His main skill was a blinding speed, while he was also visually striking due to his unruly mop of gray hair. Bernat-Salles went through the youth teams of Bizanos before joining AS Idron-Lee, in which first XV he debuted at the age of 16. In 1987, while working as an apprentice electrician, Bernat-Salles joined the high-level club closest to where he lived, Pau, where he gained his first international caps and remained until 1996, at the start of the professional era, when he moved to Bordeaux-Bègles.
After one season at Bordeaux, Bernat-Salles moved back to Pau.
Again after one year, he joined Biarritz, where he remained for seven seasons. In 2005, after it had been announced that he would join the ambitious second division side Tarbes, Bernat-Salles surprised everybody by joining lowly United States Capbreton in Fédérale 3 (that is, the fifth division of French rugby).
In 2006-2007, finally, while acting as United States Capbreton"s backs coach, he was a part of Tarbes"s roster alongside his old Pau and France teammate Philippe Carbonneau, but ended the season having played only one first XV game and retired from active rugby. He played only one game (against Ireland) in 1994 and two in 1995, and was not considered for that year"s World Cup.
Again in 1996 he was selected only once, while in 1997 he was ignored for the Five Nations but played three games in the summer tour to Romania and Australia.
In 1998 he finally became a constant feature of the French XV, scoring in the process the first try ever scored at the Stade de France. His final international tally is of 41 caps with 26 tries, summing up to 130 points scored. Before starting his professional career, Philippe Bernat-Salles worked as an electrician.
After his retirement, besides working for Canal+ as a consultant and sometimes commentator, he owns a camping site in Labenne-Ocean.
He had planned to compete in the 2008 Dakar Rally alongside Gilles Lafeuillade on a Bowler, but the race was canceled at the eleventh hour due to the fear of a terrorist attack. Bernat-Salles competed in the 2009 edition of the race, again alongside Lafeuillade and on a Bowler, in the Équipe Team 100% Sud Ouest, ending the race in 73rd place.
In June 2010, Bernat-Salles has been elected President of the French Handball National League (Ligue Nationale de Handball).