Saint-Lary in the French Pyrenees is an authentic Pyrenean village with loads of character. Less than two hours from Toulouse Airport (and just one hour and 15 minutes from Tarbes–Lourdes–Pyrénées Airport), it is an affordable alternative destination for families in peak weeks with much better prices than in the Alps, or for couples looking for a weekend break.
Best time of day to be on the slopes: Noon, when you leave the groomed slopes to head to the Refuge de l’Oule at 1820m to have lunch in front of Lake Oule in the Pyrenees National Park. The great run to the refuge takes you down through the forest on the L’Oule red run and along a path following the cliff side.
Best café: The ICC (or to give it its full title, which no one does, the “Izard Café Central”) is the place the locals head to for their favourite homegrown wines and great music. It’s located in the main town of Saint-Lary.
Best run: De Le Rue’s Line, dedicated to the local De Le Rue brothers, who are famous French snowboarding champions. This is an easy section of the snowpark where skiers and riders of all levels can take part in a boardercross. The snowpark hosts a number of events through the season including the “Poney Session” and the Freestyle World Cup.
Best regional food: Visit Le Comptoir Gourmand for less-well-known but utterly scrumptious local food as well as French and Spanish products from the wider Pyrenees region. It’s the best place to get local wine, cheese and pork products from the area’s famous black pigs. Pick up a bottle of the local rich red Madiran wine.
Best event: The Festival of the Black Pig in January where you can taste the famous black pig, “Porc Noir de Bigorre”, and its various products including jam!
Best for families: Saint-Lary holds the “Family Plus Mountain” label which means it has been officially recognised as going that extra mile for families. Families are well catered for on and off the slopes, and there is plenty of entertainment for children in the town and on the slopes.
Best après-ski experience: Stop by Sensoria Spa by Nuxe – a huge space dedicated to relaxation and well-being using the natural thermal waters for which the area has long been famous. The water is extracted at 32° from a well just alongside the spa and eases the aches and pains from the day’s skiing or riding. For an added treat book a massage in the Nuxe Spa.
Best day out: If you have a car, take a trip across the valley to the resort of Peyragudes (www.peyragudes.com), a ski-in/ski-out location at 1,600m in the Louron Valley (which has also just been awarded the “famille plus” for the 2016/17 season). The resort was used in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and to celebrate 20 years since the film was made, a run has been re-named 007 for this season! Off-piste you can also enjoy the Pyrenees’ own mini “Vallee Blanche” here, a 5km off-piste itinerary with a shuttle bus to return you back to the resort.
Ski holiday packages to Saint-Lary are available with Erna Low and Ski Weekends.