Overview of mountain landscape, showing ski lifts and pistes above Saint Lary Soulan.

Saint-Lary

Hautes-Pyrénées, France

Situated in the Aure valley of the central French Pyrenees.

A popular four-season destination for both French and Spanish visitors.

Although a long drive from the Channel ports, access is relatively simple from Pau, Lourdes and Toulouse airports.

High view of broad valley with skiers and mountain backdrop

The Ski Area

Saint-Lary’s balanced selection of groomed downhill pistes will appeal to a correspondingly wide variety of skiers, making it a sound choice for mixed-ability groups, as long as no-one is looking for anything too demanding.

There’s also a steadily expanding snow-park for snowboarders and freestylers.

Lift access to the mountain was once only via the Cadeilhan cable-car, which still provides direct access to Pla d’Adet, while skiers bound for La Cabanne 1600 can now take the nearby Vignec high-speed gondola lift.

Resort Information

Altitude : 1650m - 2515m
Saint-Lary
Pistes Total:
100 km
7 Green
26 Blue
12 Red
10 Black
Ski Resort Lifts : 30
2 Magic Carpets
15 Draglifts
11 Chairlifts
2 Gondolas
1 Cable Cars

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Low view of stone and timber facades, plus sign to ski lifts

The Ski Village

Quite limited on-mountain accommodation means that most visitors opt to stay in the more traditional setting of the old village down in the valley.

With long-established year-round visitor popularity, Saint-Lary is not overly focused on affordable, volume ski-apartment accommodation. Instead, traditional-style hotels cater for families on a budget with solid value demi-pension deals.

Those with a bigger budget, on the other hand, have a good choice of premium accommodation, with dining to match.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

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Family skiers adjusting snowboard bindings beside piste

Best For

Francophile skiers who value an authentic French experience in a place with a genuinely welcoming attitude to visitors.

You’ll rub shoulders with generations of contented French families from western France, who have fierce loyalties to ‘their’ ski area. It all makes for a relaxed time, both on and off the mountain.

As for the skiing, as well as safe beginner and early-intermediate areas, there’s rather more for cruising fans to explore than you might imagine – and the setting will change your mind if you think that you’ll be sacrificing really great mountain scenery by not heading to the Alps.

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Skiing There

Beginners / Families Intermediates Advanced / Expert Mountain Scenery

Snowboarding

Snowpark with 17 modules and different zones. Separate supervised kid's park.
2 Snowparks
1 Snowboarder Cross


Handiski...

  • Ample parking in village centre with 100m level walk to the Vignec gondola for Saint-Lary 1700 (Pla d’Adet). Or drive 13km to the upper parking area where there is a lift opening directly onto the snow (apparently, this often breaks down).
  • Only partial access to the ski domain for sit-skiers.
  • Normal ski pass tarif for disabled skiers but an essential companion goes free.
  • Equipment available (2 adult dual-skis) for hire at LocAventure, St Lary tel: +33 (0)5 62 39 42 01
  • Qualified instructors at ESF and ESI.
  • See Haute Pyrénées website for further details.

icon-smileyYes please...

  • Solid value skiing and dining.
  • Snowpark in French Top 10 for skiers and boarders of all levels.
  • Charming, traditional village.
  • Amazing mountain scenery.
  • Recent huge investment in modernising the resort with new lifts replacing several old ones plus the regeneration of Plan d'Adet area make the resort more attractive and safer for skiers.
  • Kid and Patou Parks are fun, safe, accessible zones specially designed for children.
  • "Cool Zones" where you can relax with picnic tables and WiFi hotspots.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • It’s a long drive from the UK.
  • Snowfalls don’t always deliver.
  • Terrain is relatively compact.
  • You might want to stretch yourself on something more demanding.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Expand your options by splitting your time between Saint-Lary and nearby Piau-Engaly, whose altitude enables it to guarantee snow-cover.

Practical Information

Getting there

By car
The cheapest option if there’s a group of  3 or 4 passengers who can share the driving. From any of the western ports such as Caen, St.Malo, or Roscoff it’s an easy drive south, most of which is on autoroutes. Allow about 150 euros for fuel and tolls and a full day’s drive. From Paris take the A20 to Toulouse then A64 exit 16. From Bordeaux take the A65 to Pau then A64 exit 16.

By air
Look out for flights to Tarbes/Lourdes airport (80 km). You can also fly into Pau/Uzein (100km) which has a greater choice of flights. Alternatively, Toulouse/Blagnac (150km) is a third possibility, although you would need to hire a car to access the ski resort.

By train
Take the Eurostar to Paris then Paris - Toulouse by Intercité or TGV. There’s a SNCF bus service to Saint-Lary or there is also car hire available at the station.

Book your train travel from Paris with OUI.sncf


Things to do

Tried and testedSensoria Rio

Jardin Thermale
65170
Saint-Lary
Tel: +33 (0)5 62 40 71 71

The thermal waters at Saint-Lary Soulan are rich in silica sulphide and silica sulphate minerals. They’re also oligo-metallic but lightly mineralized and have a slightly alkline pH. Originally used to treat rheumatism and respiratory problems, the naturally warm waters now bring a sense of well-being to visitors in the Sensoria Rio fun spa centre. Modelled on a Spanish canyon, there are bubble beds, waterfalls, Jacuzzi, sauna and hammam integrated into the rocky décor. For luxurious massage and spa treatments book into the relaxing Sensoria Forme zone. There are also beauty and fitness areas. See the website for details.
A few hints: Swimsuits (Speedo type for men) are compulsory in France. You will require €1 coins for lockers. Bring towels or hire them at reception (€1,70 each). Young children must be up to date with their vaccinations.


Where to stay

There are plenty of accommodation options in the spa and ski resort of Saint-Lary, a busy town with a good selection of bars and restaurants and a reasonable choice of hotels, chambres d’hôtes and self-catering apartments. Look out for half-board deals, where you can expect a good standard of evening meals (not a realistic option for vegetarians...). There is also accommodation at the foot of the slopes at 1700m from where you can descend to the village at night via the cable car which runs until late.

Tried and testedHotel Les Arches

15 Ave. des Thermes
Saint-Lary Soulan
+33(0)5 62 49 10 10

Situated near the church and a few minutes’ walk from the town centre and from the gondola lift. The rooms are functional and have large and beautifully comfortable beds. Rooms at the front have a view towards the mountain.
Breakfasts are a serve-yourself buffet in a bright, modern dining area. We found that there was a good choice of cereals, fruit salads, cheese, ham and pastries plus a selection of delicious home-made cakes. Let down only by machine orange juice and hot drinks.
Guests enjoy off street parking or you can pay for underground parking. WiFi access (payable) or free internet access via a computer in reception.

Enquiries and bookings:
Pyrenees Collection
0844 576 0176 (UK) or +44 2392 890 960
reservations@pyreneescollection.co.uk


Tried and testedHotel Mercure Sensoria

Jardin des Thermes
Saint-Lary Soulan
Tel: +33 (0)5 62 99 50 00

Linked to the Sensoria spa, this hotel has already undergone quite a transformation and is offering 4-Star accommodation with spacious rooms, a large and comfortable lounge bar and its own restaurant. Just a few steps from the gondola lift, this would be a great place to stay to take advantage of ski and spa packages in the winter or activity and spa breaks in the summer.

Enquiries and bookings:
Pyrenees Collection
0844 576 0176 (UK) or +44 2392 890 960
reservations@pyreneescollection.co.uk


Where to Eat

Tried and testedChalet de l’Oule

Tel: +33 (0)5 62 98 48 62

If you’re on the slopes the best lunch location is on the shores of the Lac de l’Oule accessible from the St Lary 2400 sector. Descend via chair-lift or the Corneblanque red piste, which starts at 2450m and sweeps down through the pine forest to the restaurant at 1820m. It’s definitely worth the effort to get there. Expect good local cuisine, best enjoyed on the sunny terrace.


Tried and testedLa Grange Restaurant

Route d'Autun
Saint-Lary-Soulan
Tel: +33(0)5 62 40 07 14

The moment you enter the restaurant, you know that you are going to thoroughly enjoy being here. After a warm welcome and choosing a table near the huge open fire, take a moment to choose one of their special aperitifs. The menu is full of mouth-watering choices and they specialise in providing Gascon and Pyrenean regional cuisine using local produce. All the dishes are beautifully presented with generous portions and packed with flavour. Leave room for a dessert – they’re original and delightful creations and very filling. A superb evening with perfect hosts and definitely one to visit.


Insight: Saint-Lary

View of skiers passing piste signs at Saint Lary Soulan

Insight: Saint-Lary

For first-time visitors the road approach to Saint-Lary sends a clear message: whatever you were imagining, this is serious mountain country. It also confirms that the multitude of villages and hamlets located down in the valleys retain all their traditional charm, and everything apart from the mountains is on a reassuringly human scale. Welcome to the Hautes-Pyrénées.

Not surprisingly, then, the village of Saint-Lary looks unlike any ski station we’ve seen in the Alps, an impression underlined by the relatively few British voices to be overheard on the café terraces. Traditional Pyrenean timber and stone architecture, combined with a sheltered, sunny location, make this an attractive place to be, a fact well-known to generations of loyal French visitors plus those who regularly drive from across the nearby border with Spain.

The altitude is a vital asset, and at times when there’s little sign of snow down in the village a vast white landscape is suddenly revealed as you crest the final ridge on the haul up.
Skiers and signing, Saint Lary
Chairlift from Lac d'Oule, Saint Lary

On Saint Lary’s mountains…

In the village itself there’s no front-de-neige, and there few obvious signs of ski activity apart from a large cable-car station. Behind the thermal spa, however, is a powerful high-speed gondola lift, centrepiece of a recent 14-million Euro investment programme to streamline skier access from the valley up to Pla d’Adet 1700. The altitude is a vital asset, and at times when there’s little sign of snow down in the village a vast white landscape is suddenly revealed as you crest the final ridge on the haul up.

From the lift arrival point a brief uphill trudge brings us to the point where we can finally snap into our skis and glide past the debutant meeting points to the Soume de Matte chair-lift, which deposits us onto the blue-graded Corniche 2 piste. It’s a blast, as we sample some of Saint-Lary 1900’s rewarding intermediate terrain all the way down to the Tortes chair. This second onward haul up to 2320m provides the gateway to a wealth of possibilities in a vast sheltered bowl above the Vallon du Portet, whose terrain tops off at a respectable 2515m.

The Perfect Spot

While longer hauls are handled by efficient chairlifts, access to the highest terrain in this sector is by drag-lifts – a pity as it must curb less-confident skiers’ inclination to explore the area’s full potential. In fact, it’s well worth getting to the high points, not least to feel yourself on top of a sizeable chunk of the Parc National des Pyrénées. Not that any of the terrain here is exactly low, as a drop down through pine forest to the Lac d’Oule (1820m) proves. This worthwhile decent emerges beside the sunny terrace of the Chalet de l’Oule, whose location overlooking the lake (frozen for much of the winter) makes this the perfect spot in which to stop for a lunchtime refuelling break. We do just that and emerge in an ideal mood to contemplate the wooded scenery on the relaxed ride back up to the Vallon du Portet.

ESF piou piou club with toddlers, Saint Lary
A safe, wide cruise down to the Vallon du Portet, Laint-Lary 2400.

Once there we schuss onward to the Saboures chairlift for the ride over the ridge to Tourette (2320m). From here we take the wayward Balcon Moucades piste for a spot of enjoyable blue-graded cruising (with a narrow tunnel thrown in along the way) and an eventual connection with the red-graded Mirabelle II. The entertainment continues as we drop a little more steeply all the way down to the Espiaube area (1900m). It’s the kind of run which adds both distance and substance to Saint-Lary’s skiing, and one we’ll definitely ski again in future visits.

We’ve reached the terminus for the shuttle bus back to the village (via the Pla d’Adet) but we ride the Lita chair-lift back up to the Rhodos red piste.

It’s an exhilarating run, climaxing with a final swoop through the tree-line, and as we wind our way down on the wooded tracks with smiles on our faces we’re reminded of fun times skiing similar terrain in far away British Columbia. It’s an appealing image, and one of the high spots of Saint-Lary. Others include the vast mountain views which ramp up the entertainment value of even the most benign blue connector runs.

Overall Saint-Lary is a fun place – but we can’t help thinking it would be even more so with the option of a lift-pass to take in higher-altitude Piau-Engaly, which lies just a tantalizingly short drive further up the valley. While you’re here you really should ski both areas. MountainPassions heart icon