Pic du Midi: how to organize the most beautiful freeride descent in the Pyrenees

Less well known than La Vallée Blanche or La Meije in the Alps, the Pic du Midi is their alter ego in the Pyrenees. Four routes to choose from depending on your level, but with an equally breathtaking panorama.

Perched at an altitude of 2,877 meters above sea level, the Pic du Midi is best known for its astronomical observatory and the purity of the air, earning it France’s first “International Dark Sky Reserve” designation. When leaving La Mongie, it’s just a fifteen-minute cable car ride that spans large, untouched spaces and takes you to the top. The horizon opens across the entire Pyrenees chain, 300 kilometers of mountain range from Catalonia to the Basque Country. After a detour through the planetarium and a metal walkway that takes you over the void, the serious stuff begins.

What level of skiing is required to ski the Pic du Midi?

In the beginning.

You have to be a very good skier and not be afraid to go up the slope, the most challenging sections can reach 45°. Without being a champion, you have to be used to riding off-piste, not only when the conditions are good like light powder, but also in more difficult snow that can be heavy or trodden, i.e. .

What isWhen is the best time to descend the Pic du Midi?

It is difficult to recommend a specific period as the descent of the Pic du Midi depends on snow conditions and temperature. Generally, woodpeckers are “good” from mid-January to mid-April. If by chance the descent of the Pica turns out to be impossible at the last minute, the Taoulet sector offers several free ride alternatives that are equally interesting.

Our advice: take a guide

Breathtaking panorama.

If you do not know the area well, it is strongly recommended that you do not venture into this high mountain area alone. “The Pic du Midi sector does not depend on the station, therefore it is not safe. This free ride area is surrounded by nature with the risks that come with it, avalanches, rock railings, etc.,” explains Victor Saucède, one of the founding members of the Bureau des Guides du Pic du Midi. Not to mention the vagaries of the weather.

Using the services of a guide guarantees the pleasure of the descent while minimizing the risks, although there is no such thing as zero risk in the mountains. You will be equipped with an avalanche transceiver (avalanche victim detector), a shovel, a probe and a pair of crampons loaned by the guide.

Before starting the cable car climb, it will test your level on a marked track. There is no question of bringing a skier who does not have a level. “The guide will choose the right route, but also the time for the descent, depending on the snow conditions. Since the slope faces south, the snow can change radically from hour to hour.warns Victor Saucède.

The Pic du Midi Guides Office offers several options. When you join, you create your group, ideally a maximum of four people, accompanied by a guide. €440 per day or €300 for half a day. You can also sign up for a group trip (maximum 6 people). €100 per person. bureaupicdumidi.fr

Our choice of four itineraries

Skiers must have good technique on these steep slopes.

Depending on the level of difficulty of the skiers, several routes are available.


the most accessible with 1000 meters of altitude. As soon as you leave the building, you find yourself at the foot of a large antenna facing the Pyrenees on the south side, with the Néouvielle massif in the foreground and the Cirque de Gavarnie in the background. After putting on your skis, you get to the heart of the matter. The first 100 meters of descent are not easy as they are exposed to the wind. The snow can be hard and requires you to put crampons on to take a few steps before small turns. You will then reach the Hôtellerie des Laquets above Lake Oncet, the most interesting part. It is here that you can make your mark in the powder before continuing on the long transitions that will take you back to Barèges.


another classic, but wilder and less frequented, is located on the slope of La Mongie and in case of heavy snow can offer up to 1600 meters of altitude with a descent to Artigues-Campan. A shuttle takes skiers back to La Mongie.


It is reserved for very good skiers with extreme skiing experience. A direct descent that passes under the cable car before joining the two routes of La Classique or La Coume. The conditions must be optimal, the snow must not be too hard and the avalanche risk low, as the route is very exposed.


Route parallel to Roche Noire, equally extreme with slopes of 45°.

Pic Free Ride package, all-day ticket plus access to the Pic du Midi, €50. https://www.n-py.com/fr/pic-du-midi/reservation-billetterie

Plan a getaway to the Pic du Midi

In the beginning.

Or sleep?

For an unforgettable experience, spend the night at the top of the Pic du Midi in one of the rooms inhabited by scientists. The comfort is a bit spartan, but the view of the Pyrenees and the stars is breathtaking. You will be looked after by scientists who will share their daily life with you and you will have dinner in a panoramic restaurant. Single package from €469/person – double room from €519. picdumidi.com

Hôtel La Voie Lactée offers approximately twenty rooms with a view of the slopes. Practical, it is a stone’s throw from the starting point of the Pic du Midi cable car. Something extra, a Nordic bath and a sauna to relax the muscles after the descent. From €97 for a double room. hotel-lavoielactee.fr

How to get to the Pic du Midi?

By train: TGV to Tarbes then bus connection.

By plane : Tarbes/Lourdes Pyrénées Airport (49 km), then bus.

By car: access via A64, then direction Bagnères de Bigorre and D918 to La Mongie.

On the video – The 6 most technical slopes in the French Alps

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