Laurent Jalabert plaza and Town Hall (Picture: City of Mazamet)
With a population of 11,000, Mazamet lies at the crossroads of Atlantic and Mediterranean southern France, at the foot of the Black Mountain and at the heart of the Upper Languedoc Regional Park. Following a long industrial tradition, known throughout the world as a fellmongering center (both wool and leather), Mazamet has converted to mechanical engineering, pharmaceuticals and food processing. To facilitate this evolution, Mazamet has saught to broaden its geographic cooperation, joining forces with Castres to head up an association regrouping 16 towns representing a population of 83,000. Mazamet also makes the most of its natural assets, thanks to eco-tourism and outdoor sports and leisure activities. Firmly rooted in its regional traditions, the town holds a permanent exhibit on catharism. Hometown of cycling great Laurent Jalabert, Mazamet is deeply attached to the sport and stages many races the whole year round, such as the Laurent Jalabert Cyclotourist and the Printanière (meaning « in the springtime »)...
Croos-country skiing tracks (Picture: Dave Wilmot)
Plateau de Beille, an exceptional site perched at some 6,500 ft, affording a splendid view of the mountains overlooking Ax valley. The typical flora and Pyrenean fauna make for a special place: pine forests, heather moors and humid areas provide the ideal habitat for grouses, crossbills, izards and hares. It is also a place for resting and feeding, for migrating birds and birds of prey such as bearded vultures and golden eagles. In summertime, Plateau de Beille serves as grazing land for the local breeds, the likes of Gascony cows, Tarascon ewes and Mérans horses. Alive with flocks and blessed with a superb natural setting, Beille is a must stop for hikers rambling through the Ax valleys. In winter, Nordic skiing, dogsledding and snowshoe enthusiasts all get their kicks in Beille: 70 km of ski slopes, including biathlon and cross-country tracks, 42 km of snowshoe slopes, a training course for dogsleds, a luge track. Only an hour and a half from Toulouse, Beille is the Pyrenees principal Nordic skiing center.