My New Favourite Winter Sport?


Ski de fond

Believe it or not, I have yet to go cycling in 2009. Don’t worry, I haven’t been too lazy.

I grew up cross-country skiing with my father in Canada. Somehow, I took a 25 year break from the sport. But with the coldest winter in years and icy roads, it seems like the time to restart – and a better option than biking.

And Doreen gave me new skate skis for Christmas! 😉

Better than cycling?

I have been out 5 times. It is truly an amazing workout. Unlike cycling, it uses the upper body and to a lessor degree the torso, making it amazingly simple to get the heart rate exploding.

I am new to skate skiing and it is a lot harder than I expected. But my technique has improved from awful to almost mediocre. Progress.

Here are quick details on three fantastic Cross-Country ski centres all within an hour of Geneva. They are all at altitude and frequently are bathed in sunshine while the Geneva basin is overcast and depressing.

Link to Google Map with all 3 Locations


  • All three places have perfectly signed and groomed routes at every level of difficulty. Green (easy); Blue (medium); Red (difficult), and Black (too hard for Will!).
  • All three locations have extensive, groomed trails for raquettes (snow-shoe), hiking, and walking.
  • All three are at the top of nice cycling climbs – links below
#1 – La Vattay

Doreen - Cross- Country Skiing

Official Site

Access: Jura Mountain just a few kilometres past Col de la Faucille above Gex.

Altitude: 1400 metres

Rentals available: Yes.

This is a huge centre – with about 80 kms of groomed trails.

There are two sections with trails of all levels in each. One part leads to the open plateau on the top of the Juras and actually briefly crosses into Switzerland near La Dole peak. The other follows great trails through woods around Puthod and Col de la Vattay.

Skate skiing is difficult. Private or small-group lessons can be booked at La Vattay with the ESF.

Cycling to Col de la Vattay

#2 – Plateau des Glières

Plateau des Glières

Official Site

Access: Alps – steep road up west side via Thorens-les Glières

Altitude: 1450 metres

Rentals available: Yes.

This is the smallest of the three, with about 25 kms of trails – but perhaps the most beautiful.

The entire Plateau is surrounded by mountains and one of the pistes leads to a Mont Blanc Panorama.

As I have written before, this was a famous base for the French Resistance in World War 2 and there is a huge monument and small hike with signs giving the history.

In winter, you must access the Plateau via the West side via Thorens. This steep road is well cleared/maintained and leads to a large parking lot near the ski center. The East side from Petit Bornand is often ice covered and closed.

Cycling to Col des Glières

#3 Plateau de Retord (Cuvery)

Plateau de Retord

Official Site

Access: Jura Mountains above Bellegarde via Vouvray

Altitude: 1170 metres

Rentals available: Not sure

This is easily the largest of the three with more than 150 kms (!) of groomed trails. It has three entrances at Col de Cuvéry, La Chapelle, or Les Plans d’Hotonnes.

I found even a blue loop here fairly challenging and the Blacks look really difficult.

There is a trail that advertises panoramic views of Mont Blanc – but it was a little overcast the day I was there.

Cycling to Col de Cuvery


Feel free to suggest other good places to Cross Country Ski.


About Author

Happiest while cycling uphill.


  1. That looks like great fun. I did cross country skiing once in Austria when I was 17 (exactly half a life time ago …). BTW: I have to yet get my first ride of 2009 in, too, and I haven’t even got new toys or bad weather to blame. Enjoy the skiing. You’ll have heaps of time to ride once the snow will have melted …

  2. Hi Will, You missed one! Theres a great circuit/s at Margeriaz about an hour away. There’s 4 great circuits – Green 1k, Blue, 3k, Red 6k and a very tough black at 11km. I would recomend it to any cyclist for great upper body work. Get the technique is tricky but its terrific fun.

  3. Quand j’étais jeune (:lol:), j’ai fait du ski de fond à la Combe du lac, au village de Lamoura (Haut-Jura); on peut faire le tour du lac par exemple. Très dur.

    A voir aussi les pistes des Rousses (plus de 200 kilomètres je crois !)

  4. I was completely unaware that there were such good prospects for cross-country skiing around Geneva. Looks terrific! I am rediscovering the sport, but just using the classic break-through-the-brush skis. Apparently skate skiing is more akin to cycling so it will be excellent training for you. I hope someday to reach the level of “only moderately awful” from my current “frightens or entertains other skiers.” And I have signed up for the course “Help on Hills,” for people who do hills by simply falling down them and are tired of this.

  5. Grant (Untamed Adventure) on

    I, too, am discovering skate skiing and starting to really like it. It’s hypnotic, in a way! I just might tackle the Engadine Ski Marathon in March.

    Speaking of Engadine, the Engadine Valley, particularly from Pontresina to Zernez, is just gorgeous for skiing and if you get tired you just hop on the train or bus back to where you started. A bit far from Geneva, though. Ensiedeln in central Switzerland is close enough for a quick day trip from Zurich, and offers lots of sunny trails.

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