Les Grandes Platières (atop Flaine Ski Station)


Flaine is one of our favourite local ski stations, and the road up via Col de la Pierre Carrée (1844m) is the highest pass open during winter near Geneva. But I frankly hadn’t thought it possible to cycle to the very top of the ski slopes.

For details of the great 21 km road-bike climb to Col de la Pierre Carrée see here.

This adventure includes 5 cols, 4 new to me, plus the summit at Les Grandes Platières (2480 metres). I started in Les Carroz. I had mapped out a non-road way to Flaine village – see map. After a couple of kilometres on the main road, I took a right onto a little road that almost instantly becomes a fun cliff stretch. The road then deteriorates, and becomes basically a hiking trail. There is perhaps a half kilometre stretch to Col de la Frete that is just too steep for anyone to cycle. No worries – some bike pushing.

At Col de La Frete the path gets a little easier but remains a combination of riding and pushing until Col du Cou. It’s then just a slightly technical descent on the hiking trail to the little Lac de Flaine.

Lac de Flaine

Lac de Flaine

From the lake, the rest of the route is on roads of some type. First, it is a steep gravel road up to Flaine village. Then the real challenge of the day lay in view. I found myself at the base of the main ski station with the slopes high above me.

View of climb from Col de Pierre Carrée:

I started up the GR (Grande Randonnée) route 96 – basically a gravel service road. Early on, staring up a ski slope, I almost gave up – it seemed an unlikely place to bike. But I told myself to just get to a point above where it looked less steep – and I did. And then, very slowly, I just kept going, and going.

Steep, but at least I can pedal :)

Steep, but at least I can pedal 🙂

All-in-all, I probably cycled 80% of the way up. It is very steep, very hard work, but at least the gravel road is of a type that I rarely slipped and could get a good grip on the road.

I had skied down this stretch so many times with Doreen, and as I got higher, I got happier, and realised I was going to the top. The first big goal, Col de Pelouse (2270 metres), is beautiful. I could glance down into the side valley below and see the remote Lac de Gers.

Lac de Gers below

Lac de Gers below

From here the wind was really blowing, but most of the crazy steep stuff was over. Not much further up I reached Col de Platé (2356 metres). From here I could see over the top of the ski station straight into the face of Mont Blanc. I wandered off the road into the rocks just to take a few photos.

Sheep and Mont Blanc

Sheep and Mont Blanc

From here, it is a not-too-hard straight shot to Les Grandes Platières (2480 metres), the exit point of the big gondola-ski-télécabine. Unfortunately, the top was less than deserted as the télécabine was operating for the August tourists.

Near Summit

Near Summit

I briefly considered descending the other side of the bowl back down to Flaine – I have certainly skied it. But I couldn’t find a road or even a promising trail. So I played it safe and just enjoyed descending the way I had come.

View down fro Col de Pelouse

View down from Col de Pelouse

At Flaine village, instead of doubling back on the hiking trails, I just joined the main road. this meant climbing the easy side of Col de la Pierre Carrée, then a very fun 11 kilometre descent to Les Carroz. Wooohooo.

This was an amazing ride. I have never been this high, this close to Geneva. These were Cols I knew existed but I had thought they were only to be seen with skis on. 🙂

For another slightly crazy mountain bike ride to some high Flaine Cols in another section of the resort see here.

9.5 Awesome

A very, very difficult mountain bike climb up to a magical view of Mont Blanc. Worth the effort.

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Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. Hi Will,

    Nice article. I did this climb last year too (or atleast a variant) I took two bikes to Flaine Forum, Road biked down to the valley base via Cluses then back up from Magaland. I then swapped bikes to the MTB and rode the blue ski run (Serpentine and Grand Balachat) variant as you did (left side looking up to the top)… Albeit it gets steep on the track, the worst section is definately the boulder field at the top!… See my strava logs : http://www.strava.com/activities/68474294 and http://www.strava.com/activities/68474236.. The descents were awesome!!! – Like you I ski here and it was always on my personal goals list… well done! Adam

  2. Pingback: Col de Pierre Carrée (Flaine)

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