Vallorcine is a pretty, picturesque mountain village nestled at the very end of the Chamonix Valley. The Geneva airport to Vallorcine transfer time is around 1hr 30mins. The journey sees you traversing the entire valley and culminates in a spectacular climb over the Col des Montets, right through the middle of the Aiguilles Rouges nature reserve (keep your eyes peeled for Chamois deer as you gaze out of the transfer bus window), before your descent into Le Buet and subsequently Vallorcine.
Only 4km from the Swiss border at Chatelard-Frontiere, Vallorcine is a hidden corner that has somehow managed to preserve its authenticity, but with direct access on the bubble lift to the Balme/ Le Tour ski area.
Driving over there in winter can be challenging, so best leave negotiating an icy, snowy col to the experienced transfer drivers. Once you’re in Vallorcine, the French part of the Mont Blanc Express train terminates here and with a Carte d’Hote, Gens de Pay or Residence Secondaire card, travel is free between Vallorcine and Servoz.Guide section
Open the door to another world in Vallorcine
The little village of Vallorcine with just over 450 inhabitants is a real alpine hideaway, so much so that we like to call it Narnia! If you’re looking for peace and quiet with authentic alpine charm (but still with direct access to the skiing and fancy things like wifi!), Vallorcine has it in bucketloads.
The fast and efficient bubble lift right next to the train station offers direct access to the pistes of the Tete de Balme/ Les Esserts side of the ski area. And, of course, from here you can access the other side of Balme right down to Le Tour village. And with the (new for 2020) Posettes drag lift from the top of the Vallorcine bubble lift, it’s so easy!
For cross country skiers and snow-shoers you’ll be in heaven, with a variety of tracks and trails between the Foyer Ski de Fond at the main Vallorcine train station and Le Buet (where the train also stops). Interlaced with the cross country trails are pedestrian tracks and on a sunny, bright and cold winter’s afternoon, a stroll or snowshoe can’t be beaten.
La Poya – Vallorcine’s hidden ski area
There is even a small alpine ski area of its own called ‘La Poya’. To access it, take the train and get off at Le Buet stop, where there is also a large, free car park. Cross the road just up hill from the Hotel Buet and head up the steep slope. After a couple of minutes’ walk (think about bringing a sledge if visiting with little babies/toddler) you arrive at the snowfront.
Here you’ll find a ‘jardin de neige’ with a rope lift for little ones, a small rope drag and two larger drag lifts. Snowboarders beware though, it is only drags and the main one is very steep. It’s a charming little corner though and great for a relaxing ski ‘en famille’. There’s an ESF ski school here too, with a Piou Piou club for very little ones.
Back in the village centre, the Residence Vallorcine Mont Blanc has a free open-air ice rink that the whole family can enjoy in the afternoons and evenings. The residence also offers snacks and hot drinks at the little outdoor mazot.
To know what else is happening in the village, make sure you visit the Vallorcine Tourist Office on the main road just beyond the Residence Mont Blanc and the village store.
The alpine life – Vallorcine style!
Life happens at an altogether different pace in Vallorcine. There are just enough amenities to make it practical, yet not too many to turn it into a full-on commercial resort.
Ski hire, groceries, the essential baguette, a strong morning expresso and a nice meal can all be easily found in Vallorcine. As for what there is to do in Vallorcine, lift the lid and there’s more going on than you’d imagine…content-activities.php
Visit the Refuge de Loriaz high up above Vallorcine where the cattled used to graze. Now open all year round, access in winter is on snowshoes or ski touring and on foot in summer, with the easiest route being the forest track above Le Couteray hamlet. The refuge is on the itinerary for adventures at Lac d’Emosson and other classic alpine hiking routes. Pop in for a coffee, a meal or stay overnight to get the best sunset and sunrise views over the Aiguilles Rouges.
Ski down Vallorcine’s Foret Verte piste from the Esserts side of Balme. It’s a long, winding red run through the pine trees to Vallorcine village, where you can have a nice lunch, then catch the lift back up. The boutique-style Cafe Comptoir is at the bottom of the piste and the bustling Arret Bougnete is at the train station. A five minute walk by the cross country ski tracks in the direction of Le Buet will bring you to the Ferme des 3 Ours, a traditional chalet style eatery.
There’s a wide choice of sport climbing and bouldering to be done around Vallorcine.Take your crash mat and explore the big rocks on the col des Montets. Head to the Barberine crags for peaceful climbs just over the border in Switzerland, or tackle the impressive three-pitch routes at Vallorcine’s Rocher du Saix adjacent to Les Parts hamlet, which overlooks the prairies along the railway line.
In summer, Vallorcine has really nice trails mountain bikers, including cross country cruises along the Chemin des Diligences, where you can go right through to Les Marecottes in Switzerland to visit the zoo and the outdoor swimming pool. Then there are more gnarly red runs to and from Loriaz and all around the col des Possettes and Tete de Balme where the ski area is. And for road bikers, a whizz up to the summit of the col and back down again from Chamonix is excellent training.
Go walking along the ancient ‘Chemin des Diligences’ from the tourist office, past the church and through the sleepy little hamlets of Le Crot and Les Mollards, to the waterfalls of Barberine (our fave parts of Vallorcine). During the main summer season, make sure you visit the ‘Maison de Barberine’ countryside museum to find out what life was like in Vallorcine in years gone by.
Relaxed skiing interspersed with a good meal and an apres-ski aperitif or two is the order of the day in Vallorcine in winter time, but there are other events both on and off the slopes for you to partake in too. We’ll add more as we get them (Vallorcine life IS at a slower pace after all!)…
Every Thursday at La Poya during the school holidays you can go night time skiing and enjoy a traditional torch-lit descent. It’s definitely a family-friendly vibe, so wrap up warm and go skiing under the nightlights. Kids and adults can join the flame run with mini LED flames for the littlest ones and real flame torches for the big ones. Vin chaud and hot choc is served afterwards too. From 16:30 to 21:00, with the ESF flame run at 18:30.
The Oursinette vertical ski race in Vallorcine is back for its fifth edition in 2020! Setting off at 18:00 from the main square in Vallorcine by the train station, it’s a race up to the top of the col des Posettes. A good atmosphere is all part of the event, with lots of people cheering the sporty types off as they tackle 6,8km and 960m of uphill height gain. Watch out for bears!
Guided evening ski touring outings open to all. In association with ZAG skis and the Ravanel Sports Shops, a series of evening ski tours set off to discover the best of the Chamonix valley after the day skiers and boarders have left the slopes. Rendez vous (Pierre a Ric, Prarion etc) is at 18:00 and you return at 21:00. Open to all levels of ski tourer, it’s also the chance to test ZAG’s Adret and Ubac ski range. Numbers limited to 40 per outing. It’s free, but you need to sign up via Eventbrite (search ZAG Chamonix). Dates for 2020 are Weds 5 Feb, Tues 3 March and Tues 7 April.
The Chamonix Marathon weekend marks the first trail running event of the season in the Chamonix Valley. For 2020 there are eight different races, ranging from the Mini Cross for kids, to the gruelling 80km. We love watching the Vertical Kilometre, where competitors sprint from Place Mont Blanc in the town centre, straight up the very steep path right under Planpraz!
If you want a get-away-from-it-all holiday, book your transfer with Mountain Drop-offs to Vallorcine and forget about the hustle and bustle of real life for a while.
In winter you can ski Balme/Le Tour directly from Vallorcine and in summer it’s just alpine pastures and panoramic views all the way. Vallorcine really is the Chamonix Valley’s best-kept secret…just don’t tell everyone.