of course, there is le Lioran, the largest ski area in the Massif Central with its ski lifts and its train, which deposits you at the foot of the slopes. But lovers of gliding in silence have their “spots” to them, the more secrets. At the col de Prat de Bouc, you can try nordic skiing under the tutelage of a guide as Matthias Daub. “It’s practice on skis a little wider than cross-country skis traditional, and terrain is wild, that is to say, not tamped. The planèzes of the Auvergne region, this plateau formed by ancient lava flows, lend themselves very well to this type of ski”.

Protected from the écir (cold wind) by spruce and larch trees, we advance a good step, slipping on the snow when the slope points down. By the way, one crosses an old cabin, shelter of stone, typically auvergnat. It is here, during the summer, that is made once the cheese of Cantal or Salers.

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Soon the Lead of the Cantal, and the summit of Cantal, appears at the top of the conifers. Don’t let its modest size (1 855 m above sea level), the appearances are deceptive. “In the mountains, this is not the altitude but the limit of trees, which gives its character to the climate. Here, the collar (1 400 m altitude), we are already at the limit of the vegetation. In the Alps, it is 2 500 m. It is, therefore, far more high than we think!”. Various activities are offered to the ski area of Prat de Bouc. Include the snowshoe way, “trapper” to locate and read the tracks of animals. Or workshops on safety in the mountains as animate trackers, with awareness of the different types of snow and their dangers.

another type of skiing is practiced here: the ski Hok, mid-way between the racket (two ratchet straps keep the boot in place) and the cross-country skiing. Vincent Noyoux Hokusai skis Hok

another type of skiing is practiced here: the ski Hok. Funny bird this ski-in hybrid, mid-way between the racket (two ratchet straps keep the boot in place) and the cross-country skiing. Its creation in 2009 by two enthusiasts of skiing, the Quebec François Sylvain and the American Nils Larsen, is inspired by the skis used by the hunters of the Altai mountains, in Eurasia. Lightweight, stable, quite short and equipped with skins of ascent embedded in the base, it is the perfect companion for exploring the cirque de Chamalière, one of the most beautiful glacial cirques du Cantal. Mouflon and chamois have the habit of climbing the walls.

After an approach from among the trees, we approach the basin covered with snow, dominate the Puy du Rocher and the Rocher de la Sagne Pork. Dwarf birches and deciduous trees bare outline of the delicate features on the powder undisturbed. A landscape black-and-white quasi-something oriental (Hokusai), that leaves you speechless. The speed ski Hok is not overwhelming, it gently descends in a silence beneficent, the river ice or between the curtain of spruce trees. Good news for beginners: you do not need to have a very good level of skiing to practice off-piste skiing.

“The advantage of the Cantal, is that you can do everything in one day : nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and mountaineering.”

Vincent Terrisse

The village of Pailherols, at a half-hour of Aurillac, another hike, another goal: to reach the cabin Bâne to spend the night there. The climb, on snowshoes or touring skis, usually ends up at the front. To succeed in this small challenge of winter, a professional mountain accompany us. Vincent Terrisse, high mountain guide, has nudged the vertices of Africa and of the Alps before you put spatulas in the Auvergne region. “The advantage of the Cantal, is that you can do everything in one day: nordic skiing, snowshoeing, and mountaineering. It is a small massif that has all the technicality and the harshness of the Alps. But here, we breathe. One sees far and wide, to 360°. The traileurs who are trying here for nordic skiing are all fanatics”.

We crossed the plateau, bare, crisscrossed by the black lines of fences. You think of Aubrac, as can be seen in the distance. Vincent Noyoux

The skis glide. It first passes through a plateau, bare, crisscrossed by the black lines of fences. We have to think of the Aubrac, which will be seen elsewhere in far. After 7 km of climbing smooth, we reached the cabin, watchman of high pastures. When the family Combourieu, owner of the excellent Inn of the Mountain of Pailherols, purchased 25 years ago, nobody wanted this pile of stone perched at an altitude of 1400 metres.

When you push the door, it is a cozy nest that we discover. A good fairy has prepared everything before our arrival (before disappearing): the cheese soup simmering on the stove to the ceiling, the candles are lit, the cover is already placed on the large wooden table, raised on milk cans. It remains only to enjoy the dinner auvergne in the candlelight.

A night out of time inside of a cabin in the Canta. Vincent Noyoux

The fire illuminates the frame in oak and the old stone arch. Chic, it’s rustic: no electricity, water comes from the source, and the health occupy the old lodge to the pigs. As for the beds, sheets, linen and lace, they are installed in narrow, wooden huts, next to the cabin. Wake up, the view of the volcanoes of the Cantal is falling. The next morning, you can join the Lead of the Cantal or down to the village of Pailherols. The spa at the Inn of the mountain offers treatments based on gentian, known for its virtues healing, toning and purifying. Another option: a ride in a dog sled (go-kart on wheels on sunny days) on the trays, under the tutelage of the sympathetic musheuse Laetitia.

above the valley of the Cere, a cabin waiting for us. It also joins after a little effort, because here everything has to be earned. But what a reward! The buron of the Chambe has it all: the beautiful view on the white cone of the puy Griou, the roof thatched, half-buried under the snow, and the thick stone walls that warm up candles, the skins of beasts and fire of fireplaces. We spend, as the buron de Bâne, a night outside of time. After a morning at the corner of the fire, it remains to kick off his skis or his snowshoes to plunge back into the winter cantalien time for a final ride. Rested, réoxygéné, we may finally decide to back down in the valley. Inflated to block.


● go

The fastest since Paris is to take the flight to Aurillac with Hop (from 1 hour and 20 minutes ; from 49€). From Clermont-Ferrand and Aurillac, train to Wallat The Lioran, where it is joined Pailherols and the col de Prat de Bouc (www.hop.com).

● eat, Sleep

A Pailherols, Inn of The Mountain treats its guests to a cuisine of terroir gourmet, sophisticated as it should be. The salmon trout puff pastry is a classic (menus 32/35€). The hostel has three cabins-all hotels (65 to 112€ per night) and a barn converted stone spa (phone: ; www.auberge-des-montagnes.com).

Cabin Bâne . Night rustic, magical night in this cabin, which is accessed after two hours of skiing. There is only one, but the meals are already prepared. From 220€ for two half-board. Open April to November and occasionally in the winter (phone 04.71.47. 57.01 ; www.auberge-des-montagnes.com).

Saint-Jacques-des-Blats, the Buron of the Chambe . A cottage sublime to 1330 m altitude, accessible on foot by a mountain trail. Up to 8 people. From 1250€ for the 3 days and 2 nights. Open in summer and in winter, if the snow allows.

● Ski

Vincent Terrisse . This guide about climbing, and canyoning offers winter mountaineering, ice-climbing and ski-touring (alpine or nordic). 330 € for the full day to share on a base of 2 to 6 people, safety equipment included (phone: ; https://guidecantalauvergne.com).

Land 2 Peaks . Matthias Daub, guide, tracker first aider and instructor of cross-country skiing offers the thrill of cross-country skiing nordic walking, with snowshoes, introduction to biathlon with laser rifle, but also walks in the moonlight with a traditional dinner in the cabin. (phone ; www.terres2cimes.com).

Cantal Mushing . Sleigh rides with dogs (phone ; www.cantal-mushing.com)


Cantal Destination – Comité départemental du tourisme et du thermalisme of the Cantal: phone; ; www.cantal-neige.com and www.cantal-destination.com

dog sledding in the winter cantalien. Vincent Noyoux

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