Home » Relishing The Snowy French Pyrenees With Kids At Tourmalet Pic du Midi

Relishing The Snowy French Pyrenees With Kids At Tourmalet Pic du Midi

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Last Updated on March 20, 2024 by Leslie Stroud

It’s official… we really love France.  Having just completed our fifth trip there, I have to say I experience a weirdly comforting feeling when in France, almost like coming home.  Perhaps it’s the climate, which feels similar to my native Colorado (or at least the mountains of Colorado), or just that we’ve declared French food as the best in the world. Whatever the reason, we know we will be back.

We’ve dreamed of moving to France someday, but, after moving our family of seven to Portugal in 2021, I doubt we could put our kids through another international move.  Thankfully, we plan to be in Portugal for many more years and can hop over to France in about 1.5 hrs by plane or 8-12 hours by car.

On this trip, we ventured into a new (to us) area of France – the French Pyrenees Mountains.  This breathtaking mountain range separates Spain and France and boasts many enjoyable summer and winter activities.

We visited in hopes of skiing, and, though it was unseasonably warm for our trip, we still had a fantastic time on the slopes…and beyond!

Ski day at Tourmalet Pic du Midi

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Where Is Tourmalet Pic du Midi?

If, like us, you’ve never been to this area, the many names can be confusing.  Little French towns are sprinkled throughout the countryside and bleed together until you reach larger cities.

We flew into Toulouse and drove about two hours to Bagnères-de-Bigorre.  This locale is also about 30 minutes from Lourdes.  From there, it was another 20-30 minutes to the ski slope of Grand Tourmalet.  We stayed in a gorgeous remodeled farmhouse between the slopes and the little town.

This area is also relatively close to Spain and Andorra (one of the smaller European countries nestled near the border between Spain and France).

The drive from Lisbon (our hometown) to Grand Tourmalet Ski Resort is 12 hours.  From Barcelona, it is 5.5 hours.

Swedish bath just outside our lodge

Where To Stay Near Tourmalet Pic du Midi

While many hotels are closer to the slopes, we were blessed to stay at La Grange da Ladour.

This converted French farmhouse knocked our socks off! Its owner, Savonne, purchased the farmhouse in late 2019 and spent two years during the pandemic gutting it and remodeling it into a dreamy gathering place for up to 20!

Seven bedrooms, more than 10 bathrooms, a sauna, a Swedish bath, and more await you at this cozy home.  We loved the two fireplaces (one wood burning and the other an automatic pellet stove), the massive dining table for 14+, and the huge sectional and pool table. 

Located just 20 minutes from the Grand Tourmalet Ski Resort, we made it up to the slopes in no time. The house even has a ski storage room for equipment safe-keeping.

We saw lots of wildlife and made a wonderful, cozy dinner in front of the fireplace while marveling at the plentiful stars in the night sky. Magical!

The boys spend some time playing pool in our lodge

In case this house is too large for you, check out these other family-friendly options:

  • Résidence Les Balcons de l’Yse is in the mountains. Aside from skiing, you can try the nearby Tournaboup Ski Lift, Pic du Midi – Voie Est Gondola, and Cirque du Lys Gondola. End your day in the on-site sauna.
  • Located in the city center and near a train station, Le Rex Hotel offers an onsite spa and is close to attractions like the Massey Garden and Lourdes Wax Museum.
  • Soak in the views over a cup of hot chocolate or coffee on the terrace of your room in Hotel Padoue. This hotel is accessible to many attractions like the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and Massabielle Grotto.
We had a blast exploring the French Pyrenees, thanks to the good weather!

What To Do with Kids in the French Pyrenees

Skiing at Grand Tourmalet 

Known as the largest ski resort in the Pyrenees, Grand Tourmalet hosts various family attractions.  Visit the traditional ski town of La Mongie at the base of the ski slopes and have cheese fondue with the best backdrop you can imagine.

After you’ve had your fill of good food, swoop up the mountains to the Pic du Midi, Europe’s largest and oldest astronomical observatory, which is still a base for science and tourism alike.   

If skiing or snowboarding is your jam; ski backcountry from the Pic du Midi to the backside to Bareges, an authentic Pyrenean village.  Grand Tourmalet is accessible from two sides, with different experiences to be had at each.

These kids are really up for some snow adventure. Because why not!?

The Pyrenees Largest and Highest Ski Resort

Grand Tourmalet boasts over 60 runs and 30 lifts, making it a resort you can enjoy over several days.  The freeride skiing options are plentiful for experienced skiers, and we loved the abundant learning slopes full of toddlers and adults alike.

Beginners benefit from several gentle slopes, and if you are hoping to brush up on skills, there are four ski schools to choose from!

Our youngest, Grace, has only skied a little, so we started her first ski day with a one-hour private lesson for 55€.  This was an amazing way to set her up for success, as she ended her lesson happy and ready to try more!  It was much better than anxiously trying to keep up with Mom, Dad, and siblings, who are all experienced skiers.

Additionally, you can toboggan down the mountains from the Col du Tourmalet (a restaurant at the top) after the slopes are closed. Visitors who partake in this can enjoy over 3 km of sledding.

Do not miss out on the Observatory at Pic du Midi. The views are simply magical up there!

Visiting Europe’s Largest Astronomical Observatory at Pic du Midi

We are suckers for a good view anywhere in the world, and the Pic du Midi more than satisfied our deep longing for amazing views of the Pyrenees.  

Take the cable car from the La Mongie base of the Grand Tourmalet Ski Resort.  You’ll change stations once to board another cable car that whisks you up to the observatory itself.  This mountaintop complex boasts a planetarium, museum, cafe, observation deck, free-standing walkway over the mountains, and more.

Our kids loved the histopads, which we also found at the Chambord Chateau in France.  These iPads create an alternate reality view when pointed at things around the observatory, bringing history to life.  These were free for the kids to use during our visit.

Additional shows, such as the planetarium, are available to book at an extra cost once you arrive at the Pic du Midi.  Some shows are offered in English, so be sure to ask for help when booking to know if you’ll be hearing French or another language.

Our kids loved exploring the museum, and Mom and Dad couldn’t get enough of the views.  The restaurant was booked on the day of our visit, but it looks delicious and has its own separate, private viewing deck.

You could even spend the night at Pic du Midi.  Simple rooms were built for the scientists in residence to use up until recently, and you can enjoy a night there filled with star gazing, a delicious dinner, and private sunrise and sunset views.  Reservations are typically booked more than a year in advance (and with good reason!).

You can sit and soak in the views while having breakfast right on the terrace

Soaking up Nature in the French Pyrenees as a Family

Snowshoeing In the French Pyrenees

When snow is plentiful, rent snowshoes from one of the many ski shops at the base of the ski resort and head out on a trail. You can choose a guided snowshoe tour, or head out on your own.  Everyone is friendly and helpful and will direct you to a good spot.  

Hiking With Kids in the Pyrenees

Alternatively, hiking is another excellent option.  A guide would be helpful to understand the area, but make sure you can get an English-speaking guide if needed.  The tourism office, Tourmalet Pic du Midi, at the base of the ski slope, can help book this for you.

In warmer months, rivers and streams are plentiful.  We hiked around our rental house and loved the varied and gorgeous landscapes of the area.  

Rock Climbing in the Pyrenees

Additionally, in warmer months, rock climbing is very popular in this area (perhaps ice climbing is also, but we only saw rock climbers on our visit).  The jagged Pyrenees peaks offer perfect rock climbing opportunities.

These kids made new experiences worth remembering

Fun Indoor Activities To Enjoy in the French Pyrenees

Aquensis Thermal Spa

We started our visit with this thermal spa, and I’d happily return for several more visits.  This large spa offers families wonderful relaxation and fun.  Adults and teens over 15 can enjoy the sauna and Turkish Bath areas, while the younger ones can enjoy the various thermal pools, including a music pool.

Water and mint tea are provided in the Hamman area, and the locker rooms are lovely.

Towels, robes, and slippers are available for rent.  Note that your timed ticket is from entry to exit, so leave enough time to shower and dress while still within your time limit.

Pic Du Midi welcomed us with a relaxing family time at Aquensis Thermal Spa

Foods To Enjoy In France With Kids

What foods should you try in France while visiting as a family?  The answer is everything!  We seriously love the food there.  However, some of our highlights include the following:

Baguettes.  Locals grab a fresh baguette or two every day to munch on or serve with a meal.  You’ll find them everywhere, from gas stations to bakeries and grocery stores, but they are hard to beat.

Cheese.  France knows its cheese, and this area in the Pyrenees has many dairy farms.  The selection is overwhelming!  However, dip in and enjoy.  It’s tough to go wrong!

Fondue.  We LOVE fondue – cooking or dipping your bite-sized meal into broth, cheese, or chocolate.  We particularly love cheese and chocolate fondue.  We dug into a couple of fondue meals in the area and loved our lunch at the base of the Grand Tourmalet and our dinner at the Fabrique de Terroir. You’ll love dipping fresh bread and meats into creamy, melted cheese.

We fell in love with cheese all over again

Raclette.  Focused on melted cheese, this French way of eating is divine.  Typically, a large wheel of cheese is melted and scraped onto other foods, such as cooked potatoes or meat.  However, cheese can also be melted in a pan and poured over other food.  This type of meal is expected in the mountains of France and is our new Christmas Eve tradition after we fell in love with it a few years ago.  In fact, we have our own Raclette machine at home!

Cured Meats and Beef. Sausages abound in France, along with cured hams, salamis, and more.  These are delicious with the various cheese options and fresh French bread.

Escargot.  While we didn’t see this in the Pyrenees, it’s a must in France!  Yes, it is cooked snails, but it’s become one of our favorite foods.  The snails themselves are relatively tasteless and resemble a cooked mushroom.  It’s the sauce that really counts here..a mix of garlic and parsley that is to die for.  Enjoy it with fresh bread, and you’ll thank me later.

Pastries.  French pastries are top-notch. Even the gas stations boast incredible, edible works of art.  Savor eclairs, macarons, lemon and chocolate tarts, flaky apple pastries, and more.  They are SO good.

The extensive dining area at La Grange da Ladour is perfect for big families like ours

Where to Eat With Kids In The French Pyrenees

Breakfast at Hotel La Voie Lactee. We couldn’t believe the real-life views surrounding this 4-star hotel across the street from the slopes. We loved the breakfast buffet with fresh pastries, yogurt, eggs, sausages and more.

Lunch or Dinner at Fabrique de Terrior. As I already mentioned, fondue and raclette are a must try in France (unless you are dairy-free, in which case I am really sorry!).

Eat at the local hotel. In smaller towns, restaurants are almost always connected to a hotel. Search online for good recommendations. We always like to check out Trip Advisor as well.

Eat at home. The quality of food is so good in France, we often eat it when we can. We love exploring the local grocery store and trying new things. Head to the deli counter for easier options, or grab some items for a gourmet meal at home.

Exploring the French Pyrenees at Tourmalet Pic du Midi with kids is surely one for the books

Tips for Visiting France With Kids

Over our visits to France, we’ve learned a thing or two about visiting with kids.

  1. It’s helpful to know a few words in French.  The French are highly patriotic and expect you to greet them at least with “bonjour.” Knowing a few other words or phrases will be helpful, as English is not as commonly spoken here as in other European countries.
  2. It can be VERY cold in France in the winter.  We’ve really only visited in the winter, and the cold is bone-deep at times. Bring warm clothes, layers, hats, gloves and jackets.
  3. We love the French attitude towards kids.  In general, kids are allowed to be kids, but they are also expected to abide by certain non-negotiable rules.  They can have fun and enjoy their youth while they are also encouraged to be well-behaved.
  4. Rioting in France is a way of life, and not just in Paris. At times, freeways are blocked, or other demonstrations may be happening to demand higher wages. We’ve seen tractor demonstrations on the interstate more than once, and we have also stumbled upon a riot in Paris. Use caution, but for the most part, you shouldn’t worry too much.  Just know that it may cause some delays.

France is truly a place of wonder and delight, and our visit to the French Pyrenees was no exception. We wholeheartedly recommend visiting if you are able, and bringing kids if you have them. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but we wouldn’t be surprised if you have so much fun that you find yourself planning more visits in the future. Enjoy your journey!



Plan your flight to France and catch great fare deals from Booking.com, Skyscanner, Kiwi.com, or Expedia

Find a family-friendly hotel near the French Pyrénées from Expedia, or Vrbo, (we also love Tripadvisor and Hotels.com)

Discover more of France while having fun through exciting activities from GetYourGuide, Airbnb Experiences, or Viator

Need to rent a car to navigate the city? Visit Rentalcars.com.

Get insured while traveling with World Nomads.

Want to have a family photo shoot while traveling the world? Check out flytographer!

Capture your best travel memories in the French Pyrénées as we do with a GoPro, Sony camera, or our favorite drones: DJI FPV, Air, and Mini

Check out your travel necessities from a comprehensive list of all the 7Wayfinders Travel Must-Haves. Click Here!

Additional Reading

11 French Châteaus In The Loire Valley You Must Visit With Kids During The Holidays

Best Things To Do In Grindelwald, Switzerland With Kids In Winter

Tourist Car Lease In Europe


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