Where to SkiBike - St-Cergue - La Dôle

Posted: Sunday, 26 February 2012 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: ,

I will be returning to the UK within the next 24 hours, every second is precious and I wanted a little easy skibike action on my last day.
I decided to check out the small Swiss village close to my Geneva base by the name St Cergue. I have passed through it on a couple of occasions, usually in a blizzard in the dead of night, as it is on a convenient low altitude back route to cross the Jura mountains and head via Nyon to the shelter of Geneva. It is a mere 30 minute drive from the environs of Geneva airport on a fine day like today, upon arrival I found the town car park absolutely packed out and could only see 2 drag lifts which didn't look at all promising for an afternoon of skibiking fun. According to some brief research on the web, it should have had at least a couple of chairlifts; but confusingly there is another resort of the same name in France, so perhaps it is that one that is the better endowed.

Undeterred, I drove on a little higher, past a huge cross country ski centre and on to Les Rousses. It too was packed out, but at least I found a space to leave my car for 15 minutes. I asked the liftie at the main chairlift whether skibikes were allowed at Les Rousses. He wasn't sure and referred me to the main office, my next port of call.
The lady in the office was very helpful and said there would be a problem, as their chairlifts are older continuous high speed designs which are considered too risky for non-ski traffic to alight from. She mentioned that there was a modern style detachable chairlift at Le Dole and even phoned through to check for me and confirmed that I could use my skibike there.
By the way, all of these disparate ski stations are within minutes of each other by car. If they ever put in some connecting lift links this would be quite a domain up in the High Jura mountains and position in a catchment area full of wealthy Swiss and not quite so wealthy French and one lone impoverished English skibiker.

Following the helpful local info, I rattled over to the car park for Le Dole, keeping an eagle eye on the horizon for that very special detachable chairlift. La Dole has to be unique in one respect, as far as I can work out, the kiosks and resort paraphernalia are all in France, but all the pistes are in Switzerland! I wasn't expecting to see a frontier guards scrutinising the lift queue, but I have to confess I stuck my passport in my jacket pocket just in case.
From its base at Les Dappes, the Telesiege des Dappes climbs to the peak of the Massif de la Dole at 1678m. Not a huge vertical drop, but enough for some sunny Sunday afternoon fun in the snow skibiking. There were no issues with the lifties, who seemed happy enough to see my skibiking leash in place, smiled and went back to more important liftie business.

On my first run down the snow was rock hard and icy on piste, unfortunately it was equally brittle off piste. Worst of all at 1pm in the afternoon, the sun didn't appear to be making any impression on it at all. I persevered for another hour putting in 3 runs, frantically trying to carve into the unyielding surface and preserve what little amount of skibiker cool I have left.
I impressed myself by not skidding out, but there was little enjoyment to be had from it. On the upside my mission had been completed, I had skibiked at Le Dole, in the Jura mountains overlooking Lake Geneva, yet another new area to add to my list of resorts that I have successfully skibiked at.

Returning to the sanctuary of the car park I switched technologies; donned hard boots and clipped on SnowBlades for some further exploration. At the top of the chairlift you have a large slope just above the tree line, your options are; to follow the fall line off piste, traverse a little way and drop on to a black run, go a little further and follow the red or keep going till you reach the blue. I tried them all, the off piste was horrible, effectively riding over bumpy and lumpy ice. Riding conditions were reminiscent of some of my more horrible days in Scotland, but without the 70mph gales, flapping kilts, doodle sacks and attacks by rampant Haggis.
As the afternoon progressed the sun finally won the battle and by close of play it would have been almost perfect for skibike riding, bugger it, typical.
Although perfect for skibike riding, meant I had to watch out for ominous clumps of "mashed potato" slushy snow on my little SnowBlades. Having screamed down the red run, one of these caught me out, on SnowBlades you have to really lean back to avoid sudden deceleration, it misjudged, went head over heals, landed back on my feet and continued riding. Once you've pulled off a stunt like that, it really is a sign to say, "thank you for your visit, now get off home before you break something", so I did.

Tomorrow I have to return to the UK, but I really, really, don't want to.

In conclusion, La Dole is a tiny part of a disparate group of ski stations and is the only one that is currently skibike friendly. You couldn't come here for a weeks vacation, not when there are some full on resorts just over an hour away in the Alps. On the other hand if you are in the area or just passing through and fancy a bit of easy riding, perhaps to loosen up and while away a few hours, it offers cheap and cheerful skibike riding. The price for a midday onwards ski pass was under 20€ and could be paid in Swiss Francs too.
I would very much like to return after a big dump of fresh snow and try the off-piste run under the chairlift again; except next time on a light and yielding surface, rather than "boiler plate" re-frozen snow/ice.
These smaller resorts are proving consistently helpful, providing you are polite and treat them with due respect, they really go the extra kilometre to make sure you have a good day on their mountain. I hope this attitude spreads to other resorts, it would help to make skibiking as easy and accessible as mono-ski, telemark, speed riding or any of the other fringe ski related activities that you see enthusiasts practising.