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Pyrenees road trip continues - James Cove, Hautes-Pyrenees
Monday March 25, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI has been in one of the great undiscovered ski areas of Europe; The Haute Pyrenees in France. Undiscovered by the Brits that is. We have just skied 5 resorts in 5 days......here is Day Two.

The Pyrenees has a raw, untamed and barren feel about it. It is a huge mountain range stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean, separating northern and southern Europe.

It is something more akin to what mountain ranges should feel like rather than the overly commercial areas in some parts of the Alps.

The Pyrenees is altogether different.

When the idea of skiing in the French Pyrenees came up I jumped at the idea as I have been wishing to visit for a while.

I have skied extensively in Andorra and dipped into Spain, but never skied on the French side of the border.

There are a couple of dozen resorts and the main ones  are under an hour from each other - Saint-Lary, Bareges, La Monjie, Cauterets and Peyragudes.

I also had the misconceived idea that the resorts would be small and I might tire of them quickly - they are not and I didn't, but more of that later.

So an idea was born - a road trip. Five resorts in five days.

See here for Day One.

The slopes awaitThe slopes await

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY Two - Next stop, Peyragudes.

As the alarm went bright and early at 7.30am it was simply a case of stuffing everything into my rucksack and pulling on my ski gear. 

I was up, packed and out within 25 minutes.

Breakfast was a coffee and croissant from the local patisserie and just 45 minutes later I was in the resort of Peyragudes.

The lifts had just started.

I wanted to be early as the French National Ski Championships were taking place and they race early when the snow is icy.

Again I didn't bother to unpack.

I had absolutely no idea who was racing, or indeed who won, but it was interesting to watch the racers hurl themselves down the course as if on rails. Perfect technique.

Alpine Ski racing is not the most exciting spectator sport as each racer flashes by in a blur of brightly coloured lycra in pretty much the same fashion. It is though great to watch for a short period.

For Peyragudes it was something of a coup to host the Championships.

It was the first time a resort in the Pyrenees has held the prestigious event since 1977 - normally it is one of the big name resorts in the Alps. A sign that the area has growing ambitions.

The race is onThe race is on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"This is a massive event for us and all the local dignitaries are here and we have good media coverage so hopefully we will have more visitors and people will realise the resorts in the Pyrenees are just as good as the Alps," a tourist office spokesperson told me.  "We even have the French Tourist Minister, Sylvia Pinel, here."

Now being the old news hound that I am (ex-BBC and all that) I thought an interview with the French Tourist  Minister would be interesting.

I went off to track her down.

Sure enough she was sat at the back of the VIP tent surrounded by resort officials and local dignitaries. I asked her Press Officer if she would care to have a few words with PlanetSKI to tell the British skiers about the attractions of the area.

The Minister granted me 2 minutes.

I asked her what attractions the area might have for British skiers and why they should come. A dull question but somewhat relevant.

Her answer was so bland I can't even remember what she said and then she said the interview was over, turned away and carried on with her conversations.

In my afore-mentioned days with BBC News I have actually interviewed Prime Ministers and Secretaries of State. I was there when George Bush won in Austin, Texas and I have met President Clinton in the Downing Street Rose Garden.

I have also spent many a freezing hour hanging around on the other side of No 10 in the cold in a dark press area of Downing Street. I have lost count of the number of party conferences I went to as a BBC News Editor and how many junior politicians I have met.

The last thing you ever want to do in my opinion is allow politicians to feel any more self-important than they already do.

I stood up, smiled politely and held eye contact for just a bit too long which I hope gave an air of total indifference to her and walked away.

She probably didn't care.

I certainly didn't.

Skiing was far more important to me.

And good skiing it is too in Peyragudes.  Again it was a resort bigger than I thought it would be with 60kms of slopes. It starts at 1,600m and rises to 2,400m. A daily lift pass starts at just €36. 

I ripped round the slopes like a puppy with a bone.

After skiing there was actually time for a shower and a shave on our frantic road trip. It was the last for a couple of days and once again it didn't seem worth unpacking.    

For dinner we were invited to join the race organisers and local dignitaries that were having their evening meal in a mountain restaurant.

The only way to get there was by piste basher.  There were dozens and dozens of us and I assumed it would be a long process to ferry us all up the slopes.

But the piste bashers came over the horizon like the 6th Cavalry and with special platforms on the back we were there in no time.

Wagons roll...Wagons roll...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inside were more Presidents than can ever have assembled in one place at one time.

The President of the lift company, the President of the resort, the President of the ski school, the President of the French delegation for the International Ski Federation the President of the joint ski area and many, many more Presidents besides.

I immediately appointed myself the President of PlanetSKI.

Fortunately there were no more government ministers present.

All were celebrating the successful hosting of the French World Championships and it was an honour to be invited along. And fun.

The band came from the Basque Country.  I asked if they were from the French or Spanish part. "We are from the Basque Country," was the answer.

And then they played.

And the band played on...And the band played on...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We drank too much, danced a bit and somehow got down the slopes well after midnight.

On a piste basher of course.

First thing the next day there was a hangover to nurse for James before staying the night at the Pic du Midi observatory at 2890m - sleeping among the stars and then skiing down after breakfast. Later he will also  be skiing in the resort that has had the biggest snow depth of any resort in Europe this season- Cauterets.

He will also fall in love.

Do check back for his account of the trip.

Fact Box

James Cove was travelling with the British operator, Ski Collection, which is the only mainstream company offering package holidays to the region. For further details see - www.skicollection.co.uk

For more information about holidays in the Pyrennes see - www.pyrenees-holiday.com

Stay with Ski Collection at the traditional style Le Hameau de Balestas - Peyragudes. It is located on the Peyresourdes side of Peyragudes.Benefits from indoor heated swimming pool with panoramic views, sauna & jacuzzi.

Prices from £74pp for 7 nights, self-catering based on 5 sharing a 2 bedroom apartment (sleeps6) and includes return Eurotunnel crossings with free FlexiPlus upgrade. Accomm only option available.

See here for more details.

For the spirit of the mountains

intersport

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