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Sleeping among the stars
Monday March 25, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

PlanetSKI has been in one of the great undiscovered ski areas of Europe; The Hautes Pyrenees. Undiscovered by the Brits that is. We have just skied 5 resorts in 5 days. Phew. Day four was the highlight - a night at Le Pic du Midi.

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.

See here for Day Two.

See here for Day Three.

Good morning worldGood morning world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day Four - Le Pic du Midi.

Well technically speaking Day 4 began the evening before at 5 O'clock as we stepped out of the Pic du Midi cable car at 2,890m for a night in the Observatory followed by a ski down the following day.

The general public can stay but when we tried to arrange the visit it was full.

Special dispensation was granted and we stayed in some of the rooms reserved for the scientists. 

They were small, clean and extremely comfortable.

Then it was a tour of the observatory, a superb dinner and early to bed.

The observatory was opened in 1880 and took 4 years to construct.

It was a huge achievement and has provided a wealth of scientific data ever since.

I rose early to see the sunrise. It was partially cloudy but still spectacular. 

One of the telescopes was opened for us and I gazed at the distant stars.

Mercury was clearly visible. I wondered if there were mountains on the planet and what they might look like.

PlanetSKI looks at the planetsPlanetSKI looks at the planets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a PlanetSKI video of the trip including further information about the Pic du Midid then see the video below. 5 resorts in 5 days.

After breakfast my thoughts turned to the ski down.

For me the unknown is always the scariest part of any off piste ski descent.

Once my skis are firmly attached to my boots and I am concentrating on the task in hand I am OK.

I was doing it with the local guide, Claude Etchelecau. He is something of local legend and was one of the first snowboarders in France. 

The sport has strong roots.

You need to be a good skier to set off from the summit of Le Pic du Midi but not an expert.

Though the climb up gets the heart beating - and it is not just the altitude.

Starting outStarting out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conditions were good for my day.

We set off.

After a few minutes came the compliment and the sentence that made my legs wobble. 

"You are an OK skier so we will take a more interesting route than the normal classic one," said Claude. 

When a guide says that it normally means if you fall you may go a long way. 

Fortunately this was not the case and we went down a longer more north facing route and ended up way below the resort of La Monjie. 

It was hard in places but not too difficult.

At the bottom was his car and then we  simply drove back up to the village.

It was the best ski run of the trip.

Made itMade it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we headed back in Claude's car I reflected on what had been a stunning last 24 hours.

Pic du Midi seen and done.

Tick.

We left La Monjie late in the afternoon to head round to our next, and final resort, Cauterets.

I slept in the back of the car - a combination of hangover, light sleep in the Pic du Midi and the after affects of the ski down took its toll.

I needed my energy for Cauterets.

This winter it had had the biggest snow depth of any resort in Europe at 5.9m and I was told the snow is still in excellent shape despite it being the end of March.

We arrived with more fresh snow falling.

It really has been following me around this winter.

A Drone's view of Pic Du Midi.

 

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 further details about the Pic du Midi then see its web site here.

For the spirit of the mountains

intersport

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