour, or go to left to Vallorcine to the SNCF train station. Lifts are in both towns.
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