Skiing Grand Tourmalet with a stay in Bilbao

Ian Walsh 04 April 2013
I had been really looking forward to this trip for some months. I have some friends in Bilbao who invited us over for a few days skiing with them in the Pyrenees. We flew into Bilbao and spent the day and night there with our friends at their home. Having been to Bilabo on many occasions, it was fantastic to be back in this once industrious city.

There have been radical changes to Bilbao since my first visit in 1996. The city has well and truly put itself on the tourist map. It has chic bars and restaurants, uber cool cafes, museums, including the Guggenheim which showcases modern contemporary art, the building itself is fantastic piece of architecture.

The old city, El Casco Viejo, is really beautiful during the day, with its narrow streets,Tapas bars and quirky independent retail shops, you're bound to find something unique to take back home with you. At the weekend, this area of the city becomes a hive of activity for the younger crowd. The narrow streets fill up with revellers and a party scene ensues until the small hours.

On Friday morning, we loaded up the car and headed for France. The drive would take us 3 hours through the beautiful Basque countryside and on into the French Pyrenees. The village where my friends have a holiday home is called Luz St Sauveur. It’s a stunning village, very picturesque with lodges, cottages and homes dotted around the valley. Also, the Tour de France has passed through here several times over the years.

We going to ski in the Grand Tourmalet region, which consists of 3 ski stations: Bareges, Super Bareges and La Mongie. This is the largest combined ski area in the Pyrenees and only a 15 minute drive from Luz St Sauveur. The mountain, Pic du Midi, is 2877m (9443 feet) so the snow is guaranteed. It was the last weekend of the ski season and they had just had one of the best snow falls in years. With over 3 metres at the top of the range and over 2 metres at the bottom, it made for perfect skiing. The slopes were wide, no queues for the lifts, powder snow and great weather. It was a brilliant few days.

My only gripe would be the shop on the mountain was seriously overpriced, but we took our own lunch and beers with us, so that didn't really matter. The prices in the shops in resort are extremely cheap when compared to Ireland.

Ski Hire was very reasonable with skis, boots and sticks costing €16 per day, lift pass on the mountain was €32 per day but this reduced if you booked more days together.

After a fantastic few days, we headed back to Bilbao for our flight. would highly recommend this ski area especially for beginners and intermediates, advanced skiers will also have a fantastic choice of long black runs and good off piste skiing too. The resort town of Luz St Sauveur has everything you need for a fantastic week of skiing, good supermarkets, restaurants and off course there are some excellent bars for the all-important apres ski.

If you would like any further information, please get in touch, I'd be delighted to help you. I'm already planning a trip back with even more friends.