Baqueira Beret

Baqueira Beret

Overall Rating

Baqueira Beret

Baqueira Beret5/51
Baqueira Beret5 out of 5 based on 1 reviews
  • Recommend
    100%
  • Would Revisit
    100%
Powderhounds Europe Facebook Link
    Baqueira Beret Ski Trail Map
  • Baqueira Beret Ski Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,500m - 2,610m (1,110m))
  • Average Snow Fall
    Unknown
  • Lifts (28)
    1 Gondola
    19 Chairs
  • Opening Times
    Late Nov to early April
    8:45am to 4:45pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs - 167km (incl. routes)
    Longest run - 6km+
    Advanced - 20%
    Intermediate - 32%
    Beginner - 48%
  • Lift Pass Price
    Day Ticket 20/21
    Adult - €52 to 54.50
    Child - €34.50 to 36
    Child u/6yr - €5

Baqueira Beret - Reviews

Baqueira Beret - Reviews

Spain's Legendary(and yet unknown) Ski Paradise

05/02/2021

Peter

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy

Peter

Powder Puppy
Powder Puppy
  • Recommend
  • Would Revisit
  • Rider Type
    Skier
  • Rider Level
    N/A
  • Rider Age
    36-50
  • Admin Rating
    5

Spain's Legendary(and yet unknown) Ski Paradise

05/02/2021
Pyrenees with Baquiera's 'Argulls' sector in foreground
a Champagne bar dug out after a heavy snow or 'nevazo'
The village of Tanau(1700M) has its own chairlift connecting to the pistes
discussing lines on the distant Cap de Baciver
'El Diablo'
Baqueira-Beret, Spain’s largest and simultaneously most exclusive resort has two very distinct reputations.

For many Spaniards, the resort epitomises glitz and luxury. That’s sufficiently represented by the Champagne bars, designer skiers and pricey chalets, slopeside - but even more so by the seasonal visits of Spain’s Royal Family.

However, there is the other Baqueira(as locals refer to the resort); an imposing range of peaks at the end of a gradually narrowing, long valley, a build site chosen specifically for its year-on-year records of deep snowfall and the destination of the peninsula’s most diehard freeriders.

That second reputation would be the draw for powderhounds, obviously.

Located on the north side of the Pyrenees(the only such station in Spain) Baqueira’s position at the end of the Val d’Aran is a privileged micro-climate, where Atlantic storms barrel in from the Bay of Biscayne, tumble across the south of France and then get lifted into this long, funnel of a valley, hitting what is essentially a wall of peaks. This often results in deeper snowpacks than resorts in the Alps - and at half the price, and a fraction of the crowds.

The 2012/2013 season was a record-breaker, and for a moment it seemed Baqueira-Beret might get some primetime exposure outside of the peninsula. There was a big feature in Powder and an article in The Telegraph titled ‘Is this the World’s Best Ski Resort?’. But minus a few more British accents at the warming hut, the mountain remains anonymous, abroad.

That was the first season I skied Baqueira, 2012/13. The resort received 360’’ of snow. In January.

Just January.

It was deep.

However, there are caveats. This is rarely blower powder. It’s a heavier, more humid lift; It also compacts quickly as temps in this part of the world rise the moment the clouds clear. More often the off-piste is akin to creamy sugar consistencies. And, when storms are raging and the quality is more world-standard, visibility is an issue. I can’t think of a more vertigo-inducing, flat-light challenge than Cap de Baqueira on a snow day. That said, at over 4,700 acres, for every weather challenge in the Val d’Aran, there is a solution.

The basics:

The Val d’Aran is approximately four(4) hours north of Barcelona by car. The road is motorway until Lleida and then becomes increasingly curvy and wily, through the tunnel and down into Vielha, the valley’s largest town. Be advised that entering the Vielha tunnel in dry weather can still mean heavy snow on the other side, such is the microclimate. Chains should be added to any rental vehicle. ALSA offers the only public transport from Barcelona. There are up to four buses per day averaging approximately five hours, but some do stop in the city of Lleida adding an additional hour.

Far easier is to arrive via Toulouse, France. Vielha is only two(2) hours from the international airport and the mountain road is tame by comparison. There is no viable public transport from Toulouse.

For accommodations, there are many options. Vielha is the main village and is extraordinarily lively. Not only is there a surplus of tapas bars, ski shops and boutiques, but there are nuts and bolts amenities - a large supermarket and chemists, etc. Since Vielha is some twenty minutes from the slopes, there are more budget-friendly options mixed in with luxury stays. There is also a community spa and skating rink for days off the mountain. NB: there is an inter-valley bus that runs hourly to and from the gondola at a cost of €1.10 single, cash payment.

Each village that rises from Vielha to the ski lifts more or less represents higher costs, culminating in prices more akin to the Alps should you choose to stay at the base of the Gondola(the fairly new Val de Ruda is well-planned, must say). Arties is the trendiest and most ‘party hearty’ of the hamlets.

Main access to the resort is at Baqueira 1500 and Val de Ruda 1500. Though this can result in the largest crush of people on weekends or holiday weeks, queues are rare and/or quick. It’s hard to justify climbing the winding road to Beret. The road to Bonaigua is often cut off due to avalanches, as well(forty consecutive days in 2012/2013). The gondola from here quickly delivers skiers to ’1800’, the main base for Baqueira with ski schools, cafeterias a series of detachable quads and independent eateries(rentals are at 1500).

‘Baqueira’ of Baqueira-Beret is the most crowded area of the expansive resort, followed by Beret. Fanning out from this main peak will give any skier a massive choice(keep in mind Baqueira is roughly the same skiable acreage as Vail so crowds are easy to avoid).

For adventure, ’Itineraries’ are mapped excursions that are typically all off-piste, the most famous being ‘Escornacrabes’(‘where the goats tumble’ in Aranese) which begins as a very steep couloir and then empties into a playground of natural features along a submerged creek bed of rapidly changing fall lines.

However, aside from the mapped descents, ropes are considered very negotiable at Baqueira-Beret. Fun, yes, but the result is a few avalanche deaths each season. If not skiing with locals hiring a guide is advisable.

Those guides can lead any expert skier to a variety of off-piste options; many begin near Tuc de la Llanca and the newly connected(since 2018) Cap de Baciver, Baqueira’s highest lift serviced peak at 2610M/8563ft. Hikes are mercifully short, generally. Casting further afield, there are long descents deep off the backside of the range, with a bit of skinning; these terminate in desolate villages and require a vehicle at exit.

Having so many geographical aspects, one can ski Baqueira ‘with the weather’. In heavy snow or fog, ski the various tree-lined chutes in Argulls or the 300M vertical of forest below Baqueira 1800. In hard conditions, southeast facing Blanhiblar and the skier’s-left shoulder of Baqueira(Manuad, Solei) offer the earliest softening. In soft conditions, ski the reverse faces of Baqueira and Bonaigua.

There are a few insider tips worth mentioning: firstly, Spanish skiers are late risers(being late partiers). Arrive to the lifts just before opening. Sleeping in may mean a slow jam up the access road. Locals also prefer sun to snow, so if you do venture out in a storm, you’ll have the mountain to yourself. Also, if you choose to use the inter-valley bus to connect from one of the villages, disembark at Val de Ruda. There is better direct access to the Gondola, fewer crowds and a manned ski locker facility offering a full size unit at €6/day should you choose to store equipment rather than lug it on the bus.

Additionally, on any map you will see eastern access to the resort via the Val d’Aneu and Bonaigua. This eastern side is very quiet due to the limited amenities and a difficult access road. Not to say it isn’t an option from Barcelona, but keep road conditions under consideration.

Finally, the only apres ski will be at the resort, itself, particularly at the raucous ‘Baquiera 1500’ bar and terrace. Once in the villages, most venues will be closed until the traditional late-opening Spanish dinner service(8pm or so), and several underground discos start, thereafter.

Baqueira-Beret is largely considered the ‘only’ world-class international resort in Spain(and the Pyrenees, for that matter). Spaniards sometimes complain about the prices as compared to other peninsular resorts(even if a lift ticket, here, is half that of Chamonix). However for what I view as a small differential compared to, say, Andorra, Baquiera not only has far superior terrain and facilities, but works hard to justify its hype. Access roads are meticulously maintained(as are the pistes), avalanche abatement begins long before the lifts spin and customer service is stellar - in a country not necessarily known for the good practice. And with such a massive amount of varied terrain, even on its worse day, Baqueira delivers. Thus, Baqueira-Beret should be under consideration by any true powderhound and freerider. Or, hey - for those who like a good Champagne bar, as well.