Mountain Biking Guide - Le Tour

Le Tour is the large fan-shaped resort which sits furthest from the village of Chamonix, but provides riders with some of the most rewarding ascents and descents. The main gondola is called the Charamillon, and is accessed from the ticket offices by just a quick push up the steps to the left. Once you reach the gondola, the liftie will help you and your bike into the gondola before you take off and arrive at midstation. There is a café here, and the Chavannes chairlift which takes you to the top of the resort. Leave your bike in the racks at the bottom and jump on the lift; the lift atendants will put your bike on the chair and all you need to do is grab it off the lift at the top.

The other side of Le Tour, off to the far left as you look uphill from the main gondola, drops away to a village high in the mountains called Vallorcine which is linked to the resort by a high-speed eight-man gondola, plenty big enough for two bikes and their riders. Above Vallorcine you'll find Chamonix's only dedicated downhill course; it's extremely challenging and should only be undertaken by those on large long-travel bikes, with sufficient skills and body armour to get down in one piece! Once down, there's a great little café in Vallorcine station (next to the gondola) which does good coffee, excellent sit-down lunches and cheap sandwiches to go.

Le Tour is a huge local favourite with Chamonix riders thanks to it's relative notoriety for being popular amongst bikers (and subsequent unpopularity with hikers, perhaps?). The trails aren't quite as steep as elsewhere, giving the place a more gentle and less intense vibe; a great place to spend a relaxing day in the saddle with beautiful views over the town and Mont Blanc.

There is ample parking at both the Vallorcine and Le Tour bases if in a car; otherwise, get to Le Tour by bike or train. It's perfectly possible to get the train to Montroc and pedal up the main road, up the hill to the resort, although those with heavier bikes or lazier dispositions would probably prefer to get the train to Vallorcine and hop straight on the gondola. Be warned though ; if you want to ride the rest of Le Tour from Vallorcine, you'll need to pedal up for ten minutes over a col to get there.

Take your time to explore the excellent network of singletrack and 4x4 tracks that criss-cross this wonderful resort. There is an excellent itinerary that rises from the cowsheds off to the far far left of the chairlift which go up to the Aiguille de Posette - probably a push-up on anything heavier than an enduro class bike – which turns into beautiful sweeping singletrack downhill back to the Le Tour base. Alternately, there are routes that swing out under the high ridgeline to looker's right of the chairlift that join back up to the midstation via singletrack paths. Head under the chairlift itself for an entertaining, muddy and fairly public ride back to midstation, or follow the 4x4 track up to the Tete de Balme for some wild and windswept views into Switzerland.

There's really too much to list at Le Tour; use some of the above ideas as inspiration and go find your own way.