Alternatives to downhill winter sports #3

Following on from alternatives #1 and #2 (cross-country skiing and snowshoeing), today I look at the ski ‘resort’ of St Jean de Sixt. “How is that an alternative to downhill winter sports?”, you may ask. It’s a fine line, but I’m willing to prove that it could be considered an alternative.

<Picture of the St Jean de Sixt ski area and interesting old sign>But before I get to that, look at this lovely sign! It’s one of a few dotted around the place and reveals the odd history of the resort. This jerky old drag lift is one of two lifts in the area. The other is a rope tow for beginners, while this one started life closer to the main road to La Clusaz back in 1962. The entire lift was moved to its current position in 1971, and I’m guessing the signs were not updated. This particular sign says that it’s forbidden to ski outside the tracks.

On the day that I went to the resort with a friend, there was only one other customer. He was using the beginner slope, but left soon after, and we had to wait for the man in charge of this longer lift to get back from his lunch break before he cranked it up for the afternoon rush. In fact, we were the afternoon rush. In two hours, nobody else arrived and the lift was due to close soon after!

The pistes from the top include a green, a blue and even a red. They’re all very short but lots of fun. My friend even tried a tree run through the dense forest with some success. Who knew there was off-piste right here in St Jean de Sixt? There’s even a whole web page devoted to the resort, including a map and lots of photos.

So, why am I classing this place as an alternative to downhill winter sports? Because getting down isn’t the challenge at all: this drag lift —with a 62° slope half way up, a jumpy cable that sends you flying a few times during the ride up, and a flat section that means you have to leave the tracks despite the sign demanding you don’t — is the real sport. And so, I’m classing the ride on the drag lift as an alternative to downhill winter sports.


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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3 comments on “Alternatives to downhill winter sports #3
  1. Steph says:

    Oh boy, that drag lift is as old as me. No wonder it’s dodgy!

  2. Wendy says:

    Haha! I just hope you don’t walk around with an “Interdit de slalomer” sign around your neck…!

  3. Christine says:

    Just don’t try it on a Sat pm Wen or you will have all of the St Jean ski school Oursons, Flocons and Premier Etoiles there. That makes getting down a whole different level of risk! Watch out for flying 5yos with a high tolerance for speed, superball like tendancy when crashing (bounce back even higher), low centre of gravity and limited interest in looking out for others. They love the start on the teleski by the way as for most of them it actually lifts them off the ground at the start. Just like a fun fair, but with season’s passes 8euro, truly a cheap thrill!

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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