Photo credit: © Baqueira Beret
Baqueira / Beret, usually referred to simply as ‘Baqueira’ because there is no accommodation in Beret, is widely regarded as the best ski resort not just in Spain but across the Pyrenees. Soldeu and Pas de la Casa in Andorra might share a larger lift-linked ski area, and La Mongie and Barèges in France might have a higher lift, but Baqueira’s range of terrain, long pistes, snow record, resort convenience, freeride potential, scenery, ambience, and the quality of its hotels and restaurants, make it the number one choice for most skiers, including Spain’s royal family who holiday here. And even compared to the top resorts in the Alps, Baqueira still holds its own as a relatively inexpensive all-rounder with something for everyone. It’s therefore particularly suitable for a mixed group who want a ski holiday with a Spanish flavour and like the idea of après ski in a tapas bar. And for those who want something very different, there is also the option of staying below Baqueira in one of the unspoilt Val d’Aran villages where stone-walled, slate-roofed houses huddle around ancient Romanesque churches and the locals still speak Aranese.
Baqueira has 111 ski runs divided into 6 green pistes for beginners; 43 blue and 45 red pistes for intermediates; and 17 black pistes and 3 official itineraries for strong skiers and freeriders. In total this provides 165km of runs and covers 2273 hectares (5617 acres) which in layman's terms means this is a medium-sized area that should be big enough for most skiers for a week's holiday, especially as there is lots of unofficial off-piste terrain for stronger skiers to explore.
The ski area has three lift-linked sectors: Baqueira which has skiing all the way down to the resort at 1500m: Beret which is 9km by road to the north east, 350m higher up the mountain, and has skiing on both sides of the valley; and Bonaigua, about 9km south east of Baqueira, which is shown in the photo and has the highest base station at 1900m. The connections between the sectors are excellent, with a choice of blue and red runs, so almost everyone can explore all three sectors.
Baciver, the newest and highest part of the ski area, is part of the Beret sector but is easily approached from Baqueira. Two long and steep drag lifts (boarders beware) ascend to 2610m giving access to red runs and plenty of off-piste.
At Beret, there is a Snowpark with three levels of difficulty and a separate Bordercross park.
The lift system generally copes with the demands placed upon it. On weekdays outside of peak holiday periods there are no lift-queues at all, but some can build up when the resort gets busier. There are five drag lifts and two T-bars, which some skiers (and most boarders) might feel is too many. Most of the chairlifts are modern, detachable, high-speed ones.
Baqueira's ski area largely faces north-west, which puts it directly in the path of the snow-laden winter storms coming in from the Atlantic. Almost all the slopes are over 1800m and are reinforced by snow canons, so the main pisted area is pretty much snowsure from Christmas through to Easter, although the west-facing runs closest to the resort can be icy first thing in the morning. Experts should also be aware that Baqueira's ungroomed black runs and off-piste routes require fresh natural powder, and its snow record, whilst superior to almost anywhere else in the Pyrenees, does not match the highest snowiest resorts in the Alps.
There are 5km of nursery slopes and easy green runs split between the three ski sectors, but there is no regular ski bus service to Beret and Bonaigua from the accommodation in Baqueira, so these nursery slopes are out of reach for beginners who have not yet mastered blue runs and don’t have a car, unless they pay for a taxi. This makes them overly reliant on the nursey slopes at Baqueira which are one lift up the mountain at Bosque at 1800m. This means they are snowsure but beginners need to buy a full lift pass to access them. (The beginners' area at Beret has a special low-cost pay-per-ride system, if you can get to it.) There is a good choice of ski schools – see below.
Baqueira/Beret has a huge network of blue pistes for beginners to progress onto, but many are quite steep in places, so absolute beginners should not be rushed into skiing them. The easiest tend to be around Beret.
Baqueira is an excellent resort for intermediates. Over 80% of the official runs are intermediate-friendly reds and blues, and most of the black runs should also be within reach of confident intermediates if snow conditions are good. The highlight for intermediates, if only for the scenery and the changes in terrain, are the red runs coming down from the top of Baciver. They are not particularly steep but are narrow in places. If you keep going (there are several places where you take lifts back up the mountain) you can ski all the way into Baqueira to complete a 1110m vertical run, and a serious test of stamina if skied non-stop.
Advanced & Off-Piste / Freeride
Advanced skiers and boarders should start with Baqueira's 17 black runs which are usually left ungroomed. A signposted 'Safari-Negro' shows the shortest way to ski them all, however it might make more sense to start with the ones at Bonaigua, which are mostly east-facing and at their best in the morning. After skiing these, a more serious test awaits in the form of Baqueira's official freestyle itineraries, the most famous of which is the aptly named Escornacrabes, or ‘Where goats fall’. These are not patrolled but they are marked and the gates to them are opened if the resort regards them as safe. Next there are the unofficial near-the-piste freeride opportunities, which are found all over the ski area. Some of the steepest are between the Jorge Jordana lift and the Escornacrabes itinerary, between the Teso dera Mina lift and the Argulls piste, and under and around the Peulla lift. Hiring a guide (see below for details) to show which routes are safe and best suited to your ability level is highly recommended. Guides can also show you ‘proper off-piste', including various descents of Tuc de Baciver which is just a 15 minute climb from the top of the Baciver drag lift, and long itineraries that finish outside the ski area from Tuc deth Dessau, Tuc de la Llanca and Cap de la Peulla. The return is by taxi or in a pre-parked car, or on a snowmobile or via an ascent on skins. And lastly heliskiing, which is banned in France and heavily restricted in Austria, is legal in Baqueira and easily arranged through the mountain guides for prices you won't find in Switzerland.
In Baqueira the mountain restaurants tend to be close to the base stations. In each sector there is at least one and sometimes two self-service cafés plus a more formal table service restaurant. In the self-service cafes, if it’s a cold day, you should try the typically Spanish/Catalonian Hot Chocolate, which is normally so rich and thick it’s barely liquid. If the resort is very busy, remember the Spanish tend to lunch late, so eat early to avoid queues. The table-service restaurants are not cheap but offer high class food for a price similar to what a very ordinary hamburger and chips would cost in a smart French, Swiss or Austrian resort. Restaurant El Bosque (Tel +34 973639001) near the top of the Bosque and Esquiros lifts has particularly good pork and ham.
Ski Schools, Instructors and Mountain Guides
Baqueira has over 300 accredited instructors and guides. The easiest way to find a suitable ski school class, private instructor or mountain guide is through CheckYeti which lets you compare prices and check lesson times, languages, class sizes and availability, however two providers with good reputations are:
- Landing Snowboard offers snowboarding tuition for all standards and off-piste mountain guiding for both skiers and snowboarders. The guides and instructors are mostly Spanish but speak excellent English and joke that they can even adapt to the peculiar foreign habit of eating lunch before 2pm! They can also arrange heliskiing and ski touring. Tel +34 626921036; email email@example.com.
- BB ski school stands for the Baqueira British Ski School provide high quality ski and snowboard tuition in English at competitive prices and also provides mountain guides for off-piste skiing and freeriding, including heliskiing and ski touring. Tel: +34 873480028; email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Ski and Snowboard hire
Baqueira has its own centrally managed ski and board rental shops with a good range of equipment for hire. They all charge the same fixed price and are located in Baqueira at the foot of the Bosque chairlift; in the Hotel Montarto; in Ruda at the end of the mall near the Baqueira lift; in Beret next to the Audeth café; at the top of the Bosque and Baqueira lifts near the Bosque café; and at Bonaigua Village 2072, near the Cap del Port lift.
If you want discounted ski hire, SKISET has outlets in Baqueira / Beret and in the Val D’Aran and Val D’Aneu and gives discounts if you book online in advance here. ALPINRESORTS.com works with ski hire shops in and around Baqueira including one by the Esquiros lift in Baqueira 1700 and also give discounts if you book online in advance here.
How to Get to Baqueira
Nearest Airports to Baqueira
- Toulouse-Blagnac Airport: 179 km / about 2 hours 15 mins drive
- Lleida-Alguaire: 162 km / about 2 hours, 5 mins drive
- Barcelona airport: 284km / about 3 hours 45 mins drive
Toulouse Airport in France is the main gateway airport and is well served by national carriers (BA, Air France, KLM etc) and low cost airlines (EasyJet, RyanAir etc). The road follows the Garonne river up to the resort, passing through Vielha and close to many of the Val d’Aran villages such as Arties and Salardu reducing their transfer times from the Baqueira ones stated above. The sheer number of flights to Toulouse makes Baqueira and the Val d’Aran a viable ski weekend destination.
Lieda-Alguaire is closer still to the resort but is only used for charter flights by tour operators like Neilson.
Getting from the airport to Baqueira and the Val d’Aran
Almost all the accommodation in Baqueira is within 10 minutes' walk of the lift and most is within 5 minutes, so it’s unlikely you will need a car if you’re staying in the resort, unless you’re a beginner and want to use the nursery slopes at Beret. Therefore a private transfer is probably more convenient. Ski-Lifts arranges private transfers for individuals and groups from Toulouse and Barcelona airports to Baqueira. Click here to get an immediate quote online.
Hiring a car makes more sense if you’re staying in one of the Val d’Aran or Val d’Aneu villages as you will have to commute to the ski area every day.
There is a public bus service between Baqueira and Vielha with stops in some the Val d’Aran villages, and onward connections from Vielha to airports, but it’s not a frequent service. See https://www.alsa.es/ for times and prices.
There is no accommodation at Beret or Bonaigua, so you either stay in the resort of Baqueira or in one of the lower villages.
The main Baqueira village is Baqueira 1500. This includes the original ski station and the newer suburb of Ruda. The Baqueira bubble lift stops at both and it's easy to walk between them, so it does not really matter much which part of 1500 you stay in.
Baqueira 1700 is a long walk (or a short car/taxi journey) up the mountain from Baqueira 1500, so it's effectively a separate village. The main part of it is Tanau which has its own lift, Esquiros. Below Tanau is the Royal Pleta – the exclusive suburb where the King of Spain stays. Overall Baqueira 1700 is slightly more attractive with better views and fewer bars and restaurants than 1500, but they are both typical purpose-built, high-altitude resorts that prioritise convenience over charm.
There is no shortage of charm, however, in the 30 or so Val d’Aran villages that stretch all the way from Baqueira to the French border. They vary hugely in size, but most have strict building controls, so although there are modern developments they tend to blend in seamlessly with the old stone and slate houses. At the heart of many of the villages is a Romanesque church dating back to the middle ages. Arties, about 15 minutes' drive from the Baqueira lifts, is probably the most scenic, with stunning mountain views in all directions, a pretty church (inside and outside), atmospheric bridges crossing the river Garonne and 30 bars and restaurants tucked away in its narrow streets, including some very good ones like the Tauèrna Urtau tapas bar and restaurant (tel:+34 973640926). .
On the other side of the ski resort beyond Bonaigua is the Val d’Aneu, where there are more Pyrenean mountain villages.
Accommodation in and around Baqueira
Hotels in Baqueira tend to be less expensive than in the major Alpine ski resorts, so you can often go up one star for the same price.
Hotel Himalaia Baqueira by Pierre Vacances (4-star hotel)
Located in Ruda in Baqueira 1500, just a 5 minute walk (mostly covered) from the Baqueira lift, and with super-convenient ski lockers right next door to the lift station, the hotel provides a free guiding service every morning, with ski guides showing guests around the ski area. The hotel has a restaurant onsite and its self-service breakfast is high in quality and unlimited in quantity (you won’t need lunch!). The Himalaia has a small indoor pool, hot tub and Turkish bath in its own spa centre. There is also a Kids’ club. Staff are very helpful.
Eira Ski Lodge (4-star Boutique Hotel / Private Chalet)
Situated in Tanau less than 100 yards from the Esquiros lift, with lovely views from its sun terrace, this is a small boutique hotel which can also be booked by a group as a chalet on an exclusive basis. It has 8 bedrooms but can accommodate up to 24 people because four of the rooms are large duplexes. The extremely good three course set dinner is included in the half-board price.
La Pleta Hotel by Rafael Hotels (5-star hotel)
5 star luxury hotel in Tanau between the royal family residence and the Esquiros lift, with 3 restaurants, a café, a terrace bar, an on-site ski hire shop and a spa with an indoor pool, gym and wellness centre offering massage and beauty treatments. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the nearest lift so the concierge service arranges shuttle transport, including to the nursery slopes at Beret.
Hotel AC Baqueira Autograph Collection (5-star hotel)
Situated near the centre of Baqueira 1500 (technically it’s in Ruda but only 50m and from the Baqueira lift), the Hotel AC Baqueira is also within easy walking distance of all the shops bars and restaurants in the whole of the resort. The hotel has a spa with Turkish bath and sauna and fitness centre, and a heated terrace with sun loungers. The hotel has an Italian restaurant, cafe bar and bar.
Meliá Boutique Royal Tanau (5-star hotel)
Located about 50 yards from the Esquirós ski lift in Baqueira 1700 with rooms enjoying panoramic views of the Aran Valley, the hotel has the Yhi Spa with massage and beauty treatments, an á la carte restaurant and a snack bar.
Hotel Val de Neu G.L (5-star hotel)
Located about 200 yards from the Baqueira ski lift in Ruda in Baqueira 1500, Hotel Val de Neu GL has 4 different restaurants; a chill-out lounge with sofas around a fireplace; a Sisley spa offering massages, beauty treatments, a thermal circuit, and an exterior hot tub; and a children's area with heated pool, miniclub and children's restaurant, as well as a babysitting services. The hotel has ski lockers next to the ski lift.
Hotel Tuc Blanc (3-star hotel)
Situated next to the slopes and very close to the Bosque lift in Baqueira 1500, the Tuc Blanc provides guides to help guests explore the resort. The hotel has an indoor pool, hot tub and spa with sauna and Turkish bath.
Hotel Montarto (4-star hotel)
Located in Baqueira 1500, about a 5 minute walk to the Bosque lift, this 4 star hotel has ski hire facilities on site as well as a small swimming pool, gym and sauna. It has a restaurant and piano bar.
Hotel Saueth (1-star hotel)
A great budget option for those with a car because it is in Tredos, less than 2 miles from Baqueira's lifts and pistes. Small, basic (no restaurant in the hotel) but highly rated by previous guests.
More hotels, apartments, guesthouses and chalets.
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Baqueira/Beret Pros & Cons
+ Good mix of runs for all standards;
+ Big enough ski area for most skiers;
+ Excellent off-piste and freeriding;
+ Inexpensive compared to top Alpine resorts;
+ Appealing Spanish food, drink and ambience;
+ No lift queues on normal weekdays;
+ Good lift and piste links between sectors;
+ Option of staying in charming Val d'Aran villages.
- No free ski bus between Baqueira, Beret and Bonaigua;
- Traffic jams and lift queues at peak times on weekends;
- Beginners need a full lift pass or a car/taxi to get to Beret;
- Too many long drag lifts and T-Bars.