On a gloriously hot early-spring day, we drove the short journey from St Lary to Peyragudes, deep within the stunning French Pyrenees mountains.
I say short journey as it was only supposed to take 45 minutes but actually took a lot longer. If you have a rendezvous with a guide or friends, it is important to know that the Peyragudes resort is split into two areas either side of the mountain; Agudes and Peyresourde. They are not very well sign posted and going to the wrong place is a very easy, but time-costly mistake to make!
French Pyrenees Road Trip Day 3 – Peyragudes
Peyragudes is a relatively new ski resort and is certainly more commercial than Cauterets and St Lary, of which we had already visited. This is a well-designed resort with plenty of car parking and a purpose-built village in the mountain that is mostly ski-in, ski out.
It is also a reasonably sized resort with 51 slopes over an area of 60Km. The slopes are mostly quite steep but very wide and very open. Typically of the Pyrenees, there are no tree line runs to enjoy, but the views are spectacular.
On a hot bluebird day like the one we were enjoying, there is no better resort to enjoy the sunshine! This is because one side of the mountain is east facing, while the other is west, so it is possible to catch sun beams all day long if you wish.
There are only 2 restaurants on the slopes, but one has been converted from an old refuge hut, perched high up on the edge of a mountain, and certainly worth a visit. Especially with it’s large open deck of which you can have a leisurely lunch over a beer in the sun. The food is typical of the French Pyrenees in being a fusion of French food with a Spanish influence. I had a salad with bacon and goats cheese smothered in honey – highly recommended! Be warned though, get to the restaurant early as it gets very busy during the lunch time rush.
After our hot day on the slopes, we headed to the Balnea Spa, which is in the valley of Loudenvielle. In a huge, modern complex, the Balnea is a spa experience that is unique as it has 5 themed areas to explore, taking you around the world.
The best was the Japanese themed Onsen area, in which has different outside pool chambers that rise in temperature from 33 to 40 degrees between each one. With the traditional Japanese music in the background, this is a tranquil experience where meditation and no-speaking is encouraged.
The inside Roman themed baths were dark and very realistic, especially with the enclosed stone interior.
My other favourite section was the outside Inca area, at a warm 37 degrees, with jets and jacuzzis to swim into; it is like having an all over body massage! It is also themed beautifully with Peruvian pipe music and inca style statues all around the pool.
To be honest, I am not that into spas, but the Balnea Spa, with it’s stunning mountain view backdrop and superbly themed sections, was very enjoyable and well worth the visit.
Apres Ski – Saint Lary
After our spa, we jumped in the car and headed back to Saint Lary where we would be spending one more night at the lovely Hotel La Pergola.
For our evening meal we headed over to Le Balcon which was only a few minutes walk from the hotel.
Le Balcon is an informal and relaxed tapas bar where you can enjoy a pint with French influenced tapas dishes.
This was our second time in the bar as we had headed to Le Balcon straight off the slopes only the day before for a few cold beers a bite to eat. Typically of the French Pyrenees, the bar is welcoming, understated and un-pretentious.
We headed back to the hotel where we would stay for one last time, as the next night we would be staying at the incredible observation centre at the top of Pic du Midi.
It was another glorious day on the slopes and I really enjoyed snowboarding in Peyragudes. The fact that the resort is split into two sections was confusing and is not signposted very well. Which led to a lot of slope time being lost because we drove to the wrong side of the mountain following the signs to ‘Peyragudes’, and I would have liked more time to explore the resort.
It is also worth mentioning for you film geeks out there that the 1997 James Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, had it’s opening sequence filmed in Peyragudes.
The Balnea Spa was amazing and well worth a visit. I loved the concept of different sections representing different parts of the world. This could easily have been tacky, but it was tastefully done with an element of fun.
I was sad to be leaving Saint Lary and would like to return sometime soon. The infusion of French and Spanish cultures gives this friendly town a beautiful and unique synergy.
51 slopes – 60Km
(17% Green / 38% Blue / 33% Red / 12% Black)
1 Cable Car
17 Ski/chair lifts
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)
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