The paretFrom yesteryear to today, an ages-old way to slide on snow
Anyone who lives in the Aravis Mountains has seen or ridden a “paret”, a local institution. For those who live beyond the confines of the valley, you have probably asked yourself, “What is that funny-looking, unidentified sliding object?”
The answer is simple: a paret is a small wood sled, designed with a single ski, an inclined plank to sit on, and a handle for turning (or at least trying to).
The paret: a Manigod tradition
A symbol of Manigod, one of the historic villages and family-oriented ski resorts in the Aravis Mountains, the first photo of a paret dates back to 1908. However, a paret apparently made in 1860 was found. It is only natural that the paret originated at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. During this period, for kids living in the area, sliding down the area’s snow-covered pastures made the trip to school much more entertaining.
Once the pure fun of sliding on snow replaced any practical need, the paret became the leisure toy that we all know and love today, and Manigod has no intention of letting go! Parets are passed down from one generation to the next, and to such an extent that it is an integral part of Manigod’s identity. A local club, “Le Paret de Manigod”, makes sure that the paret continues to thrive and organizes the Paret Championship Series every year.
© Association "Le Paret de Manigod"
Paret Championship Series, an annual tradition
The first Paret Championship Series dates back to 1992 and was launched by the Manigod Tourist Office. In 1998, locals created the club, “Le Paret de Manigod”, which took over organizing the championships. Since then, they organize six nighttime races every winter on trails at the La Croix Fry and Merdassier ski areas.
For winter 2022-23, more than 150 competitors have entered the 29th Paret Championship Series. Some people will participate in one or two races, a timed slalom, to compete against the world’s best paret riders. Please note that a prerequisite to participate is to bring your own original paret (made with wood and with a 4cm-wide ski covered with a piece of steel of the same width). Also remember to bring a helmet… top speeds can reach 80km/hr. Extraordinary, just like the area’s mascot, a giant paret.
In addition to the championship series, the Manigod Tourist Office organizes first-time lessons (paret included).
© OT Manigod
Evolution of the paret: the Fabwé
While the fabrication process to make the original paret continues to follow local Aravis artisanal traditions, and to purchase one, only word-of-mouth appears to work, local Haute-Savoyard carpenter Fabrice Favre created his very own paret design that he calls the Fabwé.
Around 2007, in the barn of the carpenter in Balme-de-Thuy where he spent his apprenticeship, Fabrice stumbled upon his very first paret. It was a revelation (and love at first sight)! From then on, it never left Fabrice’s side, whether on the downhill trails in the area, or in the various carpentry workshops where he spent his time.
Around the same period, as a rite of passage, Fabrice’s grandfather gave him his old paret. Proud to receive this piece of history, it reinforced Fabrice’s attachment and respect for the sled-like device. Patented, the Fabwé embodies the spirit of the original paret while integrating several structural improvements. It can be dismantled, the steel edge has been replaced by a wood ski (for one model he uses old alpine skis), it has a shock absorber in the rear, and the redesigned seat is now adjustable. A smaller version is in the works for kids 3 to 7 years old.
The Fabwé allows Fabrice to combine tradition and modernity, contributing in his own way to history, one of a sustainable object that has passed the test of time, a family heirloom handed down from one generation to the next, and which also represents a healthy and respectful way to play in the mountains and the great outdoors.
The paret, inspiring new winter sports
The Yooner, easy gliding
In 2007, the company Yunaska launched the first modern plastic paret. Then the local – and world renowned – pioneer in manufacturing snowshoes, TSL Outdoor, founded in Thônes in the 1980s, took over. They purchased the concept and have been making the now Yooner ever since. This genuine “go-kart on snow” uses technology to provide more maneuverability and shock absorption.
It definitely creates a different snow sliding experience than the original wood paret. Through these improvements, more than 60 ski areas in France now offer dedicated trails for snowsports enthusiasts to enjoy downhill thrills on a Yooner.
The Snooc, a fun ski touring and paret hybrid
Another variation, the Snooc, launched in 2016 after 9 years of product development, offers a modular take on the traditional paret. Available in two versions, the first more accessible Snooc Downhill is easy to transport and offers a fun downhill experience for everyone.
With the second, the Snooc Touring, you ascend like a backcountry skier, then put everything together, sit down, and slide back downhill. This fun way to explore the mountains also offers everyone the chance to try out backcountry skiing (skinning uphill) with an easier, more accessible, and fun option on the descent for kids and families. It can win over the more timid or re-inspire those who decided at some point to stop skiing. Enjoy being out in nature, spending time with others, and the thrill of the descent. One hundred or so resorts authorize use of the Snooc (Le Semnoz, La Clusaz, and Le Grand-Bornand are those closest to Annecy), and the activity continues to grow.
Progressive, Snooc skis come in one length that works for people of all shapes and sizes, whether you are 1.2m or 2m tall, or wear a size 34EU or 48EU shoe; a pair of walking shoes or hiking boots work just fine. Anyone can do it!
© Bastien Taugis
Whether a purist or in search of a modern way to slide on snow, the paret remains an institution and a true source of inspiration for thrill seekers and those who love the freedom of playing outdoors in the mountains in winter.
- © OT Manigod
Journalist: Gaëlle Tagliabue
Translation: Darin Reisman