With its links to the adjacent, equal-sized domaine of La Mongie over 10km east on the far side of the Col du Tourmalet, Barèges offers access to the largest skiing area in the French Pyrenees, including downhill pistes totalling 125km (1850–2400m) and 31km of cross-country trails through the Lienz plateau forest (1350–1700m). Beginners’ runs finishing in Barèges village are much too low (1250m) to retain snow; so all skiers usually have to start from the Tournaboup or Tourmalet zones. High-speed, state-of-the-art chair lifts are the rule at Barèges, and runs have been regraded to make the resort more competitive, but La Mongie over the hill, despite its hideous purpose-built development, offers even higher, longer pistes. For more information consult w tourmalet.fr.
The GR10 passes through Barèges on its way southeast into the lake-filled Néouvielle Massif, part of France’s oldest (1935) natural reserve, and a great hiking area. The best trailhead for day-hikes lies 3km east of Barèges on the D918 at Pont de la Gaubie (you’ll see a small car park and an abandoned snack bar), from where the classic seven-hour day-loop takes in the Vallée des Aygues Cluses plus the lakes and peak of Madamète, followed by a descent via Lac Nère and Lac Dets Coubous back to Gaubie.