Skiing in The Pyrenees - European Travel Tips & AdviceA fun and affordable skiing holiday destination. Plenty of resorts in the Pyrenees in both France and Andorra. When there is good snow, its as good as anywhere in France or the Alps.
Skiing in the Pyrenees for great family skiing holidays
The skiing and snowboarding in the Pyrenees can be surprisingly good, everyone knows about the Alps and they are usually the first consideration when thinking about skiing in France but the Pyrenees certainly has something to offer including a relatively cheap skiing holiday when compared to the Alps.The resorts also tend to be a little smaller which makes them good for family ski holidays, less chance of loosing the kids or getting lost yourself.
Hopefully when you have finished reading this website then you will be better informed about the options you have for skiing holidays in France and in particular ski holidays in the Pyrenees.
There are a number of ski resorts in the Pyrenees and the ones I am going to discuss and provide information on are located at Ax Les Thermes, en route to Andorra, and the Monts d’Olmes resort close to Lavelanet. Both resorts are about an hour and a half south of Toulouse making them very convenient for access by air, rail and road.
Being close to Andorra you also get options for visiting the Casa de la Pasa and Soldeu resorts located there, these are higher up and a bit more consistent with respect to snow coverage but are a little further from Toulouse and would add approximately another 1/2 an hour to your journey. Not really a problem if you are staying close to the resort and have transport.
Monts d’Olmes Ski Resort, great for family skiing
Monts d’Olmes is the smaller of the 2 resorts and would be considered less challenging for an advanced skier or snowboarder with a relatively limited number of runs overall and with only 2 black runs both of which have to be accessed by drag lifts.
There are 21 runs in total and most are either red (8), blue(3) or green(8) and I personally would consider the resort as ideally suited to beginners and intermediates. It would also suit a family with a range of skills and is small enough so that everyone can stay in touch with relative ease.
There is only one main departure and return point with facilities for shops and cafes etc. and that is from the ski station, so most people find themselves returning here at some point either to meet with other members of their party or to access the cafes and restaurants for a short break or a bit of lunch.
A ski chair takes you from the station near to the top of the mountain and then a drag lift can be accessed to take you right to the top for the black runs which start at about 1950m, there is also an option to come down a red from here if the blacks are a bit too daunting once you get there.
The piste map gives you a good overview of the resort and the runs available and you can also get a snow report, weather and further details from this link, well worth checking the snow conditions before you depart because of the relatively low altitude of this resort.
There are ski shops there and you can hire equipment at a reasonable rate on a 1/2 day basis if required, the half day at Monts d’Olmes is based around 1.00 p.m., so if you go for the morning or afternoon that is when you finish or start respectively. The lifts close in the evening around 5.00 p.m.
A word of warning, the road up to Monts d’Olme is pretty steep and winding, there is also a sign near the station that says you should not go any further without snow chains, so make sure you are prepared. I have been there when on the way up the roads have been perfectly clear and drivable but then a snow storm came in and by the time I tried to leave there was a good 3 inches of snow on the road and driving became very difficult.
If you are not comfortable driving in these conditions you could maybe consider using the bus service that is available as part of the SKIRAIL service provided by SNCF out of Foix or alternatively there is a bus service that picks up in Mirepoix at 8.00 a.m. and then Lavelanet at 8.30 a.m. the number for enquiring about this service is 05 34 09 33 86
A quiet little ski resort
That’s about it for Monts d’Olmes, it is small and can be a bit difficult to access but we have had some really nice days skiing there as long as you don’t expect too much, it is what it is and if you are selective about when you go you can get some good snow and fairly quiet slopes with small or no queues, something for me that makes it well worth a visit.
Ski Resorts – Ax Les Thermes
The second ski resort to be discussed is collectively called Ax Les Thermes and it is a great place to ski in France.
Also known as the Ax-3-Domaines which consists of Bonascre, Saquet and Campels, it starts in the Forest of Bonascre on the mountain above Ax Les Thermes and with slopes as high as 2400m, it is higher up and offers many more facilities than the resort at Monts d’Olmes. The snow conditions here tend to be more consistent and Ax Les Thermes sits right on the N20 which is the main route into Andorra from Toulouse and Foix and like Monts d’Olmes can be accessed by theSKIRAIL Service.
There is a gondola right out of the town of Ax Les Thermes that takes you up to Bonascre where you can access the higher slopes via a further gondola, chair lift or drag lift. The lower slopes are great for beginners and children learning to ski or just doing a little bit of tobogganing
Ski Hire & Equipment
You can hire ski equipment in town, there are at least 2 shops right where the gondola leaves or you can wait until you reach Bonascre. The benefit of hiring at Bonascre is that you can get out of your ski boots and dump your skis at the top and not have to walk to the gondola in ski boots or cart the skis etc. back down the mountain.
The down side is that well you are handing back your ski equipment the queues can be forming at the gondola and you may be in for a bit of a wait. Anyone who has used the train service can bypass the queue and go straight to the front so they don’t miss their train, disabled people and people with small children also get the same benefit but everyone else just have to take their chance, so the decision is yours.
If you prefer, you can drive up to Bonascre but if you do then be sure to be prepared for the descent in the event of a snow storm, as per Monts d’Olmes the road is pretty steep and winding, so don’t get caught out. You can also get stuck in a pretty nauseous traffic jam driving back down the mountain road, so my suggestion would be to park in the town and, if it is busy, forget trying to park next to the gondola, just stay on the main drag through and look for parking next to the Casino supermarket or behind the church, these are on the left just where there is a sharp bend to the right going towards Andorra.
So now back to the skiing, the upper slopes have several black runs, a good range of red runs plus blues and greens, in all totalling 80km of pisted slopes.
It can be difficult to find a decent piste map, so to make up for the lack of a good graphical representation I can tell you that 3 domains have the following 28 pisted runs available: –
- 5 Green
- 8 Blue
- 10 Red
- 5 Black
In support of these runs there are 17 lifts and 147 snow cannons, there is also a snowpark in the Saquet domain. Oh and I actually found this Piste Map now, which isn’t bad.
There are also some good views of the slopes using the webcam link below.
I think this resort will satisfy all levels of skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts, the slopes are well spread out and give the options for short or long runs as required at varying degrees of difficulty, there are good facilities around the slopes with restaurants both at the higher and lower levels and a good mix of gondolas, chairs and drag-lifts. So if you prefer to save your energy for the actual skiing then you should be able to do that and still achieve the level of difficulty you are looking for.
If you are not convinced and are looking for somewhere else to ski in Europe you might want to take a look at Zell am See in Austria.
Apres Ski in Ax Les Thermes
Bonascre itself has a number of restaurants and cafes available many of which are pretty good but with Ax Les Thermes, you have the option of the town itself, which is vibrant and lively with many facilities. It is a Spa town with hot springs and the smell of sulphur coming from its mountain streams, it’s also visited as much in the summer as it is in the winter.
For this reason there are plenty of options for your apres ski and we have eaten in a few of the towns restaurants and always received a very nice welcome accompanied by equally nice food at very reasonable prices.
Living an hour and a half or so from the resort where we run our gite French Holidays Aude, being able to get a good inexpensive meal in the town means we don’t have to prepare something when we get home, not a favorite pastime when you have been out and active all day. It’s also good to know you have this option if you are staying in the town for your ski holiday and don’t fancy cooking.
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