REFUGE du TORNIEUX: a 4km luge descent (Sallanches)

I had visited the ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux (1450m) on a ☀️ summer hike a few years ago . . . but heading there on a ❄️ winter hike last year was an entirely different experience! I was on my own, which is a rare pleasure . . . but as I am always thinking ahead for fun family activities, as I stopped to take photos, I was wondering if my elder son would willingly walk the 1h30 to 2h (dénivelé of around 500m) to get to the refuge . . . and then, out of nowhere, a group of children on 🛷 sledges arrived around a bend, squealing with excitement. I literally had to jump out of their path! They looked to be about the age of my elder son, so they had clearly managed to do this walk . . . and what incentive – a walk up to a lovely mountain refuge and then a 🛷 4km sledge descent back to the car!

I was determined to come back with a sledge and a friend (which I did, just two days later! Thank you Cath and 🐶 Lily!).

[ ✨2020 update – I headed back on this lovely winter path last week, on a gloriously sunny, crisp winter’s day . . . this time with my more sophisticated camera in hand (and no sledge!) ]

Hike from Burzier to Tornieux © montblancfamilyfun.com

A little history

The ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux is an authentic chalet d’alpage, built in 1892 and then transformed into a 🏔 mountain refuge & restaurant in the 20th century. A century ago, the farmers headed up to mountain pastures with their troops in the 🌸 late springtime & ☀️ early summertime, in search of good quality grass.

⛷ Burzier ski station – in 1984, a ski station was created in Sallanches, giving the opportunity for on-pistes restaurants . . . so Patrick Roubert decided to turn the farm of Tornieux into a restaurant for the skiers (there was at that point a trio of restaurants d’altitude, with the refuges of Doran and Mayères) . . . but sadly, several ❄️ winters of poor snow cover (this was not a very high altitude station) brought an end to the ski station . . . and hence also the demise of ski pistes restaurants, and so they were turned into restaurants to welcome hikers instead! It is no surprise, then, that this area above Sallanches attracts so many ski-randonneurs – lovely gentle pistes, and without the crowds . . .

[ to read more about the history of the refuge and to see photos across the years, see website ]

Refuge de Tornieux in wintertime  © montblancfamilyfun.com

🧀 Refuge du Tornieux restaurant 🧀

The ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux is run by Patrick and his son Damien and their team, and they will introduce you to their local savoyard fare in the restaurant:

  • 🥔 famous bougnettes du Tornieux (deep fried potato dish) with charcuterie;
Refuge du Tornieux, bougnettes du Tornieux © Refuge du Tornieux
  • 🧀 fondue savoyarde with mushrooms;
  • 🧀 raclette with Tomme de Savoie;
  • farcement de Passy (a local sucré-salé dish dating from the Middle Ages, containing dried fruits like prunes, raisins or figs mixed into a salty base made of potato);

The refuge has a cosy interior with wooden furnishings, and different part of the old farm now house the restaurant :

  • old central room of the farm (seating for 20);
  • old kitchen, next to chimney (seating for 14) / see here;
  • renovated stables (seating for 60) / see here;
  • terrace – the terrace is south-facing, with imposing views of the Mont-Blanc massif (seating for 120) / see here;

With such large occupancy, this refuge would be the perfect spot to organise a party or seminar.

🔥 wood heating – the refuge cuts its own wood for heating;

🍽 tableware – is locally produced ” vaisselle en poterie traditionnelle savoyarde de Marnaz “;

Refuge du Tornieux, restaurant © Sallanches Tourisme
Refuge de Tornieux, terrace © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge de Tornieux, view from the terrace © montblancfamilyfun.com

🛌 Spend a night in the Refuge du Tornieux 🛌

If you would like to spend 🛌 a night in a refuge – summer or winter – but are less tempted to be in a dorm room with other snoring occupants, then this is the perfect refuge to try out, as there are THREE double rooms available! Also perfect for families as there are 2 x four person rooms and 2 x six person rooms. In addition, there are TWO dormitories. There is occupancy in total for 50 pax and all the beds have sheets.

The sanitary area is modern, comprising : 4 x WCs, 3 x sinks, and 4 x showers (with hot water!).

🛌 overnight in the refuge = traditional dinner, bed & breakfast;

 Refuge du Tornieux – cosy dortoirs © Refuge du Tornieux

❄️ Wintertime at the Refuge du Tornieux ❄️ 

The hike up to the ☕️ Tornieux, Mayères or Doran refuges is a popular ❄️ winter activity for local Sallanches families – there are the snow shoe trails, and amongst these, the well-maintained path to the ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux. On this path, you will cross: ski randonneurs, snow-shoers, runners, dog-walkers and people sledging down! As the path is so well maintained (damé) for the sledging activities offered by the refuge, you can generally hike without the need for snow-shoes (though a crampon attachment for your hiking boots is a good idea). You do need to keep your wits about you, because of the 🛷 sledges descending at great speed; be ready to jump out of the way! The hike takes about 1h30 to 2 hours (depending on food and photo breaks).

🗓 opening hours of refuge lunchtime – 12h until 14h / lunchtime menu from 26€;

🗓 opening hours of refuge dinnertime – 19h until 21h / dîner savoyard from 26€;

🛌 overnight in the refuge demi-pension – 62€;

🗺 getting there – park in 🅿️ Burzier car park (the road from Burzier leaves from behind the ⛪️ Eglise Saint-Jacques in Sallanches), and then follow the signs for the recommended winter path to Tornieux (plenty of panels).

the start of the hike . . .

the progression . . .

the snowy path begins . . .

frozen branches . . .

Les Planes (1150): Tornieux and Mayères LEFT, and Doran RIGHT . . .

Burzier to Refuge du Tornieux – the snowy path begins © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge de Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge de Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge de Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © Cath McLellan
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com

arrival at the refuge . . .

Arrival at Refuge du Tornieux © Cath McLennan
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike – sublime views of Mont-Blanc © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux winter hike © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux, terrace view © Cath McLennan

🛷 🛷 🛷

🛷 « SOIRÉES LUGES » 🛷

A popular wintertime activity offered by the ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux, and well-known by Sallanches locals, is the 🛷 « soirées luge » – this is the opportunity to have a cosy traditional savoyard meal in the old renovated farm, and then to head down the 4km piste de luge by the light of a head-torch or by moonlight – a path that is well-maintained by the refuge for this very purpose / it is advisable to book this activity well in advance / wear suitable water-proof clothing and do not forget your functioning head-torch (and take spare batteries!) / for the sledging, your are given explanations;

Refuge du Tornieux luges © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge de Tornieux, terrace view © Refuge de Tornieux

🛷 different luge options:

  • 🛷 dinner + luge descent = 42€ (you walk up on your own);
  • 🛷 transport + dinner + luge descent66€ (transport by chenillette – departure from Parking de Buzier at 18h);
  • 🛷 overnight demi-pension + luge descent next day = 84€;
  • 🛷 transport + demi-pension overnight + luge descent next day = 109€ (transport by chenillette – departure from 🅿️ Parking de Burzier at 18h);
© Refuge du Tornieux

🛷 the 4km piste de luge

4km piste de luge from Refuge de Tornieux © montblancfamilyfun.com
4km piste de luge from Refuge de Tornieux © montblancfamilyfun.com
4km piste de luge from Refuge de Tornieux © montblancfamilyfun.com

🛷 « The Story of the Runaway Luge »🛷

Carrying our sledges up the path was far easier than I had anticipated, as they were so light! Upon arrival at the ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux, we ordered 🥤 drinks and sat for a while on the sunny terrace, watching the refuge dogs playing with our own 🐶 doggy companion, Lily.

And then we set off downhill with our luges!

We learned a thing or two along the way!

  1. 🛷 do make sure that you have a sledge with good brakes!
  2. 🛷 do practise steering your sledge before you set off; even if you have it clear in your mind, the reality is more complicated!
  3. 🛷 keep your legs OUT of the sledge – you’ll need them to steer and brake!
  4. 🛷 try to control your speed with your brakes and legs, as you quickly gain great speed!
  5. 🛷 when you stop, make sure you secure your sledge, to ensure that it doesn’t take off without you . . .

. . . my friend chased the runaway luge on her sledge and it was last seen at least 0,5km below where I’d lost it, ” taking a jump at a bend and disappearing into some trees ” . . . it took a while to locate, amid much giggling, but located it was!

After this, we became quite adept at sledging, and 🐶 little Lily enjoyed either chasing us, being chased BY us or even taking a ride with her owner on the sledge! We were very soggy at the end of our sledging afternoon, and it was beginning to get cold, so a change of clothes would have been good!

Runaway luge © montblancfamilyfun.com

[ DISCLAIMER – remember that sledging is at your own risk and that it is your own responsibility to take relevant precautions (control speed, wear helmet, etc . . . ) / not advisable for very small children, as you need to understand the mechanics of handling the brakes of the luge ]


☀️ Summertime at the Refuge du Tornieux ☀️ 

The ☕️ Refuge du Tornieux is a popular ☀️ summer refuge, whether people decide to stop for a drink during a hike (see Sallanches Tourisme for a list of hikes to the mountain refuges), decide to have a meal, or even to spend the night. With a south-facing terrace (replete with lounge chairs) – that looks out at Mont-Blanc – it is a truly lovely spot . . .

 Refuge du Tornieux – summertime terrace © Refuge du Tornieux
Refuge du Tornieux, summertime terrace © Sallanches Tourisme

🗓 opening hours lunchtime – 12h to 14h (Tuesday until Sunday) / lunch & dinner menus from 26€ per person and light snacks like sandwiches and desserts available;

🗓 opening hours dinner time – 19h until 21h (Tuesday until Saturday) / dîner + nuitée + petit déjeuner en buffet = 62€;

💦 lac biotope – there is now a small plan d’eau de baignade naturelle next to the the refuge . . .

Refuge du Tornieux – lac biotope © montblancfamilyfun.com
Refuge du Tornieux – lac biotope © Refuge du Tornieux

☀️ sun-loungers and beanbags – there is a comfortable place to relax out on the lawn, facing the majestic Mont-Blanc! Perfect after a hike . . .

Refuge du Tornieux – lounging © montblancfamilyfun.com

🌸 jardin alpin – in 2006, Patrick created a jardin alpin, with some rare plants, next to the refuge;

🥬 jardin potager – in summer, the refuge grows many of their own vegetables!


Practical Information

🗓 opening hours – midday 12h until 14h (Tuesday until Sunday) and dinner 19h until 21h (and overnights);

🅿️ parking – Burzier car park for shortest walk (or 🅿️ Lintre);

address: 546 route de Passy, 74700, Sallanches;

tel: +33(0)4.50.93.78.54 / +33(0)6.50.26.66.94;

website: www.refuge-tornieux.com

email: contact@refuge-tornieux.com

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