Skiing in Gourette: history, steep slopes and beautiful landscapes

Gourette

The Pyrenees are one of the most varied mountain ranges in the world. From east to west, from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, the south to the north slope, from the sunnier side to the darker side, it boasts a variety of vegetation, irregular terrain and of course, very different snowfalls. The ski resorts in any corner of the Pyrenees are always full of surprises; as was our visit to Gourette.

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Gourette, photo of the foot of the slopes and the main street

Atlantic climate, great snowfall

Gourette is located in Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in the Ossau valley. It’s a resort that benefits from an Atlantic climate. The distance as the crow flies to the Atlantic Ocean is about 100 kilometres, and that means humidity and a lot of precipitation. The data shows the average of snowfall per season is 8 cumulative metres, sometimes as much as 10 in generous seasons. The landscape is dominated by deep valleys and hillsides covered with large forests filled with beech and birch trees. The forests reach as high as 2,000m, a height from which the mountains look uncovered.

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View of Happy Place and Le Cairn restaurant and terrace.

Two large ski areas

Gourette is a resort located at the head of the Eaux Bonnes valley. The peak of Pène Medaa (2,520 m.) divides the resort into two large ski areas, both on the north face of the mountain. The peaks and slopes surrounding the resort give the impression of a  wild, isolated and even inaccessible resort, but the reality is that its tracks are varied and any skier, whatever their level or ability, can find an area suited to them. The data shows that on the map there are 35 tracks that add up to 30 km of tracks, of which 19km have a network of snow cannons.

 

Most of the tracks are blue and red, with some being black such as Les Flancs du Ger that I really wanted to visit which gives me a good excuse to return there sooner rather than later! La Balade, a green track, is definitely worth mentioning and is possibly among the longest in the Pyrenees.

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Taking the chairlift to Anglas.

Steep slopes, wide tracks and brand new chairlifts

At is highest, the resort reaches 2,450m and is accessed by the Anglas chairlift, named after the lone lake in the adjacent valley. The foot of its tracks is located at 1,345m so there is a difference of 1,100m filled with continuous descents only suitable for those who are in good physical shape. This difference for me is one of the main attractions of the resort and what makes it a very attractive destination for skiers with intermediate and expert technical level.

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Chilled atmosphere Rail-Park bar and burger joint in Gourette

If you have the opportunity to visit it, be sure to make the full descent –non-stop-, starting with the Pène Blanque trail – at an altitude of 2,450m- (red), linking with the Pène Medaa (red) and ending the itinerary with the blue track Rhododendrons, at the foot of the slopes. Generally speaking, the tracks are wide, well-marked and flattened on a daily basis. I especially liked Cotch, Pène Medaa and Sarrière. Most importantly, check out the brand new chairlifts.

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View from Cotch chairlift and slope of the same name.

A resort known for its history

Gourette is without a doubt a historic resort. The access road was built in 1930, and with it came electricity, telephone wires and the construction of the first hotels (El Hotel del Aubisque, Edelweiss, and Le Chalet del Amoulat). The resort began in 1935 with the installation of the very first ski lift in the Pyrenees. It had all it needed to become a ski resort and was sure to be a big hit, soon after, the first skiers arrived, mostly from Pau and Bordeaux.

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Beautiful scenery in Gourette

Conclusion

In my opinion Gourette is an ideal resort for both average and expert skiers and for those who look for wide tracks surrounded by beautiful scenery. That does not mean it is not a good destination for beginners. Unlike the “happy place”, at 2,000m up, there lively and sunny 14 hectares area which despite being on the north side is relatively closed off to avoid crossing paths with technically more advanced skiers. Ideal for children, beginners who want to practice away from the paths of advanced skiers, and those who just want to make the most of a more spacious area.

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View from the foot of the urbanized tracks at Gourette.

The food at the resort, usually from the hotels and restaurants at the foot of the slopes, is very good value for money, with unique emphasis on offering quality local, varied and seasonal produce.

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Gourette, is a ski resort located at 1,100m. In the background you can see the Col de l’Aubisque mountain pass.

In general, Gourette is a quiet, family friendly resort with a lively and plentiful visitors but with a relaxed atmosphere. It offers shops, bars, restaurants and creperies.

Outside the resort’s opening hours, there is a wide assortment of après-ski activities, including but not limited to, the thermal baths (about to open a newly built centre), dog sledding excursions using adapted snow-sleds or the snow-rackets at sunset. It has a tourist office located at the foot of the slopes.

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Relaxed atmosphere on the sunny terrace of Le Cairn, in front of the “happy zone”.

Tracks in Gourette

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View track 26th January

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View track 27th January

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View track 28th January

By clicking the above links you will be able to see the result of the tracks I made with the Gourette-NPY app, compatible with Skitude. The tracks add up to almost 100 kilometres of alpine skiing -also a 3km excursion snowshoes and another 9km nocturnal excursion with snowshoes – and from the app I took a fair amount of photographs, which benefit from the geolocalized tagging and so I have more of a complete memory of my time in Gourette, a resort that I loved.

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Map of Gourette

Useful links:

Gourette official website: http://www.gourette.com/es/

The photos I took in Gourette.

Download and discover the Gourette app!

 

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