The weather being bright but very, very cold I decided to give it a go, taking the gondola from Flaine up to Les Grandes Plateires, then down serpentine until I reached the start (above) before heading off into the wilds (below).
But is les cascades right for you? First lets consider its strong points:
- Its great scenery, from Alpine peaks to deserted valleys, then down to wiggle through wild forests
- It's less busy than the main slopes: for about two thirds of the way I was completely on my own, seeing no one at all. When I stopped all I could hear was a solitary bird singing and sometimes the sound of snow falling from a tree hidden in the wood
- You get all types of runs in one, from cross-country, to green, blue and even a little bit of red
- At the end you zoom along a track between trees, across narrow bridges and around the sort of corners that would make Jeremy Clarkson go "orch, orch, orch!"
- You get a real sense of achievement by completing it
- You can reward yourself at the end can get a chocolate chaud for €2.50 rather than the €3.90 at the bar at the top of Les Grandes Platiers
- Afterwards you get to explore the rest of the Grand Massif by heading from Samoens over the top via Grands Vans back to Flaine
- There are four or five very flat bits where you have to walk
- There are no opportunities to stop and escape the cold in a restaurant, you just have to keep going
- The snow at the Sixt end isn't quite as good as in Flaine - a bit icy even, with chunks of ice scattered across the run
- That bit of the run is also narrow with no edges and if you slide off you'd fall down a steep edge
- You will have get a bus from Sixt to Samoens: it's pretty simple and regular (and free!) but that's 20 minutes you're not skiing
- You need to buy a more expensive ski pass to cover both Massif and Flaine
In the end it took me about three and half hours from starting at the top of mountain to finally returning to Flaine the long way round, but that included half an hour or so for lunch.
All in all I'd certainly recommend it: it allows you to ski through amazing scenery along near empty runs and feel you've achieved something.
Les cascades is certainly not your average run: it is indeed a classic.