One of the best things about winter sports is the après-ski; there is no greater reward after an intense day on the slopes to taste the local gastronomic delights, accompanied with a stiff drink to warm up – and a great place to do so is Val d’Arán in the Pyrenees mountains.
But here, there are also many other activities possible between skiing and dinner. Due to its location in the Central Pyrenees and the quality of its snow, the Arán Valley is a privileged area surrounded by peaks of over 3,000 meters, extensive meadows and numerous lakes. Its forests are populated by firs, pines and beech trees, with a varied wildlife including brown bears, grouse and white partridges.
The more than 157 skiable kilometers of its 105 tracks make Baqueira-Beret one of the best stations in the world. And when the ski day ends, a new world of activities begins for the whole family.
For example sledding with huskies or horse sledding on snow, wrapped in blankets and with a dreamlike landscape ahead, both of which can be done at night. This excursion promises to move us to the Siberian landscapes of ‘Doctor Zhivago‘ through different paths of pines and firs where an overwhelming silence reigns. For the more adventurous, the driving of snowmobiles is a must to experience speed, freedom and unforgettable sensations. On safaris (more extensive) you can spot deer, chamois and wild boar.
Or pop on some snow shoes and go walking on white paths following different routes specified by Arán’s Tourism Board; a special hiking challenge in which to enjoy the beautiful landscape the sporty way. Most of the excursions can be completed with different gastronomic possibilities such as tasting a menu of the valley specialties in the charming village of Montgarri.
For the ultimate in relaxation and soothing sore muscles, submerge yourself in the sulfurous hot springs of the Arán Valley to pamper and revitalise yourself. These waters go down to 300 meters of depth and reach 30º in temperature. They can be enjoyed in three outstanding enclaves: the spas of Baronia de Les, the bath Banhs de Tredòs and the thermal baths of Arties, all with outstanding amenities such as fountains, jacuzzis, thermal circuits, hydrotherapy and mud therapy, hydroponic cures and other hydrothermal treatments.
The artistic-cultural heritage of the Valley is rich, and its conservation is one of the strong points of the personality and heritage of these lands of the Pyrenees. The Aranese towns all have houses constructed in stone, wood and slate, and are crowned with bucolic churches and chapels in Romanesque and Gothic styles that offer beautiful snaps when the snow arrives. Sant Martin de Tours in Gausac, Sant Pèir d’Escunhau or Santa Eulària d’Unha are just some of the more than thirty religious buildings that are well worth a visit to see works of art and other decorative elements dating back to the 12th century. There are also museums in the towns of the Valley, such as the Snow Museum of Unha and the Corral Museum in Bagergue, a project of the Moga family to showcase the daily life and craft of the Aranese people.
Finally, as for the food, tradition, flavour and product are the keys of the Aranese gastronomy, a cuisine based on delicious hunting and fishing specialties of the area, with a touch of French influence. Recipes of yesteryear that present delicious and hearty stews of roe deer or wild boar, tasty grilled meats, pâtés and cheeses made in the Valley, seasonal vegetables cooked over a fire, all satisfy the hungry skier after a long day.