Introducing Baqueira Beret / Val d’Aran, in the Spanish Pyrenees, home to incredible skiing and snowboarding, magical horse-drawn sleigh rides and exciting wildlife…

There is a ski resort in the Pyrenees that most people do not know about. Home to brown bears, the Moët Chandon winter lounge and occasionally the Spanish royal family, Baqueira Beret is not the typical mountain getaway. Located in the Val d’Aran, a little over 100 miles from Barcelona, the resort offers a convenient ski location accented by Occitanian culture, distinguishing it from its Alpine neighbours.

The resort had a phenomenal 2017/18 winter season, opening early on 18 November 2017 and closing on schedule on 8 April 2018, and is regarded as one of the best in Baqueira Beret’s history. The slopes enjoyed 63 days of snowfall, resulting in 10 metres of snow on the pistes before grooming, and catered to circa 887,000 skiers and snowboarders. Extensive snowfall aside, the resort hosted 45 music performances and 60 sports events too, including two major cross-country skiing events; the FIS OPA Continental Cup Finals and the Marxa Beret, which featured 850 competitors.

This year, the resort will open towards on 1 December 2018, and whilst the skiing is exceptional, Baqueira Beret / Val d’Aran boasts a variety of other activities available to visitors too, from horse-drawn sleigh trips and Nordic skiing to animal parks and museums. The array of non-ski available makes the resort more attractive, as the demand for ski destinations that offer more than just skiing and snowboarding continues to grow.

Enthusiastic snowboarders should look out for the FIS Snowboard World Cup – Snowboard Cross which takes place in Baqueira Beret / Val d’Aran from 1-2 March 2019. Watch four to six competitors race down the exciting course, comprising cambered turns, various types of jumps, beams, rollers and drops.

The town
The town offers a striking contrast to other ski resorts found across Europe. The Catalonian culture is eminent throughout Baqueira Beret; from the churches and museums to the bars and restaurants. Lunch up the mountain will feature jamón serrano, grilled octopus, calamari, and local cheeses. Visitors looking for a truly authentic experience can keep an eye out for the “Productes dera Val d’Aran” mark, which indicates a product has been made in the valley. The prestigious stamp can be found on foods such as caviar, sturgeon, cider, beer and honey and the area is now famous for producing them. For a chance to appreciate the tranquil Spanish Pyrenees, the Moët winter lounge offers oysters, live music and, of course, glasses of bubbly to skiers and snowboarders looking to have a break up the mountain.
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The skiing
The cultural and natural attractions that distinguish Baqueira Beret from more renowned European resorts do not come at the expense of its exceptional ski area. The Val d’Aran, the valley Baqueira Beret lies in, is the only one of its kind on the Atlantic slope of the Pyrenees; this creates a climate unique to the resort which leads to regular snowfall through winter. Combined with the fact that 30% of its 165 km of pistes are found 2,000 metres above sea level, the slopes of Baqueira Beret enjoy substantial bases that are frequently replenished by consistent snowfall. Skiers and snowboarders looking for an added thrill can try their hand in the snow park, complete with a halfpipe, kickers and rails. A six-day ski pass costs £220 per adult and £141 per child (under 12).
Visitors looking for a different ski-based challenge can also take on the 7 km of dedicated Nordic ski circuit. The gradual inclines of the route allow the enchanting Spanish mountain scenery to be enjoyed more intimately whilst the altitude makes for a challenging workout.
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For skiers in search of a challenge
Skiers looking for a lift-accessible thrill are spoilt with a variety of challenging pisted runs as well as off-piste couloirs. The benchmark for thrill-seekers in search of an adventure is ‘Escornacrabes’ (‘Where Goats Tumble’ in Arenese), a narrow gulley saddled by rocky perimeters and bedded with deep snow. Those inclined to venture further afield have convenient access to numerous heli-ski operators whose knowledge of the region’s peaks and valleys guarantees long descents through untouched powder.
A heli-ski trip with Pyrenees Heliski costs from £168 pp (includes three descents).
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Momentum Ski arrives in Baqueira Beret
The tailor-made ski trip specialist has chosen Baqueira Beret as its first venture outside of the Alps. Having been voted the UK’s Best Winter Corporate Operator at the World Snow Awards 2017, Momentum Ski brings its flair for bespoke ski trips to the Pyrenees. During the upcoming ski season, the company will house guests in a range of hotels and chalets across Baqueira Beret’s, with 3*, 4* and 5* options. (Other tour operators selling holidays to Baqueira Beret include Ski Michel, Ski Inspired and Neilson.)
A three-night stay at Hotel Tuc Blanc, in mid-January 2019, costs from £448 pp (two sharing) in a double room and includes flights from London Gatwick to Toulouse, car hire and breakfast every day.
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 Wildlife of the Val d’Aran
The Aran Park, a wildlife park in the Val d’Aran, allows guests to witness some of the area’s fauna in their natural environment. All animals at the park are native to the region, although some of them are close to extinction; the Iberian lynx is the most endangered feline in the world. Bears, otters, wolves, marmots, vultures, large deer, and ibex can all be seen at the park, providing a rare insight into some of Europe’s most elusive animals. Nature lovers, and those looking to learn more about the ecology of the area, will find a host of information readily available at the park which is easily accessible for pushchairs.
The entry charge £12.20 per adult and £8.75 per child.
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Horse drawn carriages
One of Baqueira Beret’s more unusual attractions is the Trineos de Caballos’, or horse sleighs in English. Guests can wind through the snowy pine tree trails and expansive winter landscapes of the resort wrapped in warm blankets aboard the rustic, horse-drawn sleigh. An optional 500 metre walk in snow shoes can be added for a truly immersive winter experience.
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