SkiBike Tour 2012-13 - Flaine Cascades Run

Posted: Monday, 18 February 2013 by Mark Kinnon in Labels: , , ,

Paul has a jinx, every time he has visited the Grand Massif misfortune has befallen him, first it was the flu, then it was an awkward fall, so today it was time to remove the curse and do some mileage eating of epic proportions across the Grand Massif domain.

Starting from the base station at Morillon, we were to make the grand tour through Les Carroz, Les Molliets and Flaine taking in all the many long cruising blue runs available. Then from the top of Les Grandes Platiers we were to follow the 14km Cascades run to leave us on the very limit of the area in the rustic town of Sixt.

I had been pre-warned to expect a lot of flat sections and even some uphill. With this in mind, I chose to make the skibike my weapon of choice, if there was walking to do, let it be in my comfy snowboard boots.

Heading left from the top station of the Grandes Platiers cable car you need to go flat out without making any turns along the Serpentine piste. Should you have to make an emergency stop you will have a lot of walking to do.

The Serpentine piste - you need to go flat out without making any turns

After a mile or so the sign appears for the start of the Les Cascades run. This is it, you are committed to a 14km run with no reasonable option of turning back should you change your mind, no alternative chairlifts or drags, no buses, no first aid posts, nothing, nada, diddly squat.

Les Cascades - a 14km run with no option for turning back

The run starts in an immense bowl that gradually narrows as you progress, simultaneously the gradient increases as you are funnelled into the start of a deep gorge. I did some off piste and was surprised to find myself quite a long way above the piste in no time at all.

Les Cascades - the run starts in an immense bowl

Having rejoined the piste, I discovered that if you moderate your speed on one section, you are stuck with an uphill march to the next section. But the piste is twisty and with a roller coaster quality, it became apparent that most users were adopting a gung ho, attitude to avoid any walking. Like many others, I was caught out by a sharp right hand 90 degree turn, with a sudden drop off. Paul, who was some distance in front, told me that he arrived to a "yard sale" with family groups spread all over the place. I missed the spectacle, but went splat sideways into the netting, on arrival at the same spot.

Quite a long way above the piste in no time at all.

There were a few more such surprises to come, grim looking signs appeared warning you to not leave the trail under any circumstances and when a section of safety netting appeared alongside the trail I realised why. The piste was now following a narrow ledge with both cliffs above and a vertiginous drop into the gorge below.

With Sixt coming into view the final section was a pretty horrible, narrow, icy descent for the last mile. It caught me unaware and I had to resort to side slipping for the last bit. Not good form, but I didn't want to collect any more bumps or bruises.

An icy descent with a frozen waterfall alongside

Safely back at the free shuttle bus stop with a few fresh scrapes, Paul and I calmed our frayed nerves with a vin chaud and discussed the folly of Les Cascades being marked as a blue run. Red or black would be fairer according to the state of snow, etc. However, it was a great experience, I imagine I might have been the first freestyle skibike to make the run and would gladly repeat the experience. However it is not the best run for nervous beginners or those with low intestinal fortitude.

Safely back at the shuttle bus stop


  1. R Platt says:

    Now you are making me jealous !! I wanted to do that run the other day we were there!! I like the long runs - I did a nice 23 Km run down the vallee Blanc off Mont Blanc a couple of years back - nothing to beat a long run but it must not have any flat bits.

  1. Plenty of flat bits on Les Cascades, not the best run for footskis :-) but fine in comfy snowboarder boots. The flip side was I could have used footskis, crampons or maybe even an ice axe or two for the last Kilometre.
    If you ever head back to that area, do the run starting from Samoens, then it is just one shuttle bus back from Sixt. No problem taking the bike on the bus (but I did have it in bits to avoid any agro).