Subject: Skiing in the Pyrenees
Hi, John.

If we are lucky, and we have a winter like the past one, you will enjoy for sure the skiing in Pyrenees. Last winter we had good quantities of snow, enough to last until May. Just pray. I was just checking the calendar, and you are lucky because next year 19th of March is a Sunday. Saint Josephīs day is a very popular time in Spain to go skiing. Weather is usually fine, and if you are lucky you can get a long weekend, and the snow is not so hard any more.

Your picks. Baqueira is probably the biggest ski area in Spain (maybe Sierra Nevada, in Granada, a close second), and it is well developed regarding the tourism. You can find anything from 5 stars hotels to apartments, and from snowboard, to nordic ski, to the usual alpine stuff.

Andorra. There are a few resorts, such as Arinsal, Ordino, Grau-Roig and Pas, as you selected... Now itīs getting popular with the Brits. The Pyrenees are warmer than Alps, they can get cheap flights to Toulouse, and on top of that, the cheap booze (God bless them). But they are trying to develop Andorra far away from the duty free shopping, and for the moment they are doing a good job.

Piau-Engaly. I cannot really tell you anything about it, but friends of mine told me that the skiing was great. Saint-Lary is also quite near from Piau, and it is quite good. Remember that the french resorts are usually north faced (harder snow and colder).

What I most enjoy in the french resorts is the safety feeling. I donīt know why it happened, but in a few resorts in Spain, people have gone mad, and I donīt like the idea of skiing looking to my back. Maybe itīs the better quality of the material, and there are many young lads with their snowboarders that donīt realize there are other people in the slopes.

And then you have the Aragon Pyrenees. I say you could finish up your time in Pyrenees, by crossing the border from France to Spain through them. There are 5 ski resorts in them : Astún, Candanchú, Formigal, Panticosa and Cerler. Cerler will be a bit far away and Panticosa is kind of smallish (although the spa by its name deserves a visit. Nothing fancy, but totally beginning of the century). Candanchú was one of the places where the ski began in Spain, back in the twenties, thirties, brought by a group of norwegian businessmen living in the Basque Country. It has some demanding black slopes, and a good slalom track, steep as the Streif in Kitzbuhel (donīt worry, you wonīt be able to go down on it).

I used to love Astún, but now there are so many snowboarders and it is getting dangerous, and as a result I prefer Formigal. It had a great boom back in the Seventies, there were many british families coming down, and shortly afterwards Astun began, and Formigal lost a bit of its fame. But during the last three years they have renovated the installation, built new slopes and they are getting bigger. The queues arenīt so big as in other resorts, as a result, and thatīs nice. Ah, and I forgot. There are huskys and you can do a bit of mushing.

You wonīt have any problem renting material in any of the resorts, from snowboards to carving skis to telemark.

To reach Formigal you should go through the Portalet pass (see the Midi dīOssau on your right), and afterwards you could stay in Jaca. The first romanic cathedral in Spain, nice tapas bars and restaurants, an XVIIIth century fortress built in the Vauban style and still working, one of the entrances of the French Saint Jamesī Way into Spain (the other is Roncesvalles), San Juan de la Peņa (one of the place where the Holy Grial was kept, and really amazing construction, under a mountain) nearby... Jaca really deserves a visit, and if you think of staying there, just tell me and Iīll post a few recommendations.

And from Jaca you reach the Basque Country just by driving to Pamplona, Vitoria, Bilbao. Around three hours. More if you stop in Leyre, a romanic abbey before Pamplona.

A few URLīs that might help you (small problem, in Spanish) (Baqueira-Beret) (Valle de Arán, where Baqueira is located)

It took me a long time to write everything down, but here you have it. I am thinking about spending a week skiing in Austria or Italy (I would love it in Cortina or Alta Badia) in February or March, so please e-mail in advance to see if we could meet when you come.


Covadonga Bilbao Spain