PRESS INFO June 2019




Summer in the French Pyrenees – including the Pyrenees- Atlantiques; the Hautes-Pyrenees; the Haute-Garonne; the Ariege-Pyrenees; the Aude and the Pyrenees-Orientales.


Here are a few highlights of Summer 2019 from each department.



The Ariege Pyrenees is home to the incredible Prehistoric Cave, the Grotte de Niaux which sits within the Parc de la Prehistoire in Tarascon-sur-Ariege. This park, come museum offers workshops, presentations and hands on experiences where visitors can learn to hunt, to paint on walls, to carve flint, to light fire as they did 14,000 years. The newly lit ‘Grand Atelier’ museum space of 2,500m2 showcases the ‘Giants of the Ice Age’. Take a tour in to the Grotte de Niaux and discover the Salon Noir with its preserved paintings. www.sites-touristiques-


The Château de Foix – a huge renovation, inside and out over a 6 month project and 8 million+ investment. Inside the castle, the large ceremonial room, the weapons room etc. Every room has been made even more realistic. At the foot of the castle, a brand new 2000m2 museum space has been created. Guests can take workshops to learn how to handle weapons used in war, to forge, to cut stone or to operate huge machinery used in warand construction.


Watersport Fun – Waterski in Mercus

A suspended cable tows eight water- skiers at the same time on a 760m course. Beginners can start with kneel boarding before moving on to classic waterskis, mono-ski or wake-board and then the jumps and tricks. This nautical base also offers: pedalo paddle boats, paddleboards, beach, beach volleyball, children’s games. Open: mid-June to early September, 7days/week from 13h30 to 19h30. Rates: Ski lift 14 € per hour. Pedalo and stand up paddle 12 € New! Paddle XXL: Package of 25 €for 1 to 8 people.


New Summer Sledging in Guzet

The Guzet Express is one of the longest luge rides in Europe at 1.6 km with a vertical drop of 357 meters. The departure is at 1,700 meters above sea level after a superb ascent by chairlift. A great fun toboggan mounted on metal rail.


On Your Bike: Tour de France – 21 July

The Tour will get the best mountain views as it crosses the Ariege Pyrenees on ‘the road of the castles’ on 21st July 2019. Riders will leave Limoux to join the mountains of Foix Au Prat D’albis. Located 1200 m above sea level, this site of pastoralism, hiking and paragliding, the Prat d’Albis will for the fisrt time, host this Great Loop. Local organizers are committed to preserving the natural site. Montségur, Roquefixade, Miglos, Montreal de Sos will be the backdrop to this 15th stage. tour-de-france-arrive-au-prat-d-albis-a-foix-1302296





Skyvall, is a new gondola, part of a 30 million euro development, linking Loudenvielle in the Louron Valley to the mountain village of Peyragudes. Peyragudes resort sits at 1,600 meters for biking and hiking in summer and ski in/out village in winter. This 3 km link with a 650 m vertical drop is part of a plan to create a year round destination and reduce CO2 pollution on the road up to Peyragudes. Also new for December 2019 is the opening of a 4* Residence alongside the base of the new lift.



Sleep in a Moontain Bubble

Enjoy a wonderful off grid experience under the stars from just 100 euros per night for a Bubble sleeping 2 people with mini fridge, eco shower and facilities, bedding, and stunning views of the French Pyrenees being 650m above sea level. Enjoy breakfast on the 65m2 terrace.The closest market village of Argeles Gazost has a weekly market in the town centre for fresh supplies.



Pyrenees Cyclin’Trip – Follow in the footsteps of the Tour de France racers, cycling to your heart’s content in complete safety on the cyclist-only mountain passes in the Hautes-Pyrenees on this new bike event which takes place from 30 July – 2 August and covers 108km of ascent. The legendary mountain passes will be closed to motorised traffic and reserved for cyclists in the morning, with no charges, no restrictions, no registration, no rankings and no start or finish.






Experience a Pyrenees Road Trip -The Hautes-Pyrenees, France in association with Huesca, Spain, has introduced a series of 3, 4 or 7 day Road Trip itineraries taking in some of the most iconic landmarks in the Pyrenees as well as routes linking the French and Spanish borders. The Family specific itinerary includes some of the best of family activities in the Hautes-Pyrenees. trip/SEJMIP065V5021BB


 At 2877m of altitude, for 140 years the Pic du Midi has been at centre of astronomy, space research and also holds the highest planetarium in Europe. With its 12m ‘Pontoon in the sky’ it offers one of the most beautiful views of the Pyrénées and guests can descent by mountain bike in the summer or stay for a night near the stars and enjoy a meal in the new restaurant ‘Le 2877’. In winter the descent rivals the best in the Alps for freeride and off piste. 



Discover the Félix Trombe /Henne Morte cave network, one of the great French networks of underground caves, in the Massif de Arbas in Haute Garonne. Explore over 116km tunnels underground –Easy access for families to the caves with



One yurt and a donkey: If you are looking for a holiday in the mountains, combining comfort and hiking, stay in a yurt camp and hike every day with your own donkey. In addition to escape in to nature, with your donkey, have time and freedom to go down to the village to shop, brush and feed the donkey, feed etc. Ideal for families with young children. Local donkeys are used from one day to several day trips. Donkeys accompany you along your route to carry your belongings and / or children in case of fatigue. Cost from 50 euros per night and per day with a donkey hike. They are also instrumental in the breeding and reintroduction of donkeys in the Pyrenees.


By air – Take the 500m cable car which runs from the town of from Luchon to Superbagneres and enjoy the new restaurant inside the chapel. Whilst there take a parapent for the ultimate view of the Pyrenees.

Stunning views of Lake Oô , Lake Espiau, Perdiguère peak, Port of Venasque. Local guide Thomas Charlès will fly with you in a 30 minute flight, let you have a try at steering and give yourself an adrenalin fix. Suitable from 5years+. To book: +33 06 17 39 61 45



Luchon Flower Festival –the thermal spa town of Luchon celebrates 120 years of the flower festival from August 22-25. One of the most colourful festivals of the Hautes-Garonne. Fabulous parade, bands in the streets, celebratory fayre in the village. luchon/tabid/41908/offreid/60116323-ab9d-4acb-837b-57645ac88903/detail.aspx


Medieval city of Saint Bertrand de Comminges Discover the beautiful, hill top ancient Roman city, still being discovered by archaeologists. Take the guest train up to the peak and explore the old narrow streets, look out over the valley from the remains of the Roman amphitheatre. Situated on the Way of St James (Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route), the UNESCO Sainte Marie cathedral dominates the village, with its Roman and Gothic styles alongside the pretty 15th Century village houses.




The Little Yellow Train ‘Le Train Jaune’ runs for 63km on a narrow guage railway from Villefranche-de-Conflent to the Spanish border at Latour de Carol, the highest railway station in France. Enjoy a journey through the Pyrenees and marvel at the engineering, over viaducts, across mountain gorges, and mostly in the original carriages introduced in the early 1900s. The line rises through dramatic scenery from an altitude of 427 metres at its lower terminus at Villefranche de Conflent, to a summit at Bolquère Eyne, at an altitude of 1592 metres (5226 ft) above sea level. From £12 one way



There are seven mountain resorts across the mountain range in the Pyrenees –Orientale: Cambre d’Aze, Font- Romeu Pyrenees 2000, Les Angles, Porte Puymorens, Formiguères, La Quillane and La Station Nordique du Capcir, situated between 1500  and 2700m. In winter they form the ski areas of the Catalan Pyrenees and in the summer a haven for bikers, walkers and guests who want to discover the mountains of the southern Pyrenees. There are more than 60 lakes between 1800 and 2500 m above sea level (1485ha of water) including the lakes of: Lanoux, Bouillouses, Puyvalador, Matemale, Vinça, Caramany and Villeneuve de la Raho.


The Abbey of Saint Martin du Canigou is perched high up on a rocky pinnacle in the heart of the massif of Mt. Canigou. This Romanesque Abbey, built in 1009, over a thousand years old, is at the end of a 1600m long path which starts in the village of Casteil and winds up 300m. Enjoy spectacular views and a spiritual experience.


Odeillo, the largest solar oven in the world, built in 1969 by Felix Trombe, consisting of a field of 10,000 mirrors, mounted on terraces on the surrounding hillside, which bounce the sun’s rays onto a large concave mirror. The solar energy can produce temperatures in excess of 3200 degrees Centigrade, unique in the world. The location was chosen due to the air quality and the fact that the region boasts approximately 300 sunny days per year.


St Thomas, Llo Baths and Dorres thermal baths- As with all the destinations in the French Pyrenees, spas play a hugely important role. In the Pyrenees-Orientale the thermal water of St Thomas is one of the hottest in

the Pyrenees. Discover the three pools and the vast stone amphitheatre with breath-taking views of the mountains! Jacuzzis, steam rooms, massage jets. Rich in sulphur and minerals, the waters of the Llo Baths are known for treating rheumatism and preventing stress. Immerse yourself in one of the three pools and discover the pleasure and pleasure of outdoor baths. Inside, the two pools and the spa area offer a fitness trail and equipment to relieve sore muscles. Relax in the small pool around Dorres at 1450 m altitude with Cambre d’Azeand Puigmal as a backdrop. chaudes-sulfureuses




The Aude stretches from the Mediterranean to the mountains of the French Pyrenees.


The only winter sports resort in Aude, Camurac occupies the hills of the Sault country, where forests of beech and fir tree give way in winter to skiers. Dominated by the peaks of St Barthélémy and Soularac at 2,348 meters, this is a beautiful unspoilt family resort (1,600-1,800m). area_TFOLOILAR011FS0001D.php


Villeneuve-Minervois, is the indisputable mecca of truffle production. Guests visiting the truffle museum, can fully immerse themselves in the history, harvesting and landscape of the truffle. Discover all the secrets of the ‘Black Diamond’. Organised by the Association des Trufficulteurs Audois, truffle markets take place on Saturday mornings, once a month, from December to February. Truffles are harvested in the three Aude communes, including Moussoulens and Villeneuve-Minervois.


Wine is hugely important to the Aude, the richness of the soil and mixed climate offers the perfect wine growing climate. Look out for: AOP Cabardes, AOP Malepere,La Blanquette et le Crémant de Limoux, AOP Minervois, AOP Fitou, AOP Corbières et Boutenac. Take a wine tour of Corbieres and Fitou vineyards in a 2CV:


Mountain Bike the Black Mountain: The Black Mountain, southern balcony of the Cevennes is a mountain range located at the southwestern end of the The Massif Central. It separates the departments of Tarn, Hérault, Aude and Haute-Garonne. From the foot of the ‘Montagne Noire’ through the scrubland to the first forests of the mountain, enjoy a range of mountain bike trails. Through gorges dug in the limestone or shales, enjoy incredible views of the chain of Pyrenees. At the end of the trail wind through the “Capitelles”, shepherd’s shelters built in dry stone.


Hike in in Haute Vallée de l’Aude, along the Aude River which gave its name to the department and offers North to South, from Limoux to Axat, a mix of landscapes between the vineyard hills and the Pyrenean mountains. At the foot of the Pyrenees, when hiking, discover the authentic villages of the Haute Valley of the Aude, incredible landscapes: gorges, golden vineyards, the forest shade, and green rolling hills. Hiking on the trails of the Pyrenees Audoises guests will discover breathtaking views with, for example, the Pic de l’Ourtiset or the Forêt d’En Malo, rich historical heritage with the Château de Puilaurens and Chateau de Puivert, passing through the Labyrinthe Vert or la Route des Sapins.




The Train d’Artouste
is the highest train in Europe at an altitude of 2000 metres with beautiful landscapes and an exceptional panorama. The ascent by telecabin gradually reveals the Ossau Mountain and the territory of the Pyrénées National Park. The journey on board the train gives a breathtaking view on the Soussouéou Valley before discovering the outstanding Artouste Lake.This 10km route was originally built in 1924, a service cable car was built on the sides of the peak of the sagette and then a single 50 cm railway track. With a purely industrial intention, the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer used the narrow gauge track to transport men and equipment for the construction site of the Artouste Lake dam. Over 8 years dam and pipe network was built. Now, Artouste Lake is a water reserve of 24 million m2 of. Since 1932, the Artouste site has been open to the public and the train transports thousands of passengers every summer. Departure from Fabrège, 15 min telecabine, then 55-minute train ride to the arrival station. The Artouste Lake is 20 minute walk from the station.


Climb the Pyrenean Cols: Col d’Aubisque, Col de Marie Blanque or Col du Pourtalet, three mythical cols from the Tour de France – measure yourself against the cycling legends of the TdF : Froome, Contador, Quintana, Hinaud, Indurain, Jalabert, Virenque. Enjoy three different routes, each followed by a visit to the “Spa Montagne”, where recovery massage and spa facilities are offered. Accommodation provided by “Green Bike Pyrenees” in Louvie Jouzon: safe storage for bikes, bike workshop with tools, nutritional breakfast, cycling local routes with advice and local maps to consult on site, relaxation terrace. From 319 euros B&B 3 nights Info:


The underground world of La Verna: In Pierre-Saint-Martin, this underground cave, discovered in 1953 is the third largest in the world open to the public. Mecca for geologists, this limestone cave and the natural vaults of the hall offer huge dimensions: 250 meters in diameter and 190 meters in height, an area of 5 hectares. Follow a 660m tunnel before discovering the cave. Torchlit only to preserve its environment.


Horse Riding on the Bénou Plateau where there are walks and hikes for everyone: donkeys, ponies, larger horses for all abilities. By the Bious-Artigues Lake, at the foot of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau take a ride through the heart of the Pyrenees National Park. Lakeside walks, longer 1-2hour hikes or the whole day(towards the Ayous Lakes) or even stay overnight by bivouac and enjoy a few days of horse riding. http://travel-ossau-


The thermal water of Salies-de-Béarn is 10 times saltier than sea water. In a beautiful listed building in the Moorish Hispano style, the thermal spa of Salies-de-Bearn offers a brand new concept. www.thermes-de-



And finally..for cheese lovers, the Cheese fair , ‘Foire au Fromage’ is being hosted in Laruns from 5-6 October:


ENDS: For further press information and images please contact Vanessa Fisher PR on +44 7957 618525



Image: Oakley Park c Matthiew Pinaud

The French Pyrenees have received regular fresh snow top-ups over the last two weeks building on an already excellent snow base setting them up for excellent conditions for their final few weeks of the season and spring events.

Below are a selection of ski holiday offers for March and April:

Zenith Holidays in St Lary – Departs 17 March

Zenith Holidays offer 7 nights in the Cami Real apartments from 17 March from £163pp, sleeps 4. Flights available from £50 from London Stanstead.

These excellent spacious apartments are in the centre of the Pyrenean village of Saint Lary Soulan in the Hautes-Pyrenees. Sensoria, the resorts thermal baths are just a short walk away through the garden of the residence. The main gondola up to the skiing at Pla d’Adet and beyond is a 100m from the Residence. St Lary has a lovely collection of shops and restaurants with plenty of Spanish influence in the local tapas bars lining the streets.

Big Break St Lary – 11-30 March

Book direct with St Lary between 11th and 30th March for any 3 days and get the 4th night for free. Just 175€ for four nights including a lift pass.


Ski Weekends in Ax les Thermes – Departs 22 March

Spend 4 nights in Ax les Thermes in the 3* Hotel la Grand Cordee B&B including flights and from £382pp (2 sharing).  . For in-resort offers on lift passes from 19 March to the end of the season:

Ax les Thermes in the Ariege region of the French Pyrenees, just 1.5 hrs from Toulouse is an historic village based around its thermal waters. Guests can visit the Bains du Couloubret spa or soak their feet in the thermal open air foot spa at the base of the gondola. Ski Ax 3 Domaines with its three sectors, Bonascre, Saquet and Campels and skiing from 1400m up to 2400m. Over the closing Easter weekend March 31 and April 1st, a Snow Bike festival closes the season with MTB/Dirt bikes, enduro and races for all ages.


Erna Low in Cauterets Save 15% and 20% Departs 31 March

A family of four can stay 7 nights from in the Residence Balneo-Aladin in Cauterets, WAS £408, NOW £327 saving 20% or stay in a 7 person apartment, WAS £652, NOW £522 saving 15%.

The Residence Baleno Aladin has a great location in the centre of Cauterets, 100m from the gondola taking skiers straight up to the ski area and 150m from the resort spa centre. Guests have  free access to the Espace Balnéo Aladin spa centre which covers 800m² and includes 5 pools heated to 32° with water jets and hot tubs, steam room and sauna.  Children from 3 to 13 years have a 3-storey play structure, games consoles, a mini cinema and a relaxation area for parents.



Pierre et Vacances in Grand Tourmalet Save 30% Departs 7 April

Pierre et Vacances offer 7 nights at the Residence Mer et Golf Pic du Midi  rom £357 per apartment that sleeps two people (down from £509, saving 30%)

Grand Tourmalet is made up of the two villages Bareges and La Mongie with the largest ski area in the French Pyrenees. La Mongie is ski in-out with the cable car access to Pic du Midi and Bareges and old French town with tree lined skiing from the Tournaboup area. Both areas have spas using the local thermal waters.


Ski France in Peyragudes – Save 10% 17-24 March and Free Children

Ski France offer an apartment sleeping up to 4 people from 31 March from £319 in the Residence Les Adrets de Peyragudes plus children ski for free with every adult ski pass purchased.

Peyragudes is a modern ski resort with ski in ski out accommodation perched on the side of the mountain in the Hautes-Pyrenees region of the French Pyrenees. Guests can enjoy an indoor pool at the Les Adrets de Peyragudes residence or take a short drive/transfer down to the village of Loudenvielle where they can enjoy the Balnea spa. The French Snowboard Championships weekend takes place over the closing Easter weekend.


Les Angles 30% off Lift passes and reduced Packages

Les Angles is offering 30% off lift passes booked from 17 March to the end of the season.

So a six day adult lift pass  165€ instead of 195€ [child 12 yrs & under 148€  instead of 175€)

Les Angles old village Is at the foot of the slopes, and it has managed to retain its authentic character whilst at the same time providing facilities of a modern ski resort. It is the only resort in the Pyrenees where the ski slopes end in the old village itself. The ski area has 55km  with an altitude drop of 800m. With skiing up to 2,400m it  is one of the largest ski areas in the Pyrenees-Orientales.



“Le Rendez Vous” EVENT 20& 21 April Cauterets

300 amateur and professional freestyle riders descend on Cauterets for the closing weekend. The Oakley snowpark  at the foot of the ski area will be open for photos and video shoots to get the best of the action from the event. DJs are on site and the “Winter Closing” party is held in Cauterets village at the Royalty Café.

Cauterets spring information can be found at including ‘Free skiing for children’ between 8 and 21 April (with an adult lift pass).


Oakley Park c Matthiew Pinaud


For Press Information and images: please contact +44 7957 618525


Snow Depths and Closing Dates:

2 April: Ax-3 Domaines/Peyragudes/St Lary

8 April: Grand Tourmalet – Pic du Midi/Les Angles               22 April: Cauterets

Snow depths: lower/upper

Ax 3 Domaines 160/240cm                                                         Cauterets 270/320cm

Grand Tourmalet -Pic du Midi -130/170cm                                             Les Angles 150/180cm

Peyragudes 110/200cm                                                                 Saint Lary 150/230cm

NEW Pyrenees Road Trips – Drive, Mountains and Spas: Five New Itineraries for 2017

NEW Pyrenees Road Trips – Drive, Mountains and Spas: Five New Itineraries for 2017

Download the Original PDF HERE

New from the Hautes-Pyrenees, France in association with Huesca*, Spain, is a series of 3, 4 or 7 day Road Trip itineraries taking in some of the most iconic landmarks in the Pyrenees as well as routes linking the French and Spanish borders.


With these itineraries taking you from France into Spain and back, the Road Trip Pyrenees hopes to evoke the spirit of adventure that other famous routes such as the Route 66, the Silk route, the trans-Amazonian highway have created. The Road Trip offers a super highway to exceptional places of magnificent spectacular scenery, for unique experiences and long lasting memories.


Combining some of the key sites of the Pyrenees including: Lourdes, Cirque de Gavarnie, Pic du Midi, Parc National des Pyrénées, Parc National de Ordesa and Monte Perdido, Le Grand Canyon d’Ordesa, Cañon de Añisclo, The Trou du Toro/Forau de Aigualllets and The Aneto – the itineraries covering over 25% of the Pyrenees massif.


Isabelle Pelieu, Director of HPTE* comments, “Our region is made for ‘Road Trips’! We have launched these five new itineraries three of which include routes crossing the border between France and Spain. We are excited to be working with our partner region Huesca and hope this new ’road trip concept’ will be a popular choice for tourists to the region. They are available to anyone for nine out of twelve months of the year.”


Choose a road trip and experience some of the following:

  • 2 COUNTRIES (France and Spain)
  • 3 WORLD HERITAGE SITES – Gavarnie & Ordesa – either side of the same mountain
  • 4 GRAND SITES MIDI-PYRENEES : Pic du Midi, Gavarnie, Cauterets / Pont d’Espagne, Lourdes…
  • 8  CLASSIC TOUR DE FRANCE COLS : Col de Peyresourde, Col de Val Louron-Azet, Col du Tourmalet, Col du Soulor, Col du Pourtalet, Coll de Fadas, Coll de Espina, Col du Portillon
  • 13 LAKES


Each itinerary comes with precise daily information of the required driving route including maps for each day with distance and time of travel by car all detailed.  All accommodation is booked for each of the itineraries through the boutique agency .


A new ‘road book’ detailing all the itineraries is also available in print and provided for each road trip booking. The road book details, besides route information, ideas for walks, great restaurants, activities, sites to visit, not-to-be-missed panoramas and suggestions for exploring off the beaten track.


Example Road Trips:


The Grand Tour – 7 day road trip -3 nights in Spain- from 501 € /person based on 2 people

An example of a seven day itinerary takes in the French- Spanish border, the biggest and best scenery in the Pyrenees: the highest peak, spectacular canyons and grandiose cirques which are World Heritage sites, the mystery of Lourdes, the highest Observatory in Europe in the clearest of skies – the Pic du Midi with access by cable car to just under 3000m


Intense pleasures of the Pyrenees – 3 day driving circuit  from 278 € /person based on 2 people

3 days/3 nights in B&B, staying in Saint-Lary, Gavarnie, Lourdes,  1 ‘Grands Sites’ pass to the Pic du Midi (access to summit by cable car) + Cauterets-Pont d’Espagne (parking, cable-car ride from Puntas and chairlift to Lac de Gaube), 1 entry (2h) to two spa centres of the Hautes-Pyrenees: Balnéa and Les Bains du Rocher spa.


Notes (see attached full pdf version)
From the UK there are easy options to access the French Pyrenees
Lourdes Pyrenees airport: 4 flights a week from London Stansted with Ryanair
  •  Biarritz airport (Biarritz- Lourdes: 1h50 by car): 1 daily flight from London Gatwick with EasyJet / 1 daily flight from London Stansted with Ryanair
  •  Toulouse airport (Toulouse- Lourdes: 1h50 by car): daily flights from London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham airports by many airlines
*The Pyrenees-Trip Project combines the Tourist Development Agency of Hautes-Pyrénées (HPTE) and TUHUESCA, its Spanish counterpart acting on the Region of Huesca.
The project has been co-funded 65% by the «  Fonds Européen de Développement Régional ( FEDER) through the Program INTERREG V-A Spain, France, Andorra , (POCTEFA 2014-2020).The aim of POCTEFA is to strengthen the economic and social integration of the border territory between Spain-France-Andorra.
Its assistance is focused on the development of cross-border economic, social and environmental activities through joint strategies that promote the sustainable development of the territory.

For further itinerary examples, images or information please contact: Vanessa Fisher, Hautes-Pyrenees UK PR, 07957 618525

Easter Skiing in the French Pyrenees

Easter Skiing in the French Pyrenees

Published on Planet Ski Website

We started with 30cm of fresh powder & ended touring the religious shrines of Lourdes on Good Friday. Plus had some great Spring skiing in between.

It’s been more than 15 years since I last skied in the resorts of Bareges and La Monjie that make up the 100km ski area of the Grand Tourmalet.

Much has changed. And yet little has changed.

There have been many new lifts with more to come as PlanetSKI reported earlier, but it still retains an authentic and original Pyrenees feeling.

There are good value flights to Lourdes and an equally well-priced apartment in the village of Bareges – I booked through the same tour operator I had travelled with 15 years ago, Borderline Holidays.

As the week progressed more of the slopes closed down under blazing sunshine and blue skies, but each day we had enough snow.

There was the short black run, Coupe du Monde, a challenge for our youngest son Zac aged 8.

From there we accessed the fast red runs above La Mongie – pit-stopping at the Igloo bar in the ski-in-out village for crepes and coffee mid morning.

French Pyrenees

We found a perfect picnic spot in the rocks to the side of the main piste on several of our days.

Perfect picnic spot on the rocks

A new restaurant opened in February, ‘Chalet des Pisteurs’ – playing funky but mellow dance music and with a huge terrace perched literally on a huge rock above the top of the Pourteilh chair.

Chalet des Pisteurs – perched on a rock


One morning we booked in for ‘premier traces’.

Our ski patroller, Bernard, told us sometimes they get to ski powder on these early starts but of course, at 8am in mid April, we had ear-deafening ice to screech down.

Early morning ski with our ski patroller, Bernard

Early start with the ski patollers

No matter as watching the sun kiss the top of the mountains as it rose, was beautiful.

A highlight of the trip.

Sun kissed mountain – French Pyrenees

The Espade blue slope in to the main bowl hitting perfection in terms of condition just after 9am.

French Pyrenees – April 2017

Yours Truly – French Pyrenees – April

All too soon our week of Easter family fun was over.

With only a 40 minute drive to Lourdes we decided to pay a visit to the religious shrine.

We took the 100 year old Pic du Jer funicular above Lourdes for the 360 panoramic views of the area.

We speed hiked to the summit with its huge cross, followed by a flying visit of the medieval castle.

Pic du Jer funicular above Lourdes

Climbing the 104 steps up the tower offers great views over to the main church.

Many spaces in the castle now feature museum-style rooms showing displays of the Pyrenean past.

We all loved the old ‘latrines’, simple slats high up in the rock and the ‘drop-box’ through which boiling oil or molten lead would be tipped on to the enemy below.

My daughter has been learning about Bernadette’s vision of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes at school, so a visit to the famous grotto was imperative.

Followed by a quick peek in to the huge underground basilica.

We must have watched 50+ wheel chairs process in for the Good Friday service.

Even if you are not religious the place feels serene and being out of the busy summer months, it was not too busy.

Lourdes, French Pyrenees – April 2017

Taking off from Tarbes-Lourdes airport after a week of skiing and a taste of culture, and skiing to almost to the last day of the winter season, felt all the sweeter for being booked so last minute.

We had managed to squeeze in one week skiing before the Grand Tourmalet closes on Easter Bank Holiday Monday.

I was hoping to ski the Pic du Midi on this visit.

It is a huge off piste and freeride area that the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, has skied a few times and he highly recommends it.

It wasn’t an option for skiing on my previous visit in 2002/03, and it wasn’t an option this time with a young family in tow as the snow-free walk out at the top was too long to subject the family to.

But skiing the Pic du Midi is the one I’m coming back for.


With thanks to Intersport for ski rental.

Book Winter Breaks to the French Pyrenees with Erna Low >>

Book Winter Breaks to the French Pyrenees with Ski Weekends >>

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.


Discovering the Pyrenees

Discovering the Pyrenees

From wild hot springs to fresh tracks, Vanessa finds a new family skiing favourite in the French Pyrenees

Published on Maddog Ski –

It is not always easy to choose a ski resort for the busiest week of the season – February Half Term. I was seriously worried that I had messed up. Not only had I chosen quite a small ski resort in the Pyrenees with only one main access point – a gondola – but also a resort whose closest city – Toulouse – was on the same February holiday period.

I’d envisioned long queues in the morning and packed terraces at lunchtime. As it turned out the worst queue was off the mountain, but I’ll come back to that!

Toulouse is just 1.5hrs from the town of Ax les Thermes in the French Pyrenees. Locals commute to Ax by train as the station is in the town centre, and over 800 people each weekend day arrive this way. However, we wanted to have the flexibility of a car so had rented a vehicle for our stay.

In an endeavour to be first in the lift queue, we breakfasted early only to be told by one of the hotel staff that all the lifts were shut due to high winds.

I’d heard of Ascou, a smaller local ski area reported to be open, but with fears of that being packed, on recommendation of the Tourist Office, we headed for the Col du Chioula for some cross-country skiing.


Tickets purchased and kit rented we spent a few minutes on the flat area getting to grips with the little, lightweight narrow skis and the soft boots. It’s over 15 years since I last tried cross-country skiing in Kimberley, BC and I had forgotten everything.

The front of the cross-country ski boots simply clip in to a toe piece on the ski. Our little group of seven (four children) were keen to get moving up the ‘green trail’. Following narrow cross-country tracks in the snow, we made good progress uphill, your heel lifts and helps to push and glide the skis along. Slightly longer ski poles with angled baskets are helpful for keeping the uphill momentum.

The downhill sections proved trickier for me, cue laughter from everyone, a lot of tumbles from me and a close encounter with a friend who decided he should fall over rather than be pushed.

Pyrenees ski - cross country

After lunch I was persuaded to try again and this time we all conquered the longer ‘blue trail’. Opening up stunning panoramas across the Pyrenees, we headed up to 1600m. We felt so lucky to have had bad weather to give us all this experience. The children loved it; my youngest, just 8 years old, needed a bit of a ‘tow’ up the longer, uphill sections, but the downhill they mastered much more quickly than I did.


Day 2 and 90mph winds still blowing, we decided to find the ‘secret hot springs’, which a friend had told me about. Not promoted by the region, they are tucked away on the GR10, the main hiking route that spans the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean.

After a 15-minute uphill hike we found them. All prepared with swimming costumes under our ski clothes, it didn’t take us long to submerge ourselves in the toasty sulphuric water. It was warm, not super-hot, and quite smelly (!) but on extracting ourselves suddenly the water felt a whole lot hotter! There are three small pools literally on the side of the mountain – an incredible experience to find them and one we will remember forever.


Finally we made it up to Ax. Overnight the winds had dropped leaving a drizzly morning that we knew was forecast to clear. There were no queues, so we hopped straight on the access gondola up to Bonascre – one of the three main areas of Ax 3 Domaines. From Bonascre we took the high-speed six chair ‘Lievre Blanc’, and then the ‘Tute’ six-man, and were treated to about half a foot of fresh snow. The early birds definitely catch the powder – although we managed to find fresh tracks across the whole area all day, and even on our second day there was still fresh snow to be found through the trees.

Pyrenees ski

The ski area was busy, as expected, with a couple of bottlenecks at the Rebenty chair and the two-man ‘Savis’. With 25 million+ euros being invested in the next three years though, these queues will ease with the replacement of these slower chairs and with it the creation of several new runs. We discovered restaurant ‘Le Louzat’ – a fabulous spot for lunch tucked away in the woods, arriving early to get a table on the terrace.


We decided to head up to Ascou for our last ski day on the recommendation of a local friend. She said it is a special place, quiet and with runs through the forest. She was right. Just a twenty-minute drive from Ax – les -Thermes, Ascou-Pailheres sits just off the road up to the Col du Pailheres (closed in winter). There are only 15km of slopes and seven lifts, but for a day we loved it. The beginners’ area was very busy but on the higher draglifts we had the slopes almost to ourselves, not bad for the busiest week of the season!

Pyrenees ski

The runs cut through the forest and feel a little like some of the smaller Canadian resorts I have skied in. Lots of small off-piste sections you can cut through and just one base café but with excellent coffee. The terrace overlooks the beginner ski area and we enjoyed a peaceful coffee in the sunshine while the children skied the beginner button lifts and little Fun Park.


We all loved discovering this area of the French Pyrenees and having a car rental meant we could explore Chioula and Ascou as well as skiing the main ski area at Ax 3 Domaines.  We tried to get in to the recreational spa after skiing – Les Bains du Couloubret, but this was where the real queues were.

After a 30-minute wait and no progress we decided to stick with the natural foot spa in the centre of the town. Each evening this becomes a focal point for people to sit and chat – we all loved it, the naturally occurring sulphuric water coming out at 77 degrees.

The town of Ax originated in approx. 800AD with the old hospital and foot spa alongside dating back to the 1200s. Spa tourism thrived during the 19th Century. Ax-les-Thermes is a town full of history with its narrow old streets to discover and quaint bars and restaurants.


For further information on the ski area visit For packages to Ax 3 Domaines try Ski Weekends. With thanks to Intersport for ski rental.