All the lifts in Domaine de Balme (in an afternoon)

We thought this week would be quieter and decided yesterday to take a visit to Vallorcine to ski, travelling by train. Due to track improvements we could only go as far as Chamonix by train. The rest of the journey was by coach, courtesy of SNCF the national train company in France. This all worked very well. And, with only a handful of passengers wanting to go beyond Chamonix, it felt more like a taxi service. The weather was superb and the Col des Montets and the Vallorcine valley looked wonderful in the bright sunshine. We were correct about the crowds and it felt like we had the resort to ourselves.

View across Vallorcine valley from Bechat piste

View across Vallorcine valley to Mont Buet from Bechat piste

I managed to take a ride on all the ski lifts in the resort in just over three hours, without skiing like a demon. I have also started to collect statistics about all these lifts and am putting them into an open access spreadsheet  https://dl.dropbox.com/u/92495704/Les%20Houches%20ski%20lifts%20csv.csv

The information I have found is not always consistent so I cannot warrant its reliability. An edited summary of this data is presented below

Type Start height (m)
Vallorcine Telecabin 1290
Tour-Charamillon Telecabin 1453
Autannes Chair 1856
Tête de Balme Chair 1630
Arve Button 1855
Col de Balme Button 1940
Plan des Reines Button 1970
Aiguillettes Button 1970
Vormaine 1 Button 1471
Vormaine 2 Button 1471
Vormaine 3 Button 1471
MiniVormaine Button 1471
Drag rope Drag rope 1471

According to one website, this ski area was the first in the Chamonix valley to have a ski lift, installed in 1922. It doubled as a lift to shift slate from a quarry, which makes a lot of sense. Several of the other lifts appear to be quite old. Plan des Reines and Aguillettes were installed in 1990 and, according to the only source I can find, the Arve lift was installed in 1972. This lift is quite likely to make you airborne when it starts off! Maybe this is a sign of age of the skier as well as the lift perhaps! In doing research on ski lifts I am delving quite deep into websites and coming across some real “anorak” stuff with plenty of ski lift pictures and statistics; details like who built what when, how high, how fast number of seats etc etc. Great stuff! Anyway here are a couple of lift shots to end this blog, all taken at Domaine de Balme, which used to be known as Le Tour and Vallorcine.

Col teleski Vormaine

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