If you’re searching for a destination with quality skiing, the reassurance of heavy snowfalls and a traditional welcome, relax... you’ve just found it. The French Pyrenees are a vast winter wonderland set in a breathtaking yet accessible location between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, close to the borders of Spain and Andorra. These are real mountains, with 575km of high-altitude terrain, groomed to perfection for leisure skiers and families to enjoy, along with extensive off-piste potential for freeriders and ski tourers. They get big snow, too (Cauterets, for example, was named World’s Snowiest Resort in 2013) and as you’ll discover, they all offer a refreshing breath of French air.
In recent years huge investments have been quietly transforming the ski areas to satisfy a whole new generation of skiers and snowboarders, both on and off the mountain. So when it comes to deciding where to stay, there’s now plenty of choice. Cosy traditional villages in sheltered valley settings are still hugely popular, but if you’d prefer to be closer to the action on the mountain you’ll love the convenience of our ski-in/ski-out villages, from which powerful high-speed lift systems whisk you all the way up to (and sometimes beyond) 2400m, both faster and more smoothly than ever before.
When you get there you can head all the way down the mountain if the mood takes you, as a high proportion of runs are equipped with state-of-the-art snowmaking to keep the slopes open throughout what can be a satisfyingly long season.
Whatever you’re planning, you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by the friendly company you’ll be keeping, for generations of French families learned to ski in the Pyrenees, and they return each season to enjoy re-skiing their favourite runs with friends old and new. Better still, you’ll find a similarly relaxed, easy-going spirit among local shopkeepers, hoteliers and restaurant owners, who take pride in offering quality service, combined with solid value.
Talking of relaxation, the region has also long been celebrated for its thermal spas, many of which have also been undergoing something of a transformation. The result is an impressive selection of family-friendly aqua centres where you can unwind in real style at the end of an action-packed day on the mountain. Enjoy a soothing massage or some shameless spa pampering, with saunas, Jacuzzis and fitness suites, or simply let off any remaining steam in large heated indoor pools. Today they’re equipped with fun things like waterfalls, underwater massage jets and more.
As for accessibility, there are short transfers from flights into Toulouse, Tarbes Lourdes, Pau, Carcassonne and Perpignan, or if you prefer greener rail travel take the Eurostar to Paris, followed by a smooth, relaxing TGV high-speed rail service to the main cities. Of course, for family and other groups driving can still have its advantages, particularly as you’ll be on the efficient French autoroute network from your choice of Channel port almost all the way to your ski destination.
Holiday packages to the French Pyrenees are bookable through UK based specialist Pyrenees Collection