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Where to ski next winter: The Pyrenees

Western Europe’s other mountain range is often overlooked, but it has some fabulous skiing and snowboarding in France, Andorra and Spain. We look at what the region offers with the specialist, Absolutely Snow.

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It is a region we have visited many times.

From the less well-known resorts in the French Pyrenees to the more popular ones in Andorra.

PlanetSKI in Andorra. Grandvalira, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

PlanetSKI in Andorra. Grandvalira, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

Perhaps this winter is the time to raise one’s sights.

PlanetSKI in Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

PlanetSKI in Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

The UK operator Absolutely Snow is a specialist in the region and here it shares its knowledge and the resorts it offers, so you can get a taste of the region.

Andorra

Sitting between France and Spain, Andorra has perhaps slipped under the radar of many British skiers, though it is making something of a comeback.

Nestled in the spectacular scenery of the Pyrenees, Andorran ski resorts have recently seen extensive investment into their resorts to update and modernise their ski area and infrastructure.

The snow record in Andorra over the last few winters has been excellent coupled with the extensive snow making machines ensures the pistes are snow covered from November to May each year.

The area is still relatively inexpensive compared to some of the resorts in the Alps, and together with the fact that it retains its duty free status makes Andorra an attractive option.

Grandvalira

The Grandvalira is the largest ski area in the Pyrenees; with 66 lifts it connects five major resorts – Pas de la CasaSoldeu, El TarterCanillo and Encamp.

The area has a network of 200km marked pistes catering for all abilities of skiers/boarders rising from 1,500m to 2,640m.

Absolutely Snow has carefully selected a number of 3, 4 and 5 star hotels in each of the Grandvalira resorts that offer excellent facilities in superb locations.

All its hotels are offered on a half board basis.

Grandvalira, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

Grandvalira, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

Vallnord

Val Nord is the collective name given to Pal, Arinsal and Arcalis which offers 100kms of marked piste, 45 fast modern lifts and a superb lift served freeride area.

Perhaps Vall Nord is one of the few ski areas that caters for every standard of skier from beginners right through to expert off piste freeriders.

The resort of Arcalis has some superb advanced off piste and freeride terrain and each year hosts a round of the Freeride World Tour.

Here’s why”

5-Day Andorra Ski Pass

For those guests who want to experience all Andorra’s ski areas then for 205€ you can buy a 5 day ski Andorra Ski Pass which is valid for all ski lifts throughout Andorra.

This is included within our Andorra Explorer holiday.

Arinsal, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

Ten Good reasons to come to Andorra

  • A whole country to ski. 303 km of runs on two skiable domains: Grandvalira and Vallnord. .
  • The highest density of ski lifts in the world: compared to the 468 km2 surface area of the country.
  • There is always a ski resort nearby. Wherever you stay, access to the ski resorts will always be close by. The distance between the capital and the farthermost slopes is only 28 km.
  • Huge range of pistes, with 183 runs. Ski for all and the latest ski lift technology
  • Guaranteed snow throughout the season. The altitude of the resorts ranges between 1,500 and 2,640m. Snow is guaranteed on 94% of the ski areas by more than 1,300 artificial snow cannons and great experience in grooming the runs.
  • An exceptional accommodation offer. The best in the Pyrenees, with over 32,500 beds and excellent value for money.
  • Great expertise. All the instructors in the ski schools and the majority of technical operators (ski patrollers, groomers, snow cannon operators) are fully qualified. Training, whatever the level of responsibilities, is one of the top-priorities in the Andorra ski resorts.
  • Varied après-ski. Everyone in the family will be able to spend their free-time on different sports, or on cultural or leisure activities.
  • The largest shopping centre in Europe, open 7 days a week. With more than 1,500 shops and boutiques, you are sure to find what you are looking for. Design and luxury, fashion, jewellery, electronic goods or pharmacy, everything is sold with lower tax.
  • Consumers’ patronage. Since 1957 when the first ski resort was created in the Principality, our customers have remained loyal to our rendezvous year after year. They appreciate our competence and the friendliness with which Andorra welcomes its guests.

The main town of Andorra,  Andorra La Vielle, is less than 15 minutes from both Vallnord and Grandvalira.

It is well worth a visit – even just to browse some of the 1500 duty free shops or if you prefer a relaxing spa visit www.caldea.com.

Regular buses connect the resorts with Andorra La Vielle.

Grau Roig, Andorra

Grau Roig, Andorra. Image © PlanetSKI

France

Saint Lary

St Lary is a beautiful traditional French resort – situated high in the stunning Pyrenees.

St Lary ticks all the boxes – pretty traditional resort, large varied ski area, fast modern lifts, good standard of accommodation and close to the airport which means transfer times are kept below 2-hours.

It is an old valley town linked to the ski area by a cable car and new 8-person telecabine.

St Lary oozes alpine charm – narrow cobble streets, a wide selection of bars, shops and restaurants – some tucked away down alleys – facilities in the village also include a spa, swimming pool and cinema.

The Skiing

The ski area is called the Grand Domain – 35 lifts, 100 kms of marked piste that link 4 resorts and 5 mountains from 1,600m up to 2,515m.

An express bubble lifts whisks you up 900m each morning to St Lary Pla d’Adet.

Beginners

There is a wonderful beginners area just at the top of the cable car – a moving walkway will soon have beginners gaining the skills to glide, turn and stop.

The ski schools are quick to exploit the whole area.

One interesting ski fact about St Lary is that the whole ski area can be accessed by blue runs – this means that all standards of skier can explore the whole area.

Beginners have 5 ski schools to chose from.

Intermediates

Intermediates will have a ball in St Lary – long wide blue and red runs link each area and mountain.

Explore Pla d’Adet from the new Bouleaux 6 man chair.

Move on down the north face of Soum de Matte to St Lary Espiaube – take the bubble lift up to Col du Portet where you have a choice of descending down to Le Vallon or exploring the runs off La Soumaye.

Advanced

While not the largest ski area in Europe St Lary does offer an interesting alternative for more accomplished skiers.

There are steep gnarly blacks, wide steep flat reds perfect for honing carving skills.

Off piste is varied from wide open meadows to steep tree lined chutes.

The French freeride snowboarders Xavier de La Rue and his brother Victor come from the village and learnt their skills on the surrounding mountains of St Lary.

A few years back PlanetSKI did a 5-day and 5-resort road trip in the French Pyrenees.

We started in St Lary:

French Pyrenees. Image © PlanetSKI

French Pyrenees. Image © PlanetSKI

See here for our other adventures in the French Pyrenees:

Spain

After Switzerland, Spain is the most mountainous country in Europe.

There are over 33 international standard ski resorts in Spain scattered throughout the country.

Baqueira Beret is perhaps the most-well known ski area in the Pyrenees.

The King of Spain owns a chalet in the resort.

Situated high in the Pyrenees, Baqueira has a modern lift system and it serves over 150kms of marked piste spread over 4 valleys.

And while we are talking about Spain Absolutely Snow also offers skiing in Sierra Nevada.

It is Europe’s most southern ski resort and is perfect for short break skiing or perhaps mixing a city break to the historic city of Granada with a few days of fabulous skiing.

There are not too many places in the World where you can ski all day then retire to the beach for some evening sun.

PlanetSKI visited a few years back:

Sierra Nevada, Spain. Image © PlanetSKI

Sierra Nevada, Spain. Image © PlanetSKI

So, if you think a visit to the Pyrenees might be in order then look no further… Absolutely Snow.

 

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