Gourette was originally the name given to the summer pastures used by the shepherds from Aas who moved the herds up the mountains at the beginning of July.
From the end of the nineteenth century, Gourette experienced a period of economic prosperity thanks to gold and silver mining in Arre, Anglas and Uzious. The ore was then transported by a system of cable cars from all over the Valentin to Laruns station.
Today, Gourette is famous as a ski resort. But in the nineteenth century, the first international ski competitions in the Pyrenees were held in Eaux-Bonnes. From 1924 onwards, skiing was a permanent fixture in Gourette. Now our ski area extends over 90 hectares and includes 31 km of marked slopes.
Famous from the eighteenth century for its sulphur, chloride and iodine waters, the spa of Eaux-Bonnes was built on a site close to its springs. Its healing properties had already been noted by the gunmakers of Francis I, but it was two doctors from Béarn, Doctors Théophile de Bordeu and Darralde who ensured its fame. The former was a pioneer of modern surgery under Louis XV. The other was the personal doctor of Napoleon III and his wife the Empress Eugénie de Montijo. The spa town was seized with a fever of excitement. Luxury hotels sprang up, together with a magnificent casino. The town became a favoured venue for high-society holidays, attracting celebrities such as the painter Eugène Delacroix and the actress Sarah Bernhard.
Now the local council is investing in a major project to reinvigorate the spa and its associated activities, by renovating the spa buildings and creating a fun spa area with unique architecture.
Clinging to the side of the Montagne Verte, facing the Massif du Gourzy and the Pic du Ger, Aas overlooks Laruns and Eaux-Bonnes. It is a typical pastoral village with its superb carriage doors decorated with white marble from Louvie-Soubiron, and is one of the oldest villages in the Valley, as well as being the sunniest.
Aas was famous for its mountain guides who smuggled people over the mountain in the Second World War. But it is especially well-known for its whistlers. The village shepherds had invented a whistled language to communicate with each other from one side of the mountain to the other. Its range could reach 2500m. In 1959, this secret language was revealed to the world by Marcel Gilbert, grandson of Louis Barthou who came to spend his holidays at Eaux-Bonnes when he was a child. The Aas whistlers then became the ambassadors of the Pyrenees and their fame has now spread beyond our borders.
Assouste is a typical pastoral village, one of the smallest in the valley, and has been included as part of the Eaux-Bonnes area since 1861. Situated on the side of the Montagne Verte and on the right bank of the mountain stream of Ossau, it overlooks Laruns.
From the thirteenth century, Assouste has had the peculiarity of being administered by one single sworn officer, a role taken in turn by men from the village. This special status allows Assouste to retain its own sovereign independence in matters of its executive functioning even though the community is attached to Eaux-Bonnes.
In the fifteenth century the community remained independent, as it did in the eighteenth century, when rights and property entitlements concerning the Gourzy forest and the Soussouéou valley were passed on from one generation to the next.
You can also visit the little twelfth century Romanesque chapel, classified as a Historic Monument since 1923, and its secular abbey, the former residence of a lord.
Guided visits are available to help you discover these villages and their stories.