I love road trips, visiting new resorts, and going somewhere relatively unknown. So a Pyrenees road trip to check out three of the lesser known resorts ticked my boxes. First up is a review of Font Romeu snowboarding, we also visited Les Angles and Ax Les Thermes the main town accessing Ax 3 Domaines.
We flew into Toulouse airport, which seemed a good choice, however it was around a three hour drive to Font Romeu. Closer airports include Perpignan (1 hour 25), Carcassonne (2 hour 20) and even Barcelona (2 hour 20).
Start of French Pyrenees road trip
Collecting the car at the airport proved to be time consuming, but then it always is. I will never understand why you can’t book a car, all your extras, and just turn up and pick up the keys to that car. For some reason the car you book is never available, you can’t book snow chains, extra drivers or kids car seats in advance so there is an inevitable faff.
An hour later – because everyone in the queue went through the same 15 minute charade or choosing the right car and booking the extras – we hit the road. The first half of the drive is on easy motorway toll roads, the second half up increasingly winding mountain roads skirting both Andorra and Spain.
Arriving in resort at about 10pm we were greeted with an attractive town which looked closed for the night. Driving through there were a couple of bars open and a Casino. We were staying in Le Pic de l’Ours, which had been booked through Pyrenees Collection.
The Pic de l’Ours accommodation was in a modern building. My self catering apartment was fairly basic looking but huge – easily room for five or six people. It was well stocked with utensils and appliances to cooking, had a nice bathroom and comfy bed. All very low key but functional. We of course popped out for a pint at the Casino.
Review of Font Romeu snowboarding
I woke keen to see the Pyrenees for the first time, however it was foggy and raining and all in all rather grey and uninspiring. We met our guide at the Telecabine des Airelles, which departs across the road from the accommodation. This takes you 4km up to the ski area, it is not possible to ski back down to resort.
The Font Romeu ski area is shared with the town of Pyrenees 2000, the pistes range from 1712m to 2213m. There are 52km of piste, although not all of it was open during our visit due to an unseasonably warm and dry December across Europe. The only reason it could open as all was that 80% of the slopes have snow making.
Considering it was almost entirely man made snow, the pistes were in great condition and Font Romeu snowboarding was a lot of fun. The snow was not overly icy – as artificial snow can be – and the coverage on the open pistes was good. Because humidity here is low compared to the western Pyrenees they can produce better quality snow from 5 degrees, in most other ski areas the temperature needs to be below zero.
The ski area is not exactly vast but there is a good amount of variety, with nine green, nine blue, eight red and eight black runs. Most were quite short but there are a few routes that give 500m of descent and will certainly wake the legs up.
The blacks and reds were not the most challenging I have been on, but they were great fun and set between the trees made Font Romeu snowboarding particularly enjoyable. The Competition and Record black run from Gallinera and the red runs from Roc de la Calme down to either Plateau de la Calme or Pradeilles were my favourites.
There are some nice cruisy blue runs, but on the whole I found the blues and greens a little flat for my liking, but they would be good for beginners. Although there are a few flat bits, particularly on linking runs, where you need to carry your pace to avoid doing the undignified one footed shuffle.
A nice surprise for this review of Font Romeu snowboarding was a particularly well stocked snowpark. There were lots of rails and kickers, although only a couple that would be classified as blue for those starting out. There were a couple of red features, plus a lot of seriously advanced rails and a couple of huge kickers. Apparently there had been a competition recently so it was currently set up mainly for experts.
French Pyrenees road trip: Font Romeu conclusions
To conclude this review of Font Romeu snowboarding, I would say it is perfect for families and mixed ability groups. Beginner or intermediates will progress quickly on the quiet and forgiving slopes. But if you want off-piste, gnarly lines or 100s of kms to cover it is not for you. However park rats will be freestyle heaven.
The town is pretty, and above all feels authentic with a slight Catalan flavour. There is nothing forced about this community, it is a small town that happens to have access to skiing. The bars and casino were quiet – apparently they get busy at the weekend – but we had a lovely dinner in the Table des Saveurs which was packed with locals.
There are a lot of other activities available in the area. For example we visited the sulphur thermal spa in Llo, where I spotted a Via Ferrata route heading up the canyon. There is also hiking, cycling, canyoning and climbing available all year round. In the snow there is also dog sledding, cross country skiing, ski touring, and a fun kids piste with many interesting obstacles.
Overall it was a great start to the French Pyrenees road trip. Would I return for more Font Romeu snowboarding? Yes if passing through I would visit, even if I just lapped the park. However I would also consider coming here for a family ski trip, as during the week the slopes are quiet and it would be a great place for my kids to learn.
Staying in the centre of town at Le Pic de l’Ours costs from £125pp for 7 nights. If you likes the sound of my review of Font Romeu snowboarding, and would like to plan your own French Pyrenees road trip, I recommend you check out Pyrenees Collection: www.pyreneescollection.co.uk