With most people keep to do what they can for the environment, anything which cuts down the your driving distance to get to the slopes has to be a good thing. Peyragude’s new SkyVall lift which opened last summer following a €10 10-month build links the pretty lakeside town of Loudenvielle with the 60km of slopes of Peyragudes. The 10-seater cabins can take up to 1,000 people per hour from the village at 900 metres to the base of the ski station at 1600 metres, saving an estimated 274 tonnes of CO2 over around 89,000 car journeys per year. Running from 8.15am to 6pm most days, it stays open until 9pm on Wednesdays and during school holidays.
But there are many reasons to base yourself in Loudenvielle aside from ecological ones, not least the fantastic Balnea spa with its many indoor and outdoor thermal baths, saunas, steam rooms and more. Balnealtitude ski passes are available which include both access to the slopes and to the spa. Set around a lake, there is plenty of open green space and, especially if you are visiting while the weather is a bit warmer means you can perhaps have a picnic or go for a walk if you want a change from skiing.
There are 60km of slopes (half of which offered guaranteed snow via the 250 snow machines) as well as ample off-piste opportunities when the conditions are right. There are also two snow parks (including a ‘family park’ with it’s own easy snowboad-friendly drag lift and a restaurant at the top) as well as a fun slope with tunnels and bumps and a slalom course which also offers the chance for you to download a film of yourself later.
The resort is very proud of its James Bond association, with part of Tomorrow Never Dies here. There’s a 007 piste (opened in 2016) and a 007 Altibar at the top of the slopes which serves champagne and oysters (as well as beer and sandwiches), has the names of the various James Bond actors on the backs of directors chairs and is a great place to relax on a sunny day and enjoy the spectacular views.
Visiting in early February after some rain the snow was distinctly spring-like but with the sun out, we enjoyed the skiing nonetheless, with the teens especially enjoying practising their jumps in the two snow parks. Other activities available in the resort which we didn’t have time to try include husky sled rides, an outing on a piste-basher, building igloos or descents of the slopes on an airboard (inflatable sledge), trotinette or Fat Bike. The area is also well-known for parapente all year round, with tandem flights available for total novices, including children.
The station has many special offers available throughout the season making it an ideal destination for those on a budget – for example, kids ski free during the week of March 7 to 13, and a two night stay with two days’ ski pass costs from €99 per person weekends 20 March onwards.
Back down in Loudenvielle we enjoyed dinner at L’auberge du chateau (in fact just a short walk round the lake at Genos) which offers a cosy interior and local meat grilled over an open fire – a great restaurant offering fabulous food, but not really one for vegetarians.
We stayed at Residence La Soulane Néméa which overlooked the lake and was a couple of minutes’ drive or free shuttle trip from the SkyVall bubble. While not luxurious, it was spacious and reasonably well-equipped. Currently almost all of the accommodation in Peyragudes and Loudenvielle is apartments, but a new four-star hotel is being built opposite SkyVall and due to open later this year will expand the options. And with buses linking both Toulouse and Tarbes Lourdes airports to the Peyragudes this season too, there are more reasons than ever to leave the car at home.
A two-night stay at La Soulane Néméa costs from €205 booked via La Boutique des Pyrénées – 33 (5) 62 56 70 00 – firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.pyrenees–holiday.com/ For more information visit www.n-py.com/en/peyragudes or www.lespryenees.net