The ski resort of Barèges-La Mongie is the largest ski area in the French Pyrenees. It is situated in the Pays Toy area of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Pyrénées region (South of Lourdes). It is also known as the Domaine Du Tourmalet ski domain. The lift-served area extends from 1400 metres to 2500 metres. There are 100 km of lift served runs, and acres of unexploited space between the pistes for easy-access off-piste. The classic 'Aygues Cluses' off-piste route, from the highest lift, crosses spectacular scenery in the Neouvielle Nature Reserve. There are several legendary descents from the Pic du Midi observatory cable car, which is now open to off-piste skiers. The resort is also a favourite for free-style skiers and boarders (the resort's snowpark has been extended this year). Ski touring in the Pyrenees National Park is becoming more and more popular as refuges are now starting to open in the Spring. With marked routes following the Summer walking paths (including the Pyrenean 'Haute Route'), the mountains are easily accessible for touring whilst retaining the untouched beauty for which the Pyrenean wilderness is so renowned.
Barèges is the second oldest ski resort in France, originally becoming popular as a military training centre based around the barracks and the thermal baths. The funiculaire train from the village was opened in 1936, establishing the resort as a destination for tourist skiers. Many of the original Winter Olympic champions were from Barèges and the Pyrenees. Barèges was linked to the resort of La Mongie in 1973 to make the largest ski area in the French Pyrenees.
Barèges: Caoubere From the top of the fast 6-man chair 'Caoubere' from Tournaboup, cut sharply back on yourself and traverse back in the direction of the chair. The route is an old red-piste which descends back to the Tournaboup reception area. Follow the natural gulley to the South of the chair rather than cutting North where the slope is usually avalanched. The area several hundred metres beyond the gulley is also known to avalanche occasionally.
La Mongie: Aygues Cluses Take the bubble lift and 2-man chair to the top of the 'Quatre Termes' blue run. From the chair you can see a narrow break in the cliff which bounds the valley to the South. The gulley can be climbed on foot, and the route passes beneath a chocked stone. Its worth checking with the Quatre Termes lift monitor to see if the route is safe and for the best time to travel. From the top of the Breche, down-climb around five metres then ski a short, steep apron to more level ground. Follow the valley West, gradually losing height and entering the trees. The route follows a narrow stream in the valley bottom. The final section requires some punting. Rejoin the resort South of Tournaboup and descend to the green piste in the valley bottom or stay high and traverse around (there may be avalanche debris on this route). Route-finding may be tricky unless there are tracks to follow. The local ski school offers off-piste guiding.
La Mongie: Pic du Midi The Pic du Midi cable car is now open to skiers, but you must be accompanied by a qualified guide. The South-face route is quite easy (hard blue run standard) and descends from the Pic to join the top of the Toue blue run. The North face is technical and requires a short abseil.
La Mongie: Coumelounque Take one of the twin drag lifts from above the Col du Tourmalet. From here, a short climb North and around a spur allows access to the 'Coume de Sencours' valley. The descent takes you to the village of Artigues, from where you will need a taxi to return to the resort at La Mongie.
Further Information: La Mongie Off Piste
Nearest Airport(s): Pau Pyrenees (served by Ryanair from Stansted) 1.5 hours, Biarritz (served by Ryanair from Stansted) 2.5 hours, Toulouse (served by Easyjet and Flybe) 2.5 hours
Road: From the A64 autoroute at Pau 1.5 hours, or Tarbes 1 hr (Junction 12 for Lourdes). At the roundabout at Lourdes, turn left for Argeles-Gazost and follow this road until it passes beneath the Funiculaire du Jer. Take the dual carriageway for Argeles-Gazost. At Argeles you come to a roundabout where you turn left to cross the river. Follow to the roundabout at Pierrefitte, then climb through the Pierrefitte gorge to Luz-St Sauveur. At Luz turn left for Barèges.
Rail: The nearest railway station is at Lourdes (45 minutes) served by mainline trains from Bordeaux or Toulouse. www.voyages-sncf.com
Barèges village has numerous hotels, which are all a little basic and dated. The best accommodation is a newly-opened chalet just off the village main street. The chalet is a traditional village house which has been recently renovated to a very high standard. All the bedrooms are en-suite and there is a sauna, dining room and cosy lounge with wood burning stove, bar, reading and games corner, CD and DVD player. See www.mountainbug.com for more information.
Run by Rob and Emma, the same people who run the Mountain Bug holidays the hotel is a completely renovated Napoleonic building which combines traditional values of hospitality with modern facilities including en-suite bathrooms, a first class restaurant, café-bar and hot tub. The 3* hotel has 19 bedrooms featuring flat-screen televisions, brand-new linen and furnishings, and the majority have king- or super-king size beds. Free wi-fi access is available throughout the hotel - who could ask for more? Seriously its great that the area is getting some quality hotels.
Barèges - the best drinking establishment is the Sabathie bar (next to the butcher's on the main street). It has a pool table and big TV for sports fans. The atmosphere is friendly and pub-like. Beer should be consumed by the 'giraffe' (2.5 litre tube with a tap). For a more homely atmosphere, try the Isba at the top of the street, which serves good home-cooked food and is very friendly. The nicest restaurant in the village is 'La Rozell' - a tiny shoebox-like place but amazing food. Closer to the resort is the 'Couquelle' restaurant for rustic local dishes, or 'Chez Louisette' - the original piste restaurant for brilliant mountain food in the daytime and evenings.
Barèges isn't exactly the fashion capital of Europe, and crammed with expensive boutiques, but there are several well-stocked ski shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants. The thermal baths are well worth a visit for some apres-ski pampering. Barèges spa information.
There are two ski schools in Barèges, the ESF school and the independent ski school 'Ecoloski' www.ecoloski.com. Ecoloski guide off-piste, telemark, ski touring, snowshoeing, ice climbing and also paragliding. A Pic du Midi descent starts at 50 euros per person.
Alpine skiing, ski touring and snow shoeing holidays and accommodation in Winter. Walking, activity holidays and accommodation in the Summer. Based in the traditional mountain village of Barèges in the beautiful French Pyrenees.
Tel: 00 33 5 62 92 16 39
www.bareges.com Barèges tourist office email: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.tourmalet.fr Barèges-La Mongie (Tourmalet Domain) official website
Category: Ski Areas