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Skiing 2: The French Pyrenees and other massifs

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Photo credit:
Panorama top from a photo by Pierre Benard, licence GNU

 

Skiing index : The French Alps
Other areas Travel to French ski resorts When to ski in France

Ski resorts in the French Pyrenees

   
Skiing in the French Pyrenees

Ski resorts in the PyreneesThe Pyrenees; It is the Pyrenees that, after the Alps, undoubtedly offer the widest selection of ski resorts in France. Apart from the distance, and the possibility of a lack of snow in this mountain range straddling the French-Spanish border, the Pyrenees is a ski area with everything in its favour. And as in the other non-Alpine mountain ranges, Pyrenean resorts tend to be less crowded than popular Alpine resorts, except during school holidays.

    The biggest ski area in the French Pyrenees is in the Hautes Pyrénées department, midway between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic.  Tourmalet (Barèges La Mongie), lies south of Lourdes and Tarbes; it is the second oldest ski resort in France, after Chamonix, and the ski area here has 42 ski lifts, has 69 pistes covering 100 km, and culminates at a height of 2,500 metres. . Not far from Tourmalet is Cauterets, a traditional Pyrenean town that has developed as a ski resort, with 24 pistes.  Saint Lary Soulan, almost on the Spanish border, has some of the highest runs in the Pyrenees, up to 2500 metres. The resort at Super-Bagnères (1440 - 2260 metres) is directly accessible by cablecar from the town of Luchon (630m), so normally easily accessible by road under any weather conditions.

    In the eastern Pyrenees, the largest domain is Font-Romeu / Pyrenees 2000, a large area with 58 km of slopes of all levels for a single ski-pass. There are also over 100 km. of cross-country skiing pistes here. The resort is equipped with 500 snow cannons. Close by is Les Angles, with 26 ski lifts and 32 pistes, plus over 250 snow cannons..



Ski resorts Vosges, Jura, Massif Central


The Vosges.

The Vosges mountains, running north-south between Lorraine and Alsace, in the east of France, have four main ski resorts with over fifteen pistes each. The Vosges benefit from the most continental climate in France, and in cold winters the vosges ski resorts offer very good snow, even though the highest spot on any piste is less than 1400 metres. The biggest Vosges resort is La Bresse, with 30 runs, snow cannons and illuminated pistes for evening skiing. This resort is popular with day-trippers from Nancy, Metz, Strasbourg and Luxembourg.

The Jura.

A bit higher than the Vosges, the Jura is a range of mountains running along the northern border of Switzerland. The Jura ski resorts are along the crest of the range, some in France, others in Switzerland. They peak at between 1400m and 1600m. The most popular French Jura ski resorts are Les Rousses, just north of Geneva, and Métabief-Mont-d'Or, with 42 km of pistes, north of Lausanne. The Jura is also particularly appreciated for its nordic / cross-country skiing.

The Massif Central;

with peaks rising to over 1,800 metres, the Massif Central, in central southern France, has a number of small ski areas, and two big ones, Besse-Sancy (45 km of pistes) and Le Lioran (40 km of pistes). Both these resorts are fully equipped, and have an Alpine feel to them. They have cablecars, and plenty of ski lifts and ski tows.

 When to ski in the Pyrenees, the Massif Central and the Vosges ?


Avoiding the crowds

   For the Pyrenees and for the Auvergne, avoid the holiday weeks in February / March when schools in Zone A are on holiday (See school holiday table by region)

French school holiday periods,  2013-2014  (periods to avoid, if possible)

Year Christmas /New year
school holidays
Winter break
(3 zones, 2 weeks each)
Spring break
(3 zones, 2 weeks each)
2013-2014 21st December 
- 5th January 2014
15th February - 16th March 2014 12th April to 11th May 2014


No snow?
Climate change, global warming, and winter sports:

    The climate is getting warmer – there is no longer much doubt about that. When skiing first developed as a mass sport, back in the 1970's, the climate was definitely colder than it is now, and in many places ski facilities were set up below 1000 metres altitude. Today, there are few facilities - except possibly in the Vosges - that can operate at less than 1000 metres.
    Most French ski resorts are now painfully aware of the consequences of climate change, and many have taken measures to make sure that visitors are not left twiddling their thumbs should there be insufficient (or even too much) snow. All the major resorts, and many of the minor ones, now have snow cannons, that can cover some of their slopes with artificial snow. While artificial snow is not quite the same experience as real snow, it does allow better skiing if there is not enough real snow.
    The other solution is to provide alternative activities, and most resorts now offer a range of activities and facilities, including skating rinks, tennis courts, cycling pistes, hiking trails, cinemas, and a lot more. It is always advisable to check out a ski resort before making a booking, and see what facilities are available, should there be little or no snow.


 Travelling to your ski resort:

For non-alpine ski resorts, the normal means of access is by car - either in you own car or by flying to the nearest airport and then hiring a car.
     By car: it is highly recommended to avoid the February weekends, particularly the Saturdays. For non Alpine resorts, check out also when local schools are on holiday.
   By train: There are direct TGVs (Paris-Lausanne route)  from Paris to Frasne in the high Jura, just a few kilometres from the Metabief - Mont d'Or resort.
      By air: Click here for information of flights to French provinical airports. .

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