Cauterets is an old thermal resort of the Western Pyrenees, where the healing properties of the waters (rheumatology, lungs diseases) are known since the Roman Empire. It developed since the 19th century and has thousands of visitors each year for its curative establishments.
In winter, ski is of course the main activity, with two ski domains: Cirque du Lys, and Pont d’Espagne.
Cirque du Lys has high and rather easy downhill tracks; top of the tracks is at 2500m and from there you can enjoy a round the horizon view from Balaitous to the south, Pic du Midi d’Ossau to the West, foothills and plains to the North and the superb Vignemale to the East.
All skiing equipment can be hired in Cauterets.
Visit the website in the links for accommodation and places to visit in Cauterets; I only go for skiing here, or in summer, it can be the base for hikes and treks to the Vignemale (highest peak of the French Pyrenees: 3298m).
Ski: a cable car lifts you from the village to the Cirque du Lys; there, ski lifts get you to the tracks; mostly north and east facing tracks: best ski in the morning.
rates: 27 E /day, 140 E/week; half day, kids or students rates available.
- Skiing and Boarding
Artouste ski resort.
Artouste is a rather small ski resort in the High Ossau Valley, on the road from Pau to Spain, via the Pourtalet Pass.
In winter ski is the main activity of this resort, but it offers also summer activities, with a little train (the highest train in Europe!) which reaches the Artouste high mountain lake, from the Col de la Sagette, where you can get with the cable car working also in summer. Lots of easy hour to half day high mountain hikes can be done from the Lac d’Artouste.
For ski, the cable car links the Fabrèges lake (and resort) to the Col de la Sagette, where the ski tracks begin and are almost all laid out on the north and East faces of the Sagette and Lurien mountains, above the small Soussoueou Valley.
As usual in most Pyrenees ski resorts, most downhill tracks are on north faces, and ski is best in the morning, with the sun; from early afternoon, you ski in the shade of the mountains.
Ski and snowboard rental, clothes, restaurants, etc. . . like most ski resorts but small scale here, and “family related” atmosphere.
Artouste train: http://www.pyrenees-pireneus.com/VISITE_64_Artouste.htm
- Skiing and Boarding
The Billère Golf, the first golf course of France
I am not at all a golf player, but it may interest some of the readers to know if there are golfing possibilities in Pau.
Yes there are, and the golf here is the oldest course in France and even continental Europe! This golf was created in 1856, as an English importation product!
The Pau golf club is a somehow “high class” society, as there are only 650 members, and the Golf and club house are open only to members and friends. Well, they have a very good restaurant a friend of mine who was invited there told me.
I know the golf only from outside when I bike on the cycling tracks running along the Gave, and they pass nearby the golf.
A much more popular golf club is in Artiguelouve a western suburb of Pau.
Equipment: PAU GOLF CLUB
Par 69 - 5312 mètres
Adresse: Rue du Golf - 64140 BILLERE
Tél: 05 59 13 18 56
Route de Bayonne, turn left in Billère .
GOLF DE PAU ARTIGUELOUVE
Par 71 - 5904 mètres
Adresse: Domaine Saint-Michel - 64230 ARTIGUELOUVE
Tél: 05 59 83 09 29
10 km West of Pau, route de Mourenx, follow the left bank of the Gave de Pau. At Artiguelouve, turn right and cross the bridge over the Gave; you see it from the bridge.
Luz Ardiden ski resort: a small one
This is a small ski resort above Luz St Sauveur; like the Tourmalet, it is well known by cyclists who follow the tortures of the Tour de France riders. Ski is good here, when there is enough snow, tracks are easy and fast.
There is no accommodation at this resort and if you want to stay for a few days, you may go to Luz St Sauveur or in the small villages around. (Tips are coming about the Pays de Toy, small villages community around here).
main picture You may have the tracks for you alone in Luz Ardiden
picture 2:One person on the track; not very much snow at the time (feb. 2007)
picture 3:Down there is the station; it is very pleasant to ski with almost nobody on the tracks.
picture 4: Departure of lifts
picture 5: No accommodation here, but at least you can have a snack or a drink. Luz Ardiden is a very small resort.
- Skiing and Boarding
La Mongie – Barèges : the biggest
This is the biggest ski resort in the western Pyrenees and there is a lot of variety of tracks from the very gentle tracks following roads to the very steep black tracks with some thrilling bump-skiing places.
La Mongie – Barèges is covering two sides of the mountain North of the Neouvielle massif ; ski lifts come up from both sides to the col du Tourmalet (Tourmalet pass) which separates the two original resorts which now are one; it is very fun to ski on both sides, but as the roads are closed between La Mongie and Barèges, be very careful on: if you stay, or if you car is on one side, be sure to be on top of the mountain before the ski lift stops working (usually 5 P.M.)
Also, on windy days the ski lifts stop with very short notice; ask weather conditions at the attendants before to dive on the other side of the mountain.
To get there from Pau: drive to Lourdes (visit to the Virgin, and other saints another day. . . ), follow direction Argeles-Gazost, then direction Pierrefite Nestalas, then Luz St Sauveur, and finally Barèges. Ouf! This is the way to the westen side of the resort.
For the other side, from Tarbes, follow Bagnères, then La Mongie
main picture ski lift from Barèges to Tourmalet; morning light and condensation trail. I forgot the name of this formation from the condensation trail.
picture 2: On the tracks above La Mongie
picture 3:Small restaurant in La Mongie; there are plenty restaurants at the feet of the tracks, and it is good to have a break, even for a snack, before going back enjoy the slides and glides.
picture 4: On windy places, few snow is left; on the mountain you can see the domes and antennas of the Pic du Midi astronomical observatory; it is possible to get there in summer or winter with a cable car. Special tip on this observatory to come. . . .
picture 5: La mongie resort, not specially good weather that day.
- Skiing and Boarding
La Pierre St Martin Ski resort
This ski resort is the most westerly resort for downhill skiing in the Pyrenees; it is a small resort, with some very fine tracks. The highest point is close to the Pic, d’Anie, close to the boundary between Bearn and Basque Land.
To go there, South of Pau, Direction Oloron, then Aramits, then Arette, then direction Spain, La Pierre, Saint Martin.
You can park your car very close to the tracks and the ticket booths. Then as usual, in N’Py resorts, maps, and other information are available. Reastaurants and bars at the feet of the tracks, etc. . .
There, don’t miss the tracks from “Secteur Mailhné”, which depart from Soum de Coy mountain, close to the Pic d’Anie; they are not reachable directly, but with intermediate stations of chair lifts, and the maps help. Difficulties of tracks ranked from green to black, but even the black one is not difficult.
main picture View Westward from Soum de Coy: Basque Pyrenees; notice there is not a lot of snow (Jan 2007), it did not snow a lot this year, and it is windy on the tops.
picture 2: Arette resort in the middle of the picture taken from a chair lift going to Soum de Coy.
picture 3:Pic d’Anie. Not a lot of snow when this picture was taken.
picture 4: Resort, parking and Pic d’Anie in the background. Feet of tracks is at the right of the picture.
picture 5: And, when going back to Pau, have a stop in Arette village, for a hot chocolate, sitting near the fireplace at Gouillardeu’s “Bar-Restaurant”. Open on Sundays, very “typical” in some way, with local people and some skiers like me having a short rest before the drive to Pau. Cannot miss it in the small village, on the main road, right side going to Pau , just before a right turn and the church (on the left).
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Steep tracks at Gourette
Here is first Gourette, on the road to the Col d’Aubisque (see my Larunspage).
This resort is about 1 hour drive from Pau.
Directions: South Route Nationale 134 and after Laruns, turn left.
There are big parking lots near the resort, and you will have to park there and go by bus; schedules are +/- every 10 mn, from 9a.M; to 5 p.m. The bus brings you very close to the tracks; there you have to buy your tickets or if you had bought one previously, just go.
There are maps of the tracks, at the ticket booth, and also on posters.
One technical difficulty for not so skilled skiers: most of the resort tracks are on north face (we are on the northern side of the Pyrenees): it means it may happen that parts of tracks are ice, and on 50degrees slopes you can imagine. . . . ; it is only on few spots. Check the “colours” of the tracks, they give classification: green, easy, then blue, red and black. Black is quite technical.
main picture Up on the tracks,; it is cloudy in the plain but here, bright sun! And not too many people on the tracks.
picture 2: With fine weather, you sit outside for a lunch, at the feet of the tracks.
picture 3: The track (here it is called Pene Blanque) almost for you alone! Sometimes, with fine weather, good snow, there is almost nobody there, waowwww! Just slide down. The resort is very far down, and in the middle of the picture is an intermediate station for chair lifts.
picture 4: View on the resort from the “Chalets d’Ossau” chalets residence where I stayed in winter 2006 for a week. The chalets are close to the road and the bus stops if you wave.
picture 5: There are even Taliban going for ski; this one is standing near an information board, about weather, avalanches, and other useful infos.
- Skiing and Boarding
Rugby and Bulls
South west France seems to have rugby everywhere. Of course it produces many strong teams.
Also, in most towns there is a bull ring, not for the killing of bulls I understand, but the running of them.
Take for example the small town of Hagetmau. It has a very fine sports complex with rugby stadium, bull ring, various courts & pitches, a skateboard park and a fifty metre pool!
Given the size of Hagetmau this is an exceptional feat & shows just how seriously they take their sport in the region.
Pau is a very sporty town. They are the basketball champions of France, there is rugby, football, motor racing, the list goes on. And it is close to the Pyrenees so there are also a whole range of mountain activities to take part in - skiing, hiking, rafting etc etc.
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