Quote of the day: 'There's no such thing as a bad day in the mountains'
We were already a little scared that this would happen. After great weather and surfing in the Basque Country and a bluebird day at the Pic du Midi de Bigorre we had to deal with changing weather. There were many clouds coming in. A lot of clouds. And they seem to stick around at every altitude. It made our stay in Saint-Lary a challenge.
Saint-Lary is a totally different village than La Mongie where we stayed the day before. La Mongie is a 'modern' resort at altitude, Saint-Lary is a classic village in the valley, at an altitude of 830 meters and has a number of thermal baths. That also makes for quite a bit of tourism in the summer which has been pretty good for this little town. It looks fantastic and it has facilities (spa, swimming pools etc) where a medium-sized city would be jealous of, with only 1000 people living in the village and about 1000 in the surrounding villages.
Okay, enough information from the tourist office. What about the riding? There are two lifts departing from the village that bring you to the ski area. At 1600 and 1700 meters, there are two modern satellites (Pla d'Adet and La Cabane), but forget about those two and ride to Espiaube right away. Guide Manu (not the same one as yesterday) is a member of the Brown Bears. This local crew from Saint-Lary (fully comprised of snowboarders) meets every powder day to ride some great lines. Or, if there is no powder, to drink beer together. They even have their own snowboards. They don’t have their own beer yet, but who knows what will happen in the future.
Manu is proud of his ski area. You can find many modern lifts (Saint-Lary can compete effortlessly with any resort in the Alps) and during holidays and weekends it can be quite busy as half of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Nantes leave for the Pyrenees. However, many of them stay on the slopes, so that you’ll only encounter the Brown Bears crew as competition in the powder. You’ll find the best runs in the part of Espiaube.
From the Tourette you have a view on a wall with perfect runs between the trees. Some cliffs, some short couloirs and accessible by a short hike from the chairlift Lita. Does it gets tracked fast? "Not really", says Manu, "because we simply do not groom a part of the slopes after heavy snowfall. Powder is the best there is.” They know what’s important in Saint-Lary.
Pièce de résistance of Saint-Lary is the descent (1200 meters of vertical) that ends in Aulon, the village where the brothers De Le Rue were born. Xavier is known as perhaps the best freeride snowboarder in the world, his brother Victor is probably just as good and Polo won bronze at the Olympic Games in Turin. Although the men are on their way, Saint-Lary can not wish for better ambassadors. Unfortunately, the run is not possible today, because there is too little snow in the valley and the clouds limit our sight significantly.
We text Xavier to check if he is home. “Xavier, Morris here. We are on a Surf & Snow trip with Quiksilver and were kinda above your house in Saint-Lary. You got some tips?” Xavier's response followed quickly. “Holà Morris. Sorry just landed from Canada. Feel free to call me. Xv”. And so we ended the day in the ICC. The place to be in Saint-Lary. Enough brown bears who found some beers there after not finding any powder on the mountain today.
We didn’t have the best weather in Saint-Lary, but the potential of the area is amazing. Just like in La Mongie, we need to return with better snow. Time for the next destination. Piau-Engaly it is.