TO DO | ACTIVE
One of the most popular ski resorts of the French Pyrenees is Ax 3 Domaines. You will find pistes for every taste. From easy green slopes lingering through pine forest to some serious black runs for those who are looking for an adrenaline rush. As Chéri and I decided rather last-minute to book a ski trip, we wanted to stay close to home. Ax 3 Domaines offers 80 kilometres of pistes about 2 hours from Toulouse or Perpignan.
A friend of ours mentioned the ski resort of Ax 3 Domaines, only a 2.5-hour drive from our place (near Béziers). Perfect! Just what we were looking for. After settling ourselves in, we decided to take a look at the station itself. We didn’t have snow in the valley, but driving the 10 kilometres uphill we had to put on our snow chains. Luckily, Chéri bought the right ones, and we got them on in less than 15 minutes without arguing :). The sudden change of scenery into a Winter Wonderland was quite surreal! We managed to get to the station of Bonascre where you will find the ESF and ESI ski schools and some ski rentals. Tip number 1: do reserve your ski gear in advance if you need any. As it was the French February school holiday, not much was left. However, we headed back to Ax-les-Thermes with all the right kid’s ski gear. Ready for the next day!
The second day, we woke up to a cloudy sky. So we decided to take the télécabine or cable car from the centre of Ax-les-Thermes to the heart of the ski resort of Bonascre. Tip number 2: if you can, avoid this télécabine. It takes about an hour’s wait to go up it. And obviously, it takes another hour of waiting to get down at the end of the day. We took the car to drive up to Bonascre all the other days of our stay. There are two car parks, and if you leave early enough, you should still be able to find a parking spot. The last day, Saturday, we left too late, so we ended up in a traffic jam. However, we still preferred taking the car up.
Tip number 3: although Ax 3 Domaines is a relatively small ski resort, you do need to book your ski lessons in advance. Especially during the French February holiday, which lasts two weeks. I didn’t. So our kids didn’t take lessons this year. They know how to ski, so we did some downhill runs with the whole family. But for next time I’ll make sure to make a reservation in advance. Ax 3 Domaines is a very family friendly ski resort. We found ourselves back on the skis and did some fine green and blue runs through gorgeous pine forests to get the hang of it again. We even saw a squirrel crossing the piste!
On top of the world
After a quick lunch on the mountain on day three, Chéri took the twins back to the base at Bonascre as they were a bit tired. Meanwhile, the oldest and I went on an adventure to discover the rest of the three areas. First, we went off to the second area: Campels. Here where we found “La Savis”, the longest blue run in the resort. To be followed by Saquet, the third area. With an amazing view of the mountain ridges. We felt like we were on top of the world! Going back to the Bonascre area, we found the twins sledging away. It seemed like they weren’t that tired after all. Tip number 4: after skiing, get yourself a nice “chocolat chaud à la chantilly” at Le Rendez-vous café. Make sure you ask for the whipped cream, so you get a big jar of bone-soothing hot chocolate. If not, you will only get a small cup of hot chocolate and will jealously look at all the others who knew what to order.
Hot water basin
To close this brilliant skiing day, we went to the centre of Ax-les-Thermes. Tip 5: there is no better way to end an action-packed day than with a relaxing foot bath in the “Bassins de l’Axéenne”. You will find this free and natural sulphurous hot water basin right at the bottom of the télécabine, on the Place Saint-Jérôme. That is one of the advantages of staying in an ancient thermal village like Ax-les-Thermes. We absolutely loved our stay here and are planning to come back soon!