Cauterets ski resort
Cauterets ski resort offers a pleasant combination of historic Pyrenean spa town charm and a relatively modern ski area with a reputation for huge snowfalls and picturesque scenery.
Thanks to its renowned healing waters, Cauterets has a healthy, long-established, year-round operation that is not wholly reliant on the ski business. This has contributed to the resort developing more of an established character than many well-known purpose-built French ski towns, with an alluring selection of family-owned shops and restaurants designed with sympathy to local architectural traditions.
The skiing in Cauterets, easily accessed by a gondola from the edge of the village, is most suited to beginners and intermediates, although local ski guides will be happy to take advanced skiers and boarders to more challenging freeride terrain.
The wide, sunny Cauterets Valley is perfect for cross-country skiing – the area at Le Pont d’Espagne, a short distance from the village, in particular, offering a range of spectacular circuits right on the Spanish border as its name suggests.
Cauterets ski resort is located in the Cauterets Valley in the heart of the French Hautes-Pyrenees, close to the Spanish border and 7km (4.5 miles) from the Pyrenees National Park.
On the slopes
Due to its great snow record, the ski season in Cauterets generally lasts from early December to the end of April. Somewhat unusually, there can also be the interesting aspect of ‘winter in the mountains and summer in the valley’ towards the end of the season, when it’s hard to believe the ski season is in full swing up above whilst visitors are sunbathing in Cauterets village below.
The Cirque du Lys ski area is of a moderate size and will keep most recreational level skiers happy for at least a week. Reached by a fast, modern Doppelmayr gondola lift from Cauterets village, the ski runs here extend to more than 36km (23 miles).
The majority of the terrain in Cauterets ski resort forms long blue and red (easy to intermediate) cruisers up to 6km (4 miles) in length. There are a couple of steeper blacks: Orchis and Combe du Barbat, for experienced skiers; while off-piste and ski touring courses are also available from the French Ski School (ESF) (tel: +33 562 925 816; www.esf-cauterets.com).
Freestyle skiers and boarders will enjoy the resort’s terrain park, which incorporates 10 table tops, a hip, five rails (including one of just four Oakley ‘O’ rails created worldwide), a beginner’s line and a kilometre-long boardercross course.
The ESF, which is situated at three locations in the ski area (in the centre of the village, at Cirque du Lys and at Le Pont d’Espagne), offers lessons for all ages, with special classes for young children.