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Family delights in the Hautes-Pyrenees - Catherine Cooper, Hautes-Pyrenees
Thursday February 13, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

This week is half-term and many resorts will be crowded; busy slopes and long queues. British families tend to go to the same handful of resorts in the Alps but there is an alternative. PlanetSKI reports from the Pyrenees.

St Lary in the Hautes-Pyrenees  is a "real" village - pretty and with an Alpine feel with varied shops and restaurants lining its streets.

It's linked to the purpose-built ski area of Pla d'Adet by cable car and telepherique.

The ski area has 100km of pists and is made up of three separate domains which are linked both by red and black slopes as well as easy blue paths so that all levels of skier can access the whole domain.

It is a ski area that really does have something for everyone.

Saint Lary, Hautes-PyreneesSaint Lary, Hautes-Pyrenees













The sections are also linked by buses, which proved very useful when a couple of hours in, my 9-year old daughter Olivia who was not enjoying the rather blustery conditions declared she had ear-ache and didn't want to ski any further.

We spent the afternoon in the Sensoria thermal baths, a network of thermal baths, whirlpools, saunas and hammam within a faux-rock building which turned out to be more of a "have fun with the kids" type place rather than a relaxing experience, at least on a bad-weather Saturday.

Olivia was still complaining about her ear by the evening so for the next day, I booked her into the Centre de Loisirs Airel, which looks after children aged 3 to 12 (there is also a nursery for smaller children.)

My previous experience of ski resort crèches has usually been that they tend to be quite rigid about pick-up and drop off times, but here they were very flexible and Olivia was quite happy there while we skied.

We found the resort easy to navigate and the snow conditions while we were there were excellent.

Great for kidsGreat for kids













Despite it being a sunny February weekend the wide pistes were uncrowded and we skied a good variety of easy paths and fairly steep blues and reds.

As we had promised to pick up Olivia for lunch we couldn't try out one of the mountain restaurants but instead headed back to Pla d'Adet, where there are only a few restaurants which were pretty busy.

Eventually we managed to find somewhere to eat but after lunch, by the time we'd got our skis back on, a huge wind blew up and within a few minutes, all the lifts had closed.

Ah well.

Time to look round the town.

St Lary, Hautes-PyreneesSt Lary, Hautes-Pyrenees














St Lary, Hautes-PyreneesSt Lary, Hautes-Pyrenees

















There's a wide variety of restaurants in St Lary serving the usual mountain specialities but also a lot more besides - we liked La Main à la Pâte for great pizzas and Casa Tom, a kind of French-Tapas fusion restaurant.

It did a fantastic three course set lunch for just €16.50 and a €9 children's menu which included a fabulous chocolate fondue.

We also enjoyed dinner at L'Authentique a large restaurant just outside the village which offers a varied, enormous-portioned menu.

The children loved their non-alcoholic cocktails and massive raclette while my husband and I had melted camembert starters followed by perfectly cooked beef and lamb respectively.

Luckily the restaurant has its own shuttle to pick you up and take you back to your hotel because, after so much food, it would have been a struggle to walk home.

The Haute Pyrenees is not the place for glitzy hotels - in fact St Lary has the region's only four star hotel, the Mercure.

We stayed at the three-star Neste de Jade which was ideally situated opposite the telecabine to the ski area and was friendly, clean, comfortable and did a fantastic breakfast - it's not every day you get to eat macarons before nine in the morning.

We had adjacent rooms with ensuite bathrooms but the hotel also offers family rooms which sleep four.

St Lary is a brilliant option for a family ski holiday - the pistes are extensive and varied enough to keep all levels happy and yet its small and manageable enough to be easy to navigate with younger children.

It's easily accessible from Toulouse or Lourdes airport - you can even be picked up from Lourdes and taken to your resort for just 15 euros per person as part of the region's drive to reduce fuel emissions.

Accommodation is very reasonably priced and a day's lift pass is just €38 for adults or €32.50 for children. Because the transfer distances are quite short, it would also work well as a weekend destination.

St Lary, Hautes-PyreneesSt Lary, Hautes-Pyrenees


















Catherine Cooper's visit to the Hautes-Pyrenees was organised by Ski Collection (  ; 0844 576 0175). 7-night stay incl Eurotunnel from £96pp in St Lary. Neste de Jade room from 59€ per night.

See for more information on the Hautes-Pyrenees.

For the spirit of the mountains

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