News from the snow
Baqueira Beret Spain
Baqueira/Beret, one of the largest of Spain's ski resorts lies at the head of the beautiful Val d'Aran, near Viella, on the northern side of the Pyrenees. The village, tastefully purpose-built in wood and stone rather than concrete, is on the main road leading up to the high Bonaigua Pass. Developed by Luis Arias, a Spanish National Ski Champion, Baqueira first opened in 1964 and is a favourite with the Spanish Royal family who regularly holiday here. Its location provides a unique atlantic climate guaranteeing high quality snow, just the right amount of sunshine and, due to its southerly latitude, an hour's more daylight than the Alps. Baqueira Beret is well laid out, has a modern lift infrastructure and a lively and varied apres ski scene. The skiing is spread over three main areas, Baqueira, Beret and Argulls and there is a fourth area at La Bonaigua . Baqueira's claim of 'Alpine Scale' is further strengthened with lifts on the Cap de Baqueria. This huge area, the Argulls, has always had snow at Christmas, so the basin strengthens Baqueira's reputation for pre-Christmas to post-Easter skiing with the height of the new runs ensuring the snow will always be in peak condition.
Founded in 1964, Baqueira has grown to become Spain's largest single resort. Its latitude gives an hour more daylight for skiing than in the Alps, and it's warmer too. Well laid out, modern lift infrastructure and a lively and varied après ski scene.
Baqueira likes to look after its skiers - there's even a tractor, pulling seats to transport you if you don't feel like making the short walk from the village to the lifts. The three green runs are in Baqueira and Beret areas - many prefer the Pla de Beret for starting off because its so wide and usually crowd free. The other two greens, Pastores and Rabada are at the top of the main chairlift up from Baqueira 1500. The ski school with over 200 instructors is famed as one of the best in Spain, they have English and French speaking instructors and it is worth joining a class so you can find your way around the resort as it does cover a huge area.
Intermediates will enjoy the long winding blue runs here and should be ready for the challenge of one of the 22 reds in no time. The Pla de Baqueira, one of the blues in the main Baqueira bowl is a gentle one to progress to and from there intermediates can access the Argulls area and the newest red run the Bonaigua. Due to the height of these runs the snow always seems to be in good condition.
Plenty of mountain restaurants for refreshment stops and international visitors will appreciate the relatively low prices. The efficient lift system serves terrain generally regarded as some of the most challenging in the Pyrenees and includes 5 tough blacks including the renowned 'Escornacrabes' - that translates as 'the place where the goats die'! The Louis Arias and Tubo Nere runs are famed as steep mogul trails. There are 2 slalom stadiums so its not surprising that the Spanish National Team are often seen training here.
The 7km (4 mile) cross-country circuit is located at Orri 1850 just between Baqueira and Beret. Baqueira's southerly latitude gives an hour more daylight for skiing than in the Alps, and it's warmer too. Adequate snow cover is ensured with over 350 snow guns covering the north and north west facing slopes . Experts seeking untouched snow should try the heli-sking which is relatively cheap in a resort which is easily on a par with some of the better known alpine resorts.
For indoor activities there is a huge sports centre in nearby Vielha (15km/9 miles away by public bus) with heated pool, ice rink, gym, sauna and solarium.
A Catalan drink worth trying is 'Cremat' a hot brandy reputedly "resembling rocket fuel".
Tapas (appetizers), are served in most Spanish bars and you really shouldn't leave Spain without trying some.
Don't expect the nightlife to start early - the Spanish like to eat late and party 'til late! The resort has a disco - Pacha, usually the busiest , and Tuc Nere - as well as a host of busy pubs and bars, many of them showing ski videos.
Beginners should try starting off in the Beret area where the green run is wide and relatively quiet with a chairlift. As a mainly intermediate resort theres lots of free riding terrain with long cruising blue runs and adjacent off piste. You can ride the chair all the way to the top of the Cap de Baqueira then theres a choice of blue or red all the way back down to the village.
With snowboarding's growing popularity Baqueira installed a fun park and permanent half pipe in the Beret area.
Bonaigua Argulls area has substantial off-piste as well as natural gullies formed by the river - this is probably the best freeriding area while for rocks, jumps and extreme riding check out the left side of the Chozas chairlift.