Our final stop of our incredible French Pyrenees road trip was a day snowboarding at La Mongie, followed by a night spent on top of Pic Du Midi.
French Pyrenees Road Trip Day 4 – La Mongie
La Mongie, together with Bareges, form the Grand Tourmalet; the largest linked ski area in the French Pyrenees. With over 100km of slopes and 69 pistes, we certainly had enough to keep us busy!
In form with the rest of our road trip, it was another blistering bluebird day. Our drive over from St. Lary was simply breath taking so we arrived in high spirits.
We were taken out on the slopes for our snowboarding review of La Mongie by a local guide. This really helped to get the most out of the resort as we only had a day.
The first thing I noticed was that it was much bigger than the other resorts that we had encountered on our French Pyrenees road trip. As expected, the snow was mainly slushy but there was also a lot of ice patches. We didn’t quite know what we were going to get at any given time so I really had to concentrate whilst riding.
La Mongie has a good selection of blue and red runs. The red runs on the whole were quite short, but I really enjoyed the long sweeping blues.
The most memorable was from the top of a chair lift that looks like it was originally from a 1950’s Eastern block country! The Quatre Termes is a tiny 2 seater that whisked us off our feet with breathtaking speed at the bottom, then trudged up the mountain with the speed of a walking mountain goat, before spitting us out at the top as if we were something it had eaten and disagreed with!
It was so worth it! With great views from the top, we enjoyed the long winding blue run back down. We took our time and made the most of the all the natural side hits and the fact it wasn’t slushy.
After a very pleasant lunch in the sun with a cold beer, we headed up the Bernais and Panoramic chairs to reach the very enjoyable Courme red run. We also managed to hit the challenging Prade Verde black run, before heading over to spend the night at the Pic Du Midi.
A night on Pic Du Midi Review
The Pic Du Midi observatory is the highest in Europe at 2,877 meters. It can only be accessed by cable car so it was important we didn’t miss the last one!
It is possible to just go up there and admire the views before heading back down, but they do have 27 rooms available to stay the night for an incredible experience.
If you are lucky enough to get a chance to spend the night on the Pic Du Midi then you should do so. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.
The views at sunset and sunrise (yes – I did get up that early!) were simply breathtaking. It felt like the scene from some sci-fi movie where they stare out at across a planet in some distant Galaxy. It was out of this world!
We also had a chance to look through the giant telescope and could see the moon and Jupiter close up, as well as Saturn with it’s dust rings. It felt weird looking at these planets as clear as looking at a picture in a book. My belief that the moon was made from cheese was also shattered!
As wonderful as the whole experience was, it was marred slightly by the fact that the whole night’s presentation was in French. I know – We were in France and we can’t expect them to narrate fully in English. But, it is marketed as an international experience and it is limiting and not catering for non-French speakers. I sat through a presentation about the universe that although was visually stunning, I couldn’t understand a word.
The actual host could speak perfect English but little effort was made for us to understand. I was expecting a brief pause and explanation every so often, or audible head phones with translation for non-french speakers. The French tourist authorities did tell us that there are going to be systems put into place for non-French speakers from this season.
As said, this was a wonderful experience, complete with a fabulous meal and a glass of bubbly.
Freeride snowboarding at Pic Du Midi
After witnessing the sunrise, we were all set for freeride snowboarding down the Pic Du Midi. Unfortunately, when our guide turned up, he informed us that it was way too icy and we would have to wait a few hours.
This was not an option as we had a plane to catch. We did wait an hour to see if the situation would change, but our guide told us that if we slipped on the ice at the top then it was likely to be fatal! We decided to head down to the mid station instead.
Although not quite the same, we had the most amazing freeriding down to La Mongie. We enjoyed mellow, untracked powder fields as wide and far as the eye could see.
It was great conditions considering how hot it was in La Mongie, and good to finish our road trip of the French Pyrenees on a high.
When we got down to the car I was exhausted, but exhilarated. It was time to head back to the airport.
It was the end of our road trip and I had the most incredible time in the French Pyrenees. I feel there is so much more that I want to explore and I intend to return.
For more information about the Grand Tourmalet:
For a night on Pic Du Midi:
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)
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