The second resort on our Pyrenees road trip was Saint Lary. I had heard good things about it, so was excited to conduct this review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees.
The drive from Cauterets took around two hours. Having left a very wet and miserable Cauterets we were pleasantly surprised to arrive in sunny Saint Lary. Driving into town there were many people on the streets, which instantly made Saint Lary feel more vibrant than Cauterets.
The main road into the town is lined with buildings in many different styles. It should not work, but somehow they combine to make Saint Lary look attractive. It’s not as grand as Cauterets but to me it felt more lived in and more like a mountain resort.
We stayed at Hotel Mir (La Pergola) just off the main road. We were not in the main hotel, but in the annex, which is a huge but lovely, self contained wooden chalet. It is exceptionally nice with really large rooms, funky decor and stunning bathrooms.
The first night we enjoyed a delicious four course meal in the main hotel. It included many local ingredients such as black pig and duck and regional dishes. Breakfast was also at the hotel, they provide a good combination of hot options, cereal and typical continental options.
We stayed in the hotel for three nights but only ate there once. On the second evening we ate at the funky ICC, where to the joy of the boisterous crowd Barcelona hammered PSG 6-1 to overcome a 4 nil first leg loss. Both the food – I had an excellent burger – and the atmosphere made for a very good evening.
The third night in Saint Lary we ate at the tapas bar Au Balcon. It wasn’t tapas how we get in the UK or like I have experienced in Spain, but the food was very good with good cheeses, meats, chutneys and lots of bread. It had a chilled atmosphere and friendly feel.
Much as the food and accommodation were lovely, this is a review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees – so we were there to snowboard. We met our guide Manu at the hotel and he walked us to the lifts – which were a fair old hike away.
It’s a 15 minute gondola ride up to the slopes, but from there you have 100 km of runs to explore. There are beginner pistes immediately above the Gondola in Pla d’Adet. Alternatively, you can traverse around the mountain to higher slopes over the other side of the valley in the Espiaube and Vallon areas.
Near the gondola from town there is a large beginners area with two covered magic carpets. Saint Lary is a Famille Plus ski area meaning it has been are awarded the highest rating in France for families.
We took a chair lift up from Pla d’Adet and within five turns from the top Manu had lead us off-piste and down a closed run – the kind of guide I like! It had snowed and rained overnight so conditions were interesting. It felt like slushy powder with a thin crust on top. Not the best, but much better than no fresh snow.
From here we headed to Espiaube area to make the most of the fresh snow in the freeride zone. The snow was better here and we had the area to ourselves. We did quite a few off-piste runs while enjoying the slightly crusty spring powder.
We then moved over to the Vallon area where some wide blues lead down to a busy area. From here there are a couple of long drag lifts to reach the 2515m high point. As drags go they were very easy and the views from the top were more than worthwhile.
In this area you can play in the large well stocked snowpark and the boarder-cross. Alternatively you can enjoy the many wide blue and red runs in the area. As the highest slopes in Saint Lary there are great views, better snow, slopes for all abilities, and nice off-piste between the runs.
We took advantage of this by heading over the back of the Arrouyes blue run to Lac de l’Oule and the refuge l’Oule for some lunch. The run down was a lot of fun, with some easy chutes and gullies making it an interesting ride.
Refuge l’Oule is set in a sunny spot with nice views along the edge of the lakes dam. I had a traditional casserole soup dish which was fantastic. We arrived just before midday, by the time we left at just after one it was so busy you could not get a seat – so get there early.
The only way back to the ski area is by possibly the oldest and slowest chairlift on the planet. Being a tiny two seater, we each took our own – it took so long that I laid back and took 40 post-lunch winks!
In the afternoon we explored more pistes in the Vallon area including taking a look at the park. Later we headed back to the freeride area in Espiaube for more fun in the spring powder.
You can’t ski back to the town instead you need to take the Gondola down. Getting back to Pla d’Adet is not as simple as it could be, mainly because it is not clear from the piste map which way some of the runs go. But after a couple of wrong turns and a long cat-track we made it back.
When back in town we used the long(ish) walk back to the hotel as an excuse to stop off for a few beers. The town was sunny, warm and welcoming, again with lots of people on the streets it had a really nice vibe.
This review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees would not be complete without mentioning the De La Rue brothers. They hail from near Saint Lary so it was their home resort and formative in their snowboarding development.
I was told they still love the area and that Xavier De La Rue can snowboard back to his house via the backcountry. The three brothers have influenced many local kids to take up snowboarding rather than skiing, as a result there is a thriving snowboard scene.
Also, the Freeride World Tour has visited, running qualifiers and junior tournaments in Saint Lary. They come down from Pic d’Arrouye and Soum de Matte, the steep face opposite the Vallon ski area. These can be accessed via drag lifts followed by a long hike for proper backcountry riding.
Due to the conditions we could not properly explore the off-piste during this review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees. But from what I have seen and been told it has a lot to offer. And if it’s good enough for Xavier De La Rue and the Freeride World Tour then it’s good enough for me.
Overall Saint Lary lived up to my expectations. It is a great ski area, a lovely town and excellent for off piste. The park is good and the ski area has a real snowboarding vibe due to the influence of the De La rue brothers.
To conclude this review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees, I’d say it is my favourite place to snowboard in the French pyrenees. It is big enough to keep you entertained for a week, has plenty of variety and the town has a really nice feel to it.
I hope you enjoyed this review of Saint Lary snowboarding holiday in Haute Pyrenees. For more information check out the Saint Lary website: www.saintlary.com