Reputedly the King of Spain’s favourite resort, it seems incredible that Baqueira Beret is so little known in the UK. Easily accessible from the UK from Toulouse followed by a very easy two hour drive, it seems to have pretty much everything you could want from a ski resort whatever your budget.
Its 153 km of pistes are split into three linked areas, Beret, Baqueira and Bonaigua, which are accessed by a gondola and then a network of (mainly) chairlifts. Most of the mainly blue and red slopes rising to just over 2.500 metres at their highest point, are wide and beautifully groomed, with trees and stunning landscapes in whichever direction you look. They’re the kind of slopes you can help but feel as if you look fabulous on. For those who are more intrepid, there are a few very hairy-looking black slopes, as well as ample off-piste opportunities and cross-country tracks.
The most amazing thing about the resort, though, was perhaps the total lack of crowds. We visited during a French half term week, when the Alpine resorts would no doubt have been rammed, and there was almost no-one there. Most lifts had no queues at all and we had many pistes almost entirely to ourselves, especially in the morning and in the Bonaigua sector.
Despite being only around 30 km from the border, it has a very different atmosphere to the French resorts, with churros and chocolate instead of croissants for breakfast and tapas available in the slopeside bars. Its slightly retro liftpass system means your pass has to be scanned by a real person every time you go through a lift gate, the upside of this being the cheery “buenas dias” and “gracias” you get from almost every attendant. It has a very friendly feel.
We stayed in Hotel Tuc Blanc, a mid-range hotel a short couple of flights of stairs down from the main gondola. It has the added bonus of an indoor pool, sauna and steam room, as well as a bar and cosy salon with a fireplace and sofas, a very reasonably-priced restaurant serving four-course evening meals and incredibly breakfast, plus a café if you’re after something simpler. Another mid-range option if you’d prefer a chalet holiday with or without guiding is family-friendly Chalet Eira For luxury lovers, you can’t go far wrong with Hotel La Pleta, at the top of the village in Tanau (where the king has a house), and where your skis are whisked from your car directly into the ski lockers and there’s a shuttle to take you the 100 metre (or less) walk to the lift. For those on the budget, there are hotels and apartments in the villages down the valley and the nearby town of Vielha, and a free car park in resort (although it is worth there getting fairy early to be sure of a space).
Similarly, on the pistes you can opt for a cheap and admittedly no-that-special canteen-style meal, or go to a traditional Spanish restaurant with table service, good food and higher (but far from Alpine) prices. As it turned out, even though the pistes were uncrowded, the “proper” piste restaurants were busy (we had to try couple before scoring an outdoor table at the stylish Cinco Jotas which specialises in cured meat from acorn-fed pigs.)
Knowing the Spanish tend to do their evenings late – dinner at 10pm and then out drinking – I wondered if we’d find ourselves alone in the restaurant at 8pm and kept awake by people coming back from bars at 4am. But no – the restaurant was busy and the hotel very quiet. Perhaps it was just the time of year we went but it seemed to be a couples and family-orientated resort without big groups.
We will be back.