Resort Profile: Barèges La Mongie

By adamrowden, 27 Nov '12 at 14:24

The ski resort of Barèges La Mongie is the largest in the French Pyrenees. It's in the Pays Toy area of the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Pyrénées region (South of Lourdes). It's also known as the Domaine Du Tourmalet. The lift-served area extends from 1400m to 2500m and there are 100km of lift-served runs plus acres of unexploited space between the pistes for easy-access off piste.

The best drinking establishment is the Sabathie bar (next to the butcher's on the main street). It has a pool table and big TV for sports fans. The atmosphere is friendly and pub-like. Beer should be consumed by the giraffe (2.5 litre tube with a tap). For a more homely atmosphere, try the Isba at the top of the street, which serves good home-cooked food and is very friendly.

Off piste

While the piste skiing here is excellent, there are huge areas of undeveloped terrain, so it's easy to get off the beaten tracks and into the real mountains. The resort is also blessed with being on the doorstep of the Neouvielle national park - perfect for touring in, and the legendary descents from the Pic du Midi were recently opened to the public for off piste.

Barèges - Caoubere: From the top of the fast six-man chair Caoubere from Tournaboup, cut sharply back on yourself and traverse back in the direction of the chair. The route is an old red piste which descends back to the Tournaboup reception area. Follow the natural gulley to the south of the chair rather than cutting north where the slope is usually avalanched. The area several hundred metres beyond the gulley is also known to avalanche occasionally.

La Mongie - Aygues Cluses: Take the bubble lift and two-man chair to the top of the Quatre Termes blue run. From the chair you can see a narrow break in the cliff which bounds the valley to the south. The gulley can be climbed on foot, and the route passes beneath a chocked stone. Its worth checking with the Quatre Termes liftie to see if the route is safe and for the best time to travel. From the top of the Breche, down-climb around five metres then ski a short, steep apron to more level ground. Follow the valley west, gradually losing height and entering the trees. The route follows a narrow stream in the valley bottom. The final section requires some punting. Rejoin the resort south of Tournaboup and descend to the green piste in the valley bottom or stay high and traverse around (there may be avalanche debris on this route). Route finding may be tricky unless there are tracks to follow. The local ski school offers off-piste guiding.

La Mongie - Pic du Midi: The Pic du Midi cable car is now open to skiers, but you must be accompanied by a qualified guide. The south face route is quite easy (hard blue run standard) and descends from the Pic to join the top of the Toue blue run. The north face is technical and requires a short abseil.

La Mongie - Coumelounque: Take one of the twin drag lifts from above the Col du Tourmalet. From here, a short climb north and around a spur allows access to the Coume de Sencours valley. The descent takes you to the village of Artigues, from where you will need a taxi to return to the resort at La Mongie.

Ski touring in the Pyrenees National Park is becoming more and more popular as refuges are now starting to open in the Spring. With marked routes following the Summer walking paths (including the Pyrenean 'Haute Route'), the mountains are easily accessible for touring whilst retaining the untouched beauty for which the Pyrenean wilderness is so renowned.
If you’re heading off piste, always take a partner, transceiver, probe and shovel! No ifs or buts!

On The Piste

When on the pistes in Barèges La Mongie there is also plenty to see. If you are into speeding around a full pace then you will be pleased to hear that there are some very long runs which allow a good turn of speed on very well groomed surfaces. When you get to the bottom of the Midi Peak of Bigorre, you come across the Tourmalet field, which is considered by many to be home to some of the best skiing in the French Pyrenees.

If moguls are your thing then there are a couple of the red and black runs are left un-pisted and often form reasonable mogul fields, although there's no dedicated area for them.

The resort has been around a long time and the pisteurs know their work very well. So if you love carving or speeding your way along very well groomed pistes, then you are in luck.

The resort is a favourite for freestyle skiers and boarders And it has as good a terrain park as you'd expect from the home resort of Mathieu Crepel, a TTR Big Air World Champ.

Living in Resort

Bars and Clubs
Barèges is not a party town but often has village organised events and a few lively bars. There are several great little restaurants in the village and near by.

Eating Out
The nicest restaurant in the village is La Rozell - a tiny shoebox-like place but amazing food. Closer to the resort is the Couquelle restaurant for rustic local dishes, or Chez Louisette - the original piste restaurant for brilliant mountain food in the daytime and evenings.

Mountain Restaurants
Some great little restaurants often offering traditional local fare. The Bergers Café (near the Col du Tourmalet) won best piste restaurant in Europe in a reader poll in the Times in 2006.

Shopping Day
Barèges isn't exactly the fashion capital of Europe, and crammed with expensive boutiques, but there are several well-stocked ski shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants.

Transfer Day
Nearest Airport(s): Pau Pyrenees (served by Ryanair from Stansted) 1.5 hours, Biarritz (served by Ryanair from Stansted) 2.5 hours, Toulouse (served by Easyjet and Flybe) 2.5 hours
Road: From the A64 autoroute at Pau 1.5 hours, or Tarbes 1 hr (Junction 12 for Lourdes). At the roundabout at Lourdes, turn left for Argeles-Gazost and follow this road until it passes beneath the Funiculaire du Jer. Take the dual carriageway for Argeles-Gazost. At Argeles you come to a roundabout where you turn left to cross the river. Follow to the roundabout at Pierrefitte, then climb through the Pierrefitte gorge to Luz-St Sauveur. At Luz turn left for Barèges.
Rail: The nearest railway station is at Lourdes (45 minutes) served by mainline trains from Bordeaux or Toulouse.

[Thanks to Rob Mason at Mountainbug Adventure Holidays for putting this guide together.]

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