There’s a large wooden building near the top of the telecabin ski lift at Les Angles. It’s called the salle hors sac (which roughly translates as picnic bag room) and belongs to the local council. Every morning, visiting skiers drop off their raw cuts of meat here, returning at lunch time when council employees barbecue it for them – free of charge – over a huge open fire. You can then choose to sit in the warm interior, or catch rays on the sundeck as you enjoy your steaks. Apparently more than 10,000 skiers (in winter) and hikers (in summer) pass through every year.
You’d never find a service like this in the Alps where the vast majority of resorts are now too bling for their own good. Can you imagine asking a council employee at Meribel or Val Thorens to barbecue a slab of beef steak for you? And then not paying for his trouble? But they do things differently in the Pyrénées. Everything’s much more relaxed and low-key here.
Not that there’s any lack of snow sport facilities. Les Angles boasts 45 pistes with a total length of 55kms across an elevation difference of 800m. There are eight black runs in all, but nothing too taxing. Then there are 14 reds, nine blues and 14 greens, many of them narrow, with trees close on both sides, giving you the impression that you’re skiing much faster than you really are. The resort is served by one telecabin lift, four chairlifts, 12 button lifts and two carpets on the nursery slopes. To access the lifts you have a choice of five car parks spread across the valley with free shuttle buses connecting them. There’s also a snowpark, a freestyle airbag, a family toboggan area and 36kms of cross country skiing pistes.
The highest point of the resort is Mont Llaret, at 2,376m. It’s not the prettiest summit; in fact it’s rather flat and non-descript. But turn south towards Spain and you see the highest peaks of the Pyrénées, with Pic Carlit taking pride of place. At a shade under 3,000m it dominates this part of French Catalonia. Turn north and you get views down into Les Angles village and Lac de Matemale beyond.
The village itself isn’t large. There are less than a handful of bars so you certainly wouldn’t come here for a vibrant après-ski scene. The restaurants are decent, however, especially the unashamedly carnivorous Chez Antoine which seems to be favoured by the locals. Unlike at the top of the mountain, there’s no need to bring your own raw steaks either. Antoine himself sources all his meat from local award-winning farmers.
Les Angles, Pyrenees-Orientales
Need to know in the snow:
45 pistes over 55kms
Ski pass: from 38 Euros a day
Nearest airports: Perpignan (58 miles), Toulouse (121 miles), Girona (118 miles), Barcelona (121 miles). There is a bus from Perpignan town centre for just 1 Euro (yes, really). But there are few winter flights from the UK to Perpignan. Public transport from the other airports is complicated. Private transfers are recommended.
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