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Monday February 5, 2018 - Email this article to a friend

The Grandvalira area has had its busiest January ever. Most resorts would build on that but instead the area is tearing itself apart. Literally. PlanetSKI reports.


The Grandvalira ski area high up in the Pyrenees is 210kms in size and contains the resorts of Pas de La Casa/Grau Roig on one side and Soldeu/El Tarter/Canillo on the other. 

It became a joint area in 2003 after decades of talks and negotiations as old rivalries between various parties were put to one side for the greater good. 

It has been a resounding success with numbers up and a strong brand has been created to rival the ski areas of the Alps.

It sees around 1.75m skiers and snowboarders each winter and it is in the Top 20 of the most visited ski areas across the world.

Pas de La Casa, GrandvalliraPas de La Casa, Grandvallira

Soldeu, GranvaliraSoldeu, Granvalira

Now it is likely to break up at the end of the 2019/20 season. 


A formal motion to split the area was made by the President of Grandvalira, Joan Viladomat, in July 2017. 

He is also the primary shareholder of SAEDTE - the business entity that owns Pas de la Casa/Grau Roig.  

There is the possibility of the joint lift pass being axed if the areas go their own way and undoubtedly people will then go elsewhere.  

So, what is the row all about?

It seems old rivalries don't vanish in the mountains, but are merely suspended.  

The two sides have been at loggerheads for generations and I remember reporting for the BBC in the late 1990s on how the rival resorts might come together after decades of animosity. 

They did, but antagonisms clearly remain.  

The catalyst for the current row is a €30m development at the base of the slopes in Soldeu that is being built for the FIS World Cup race that is to be held in the resort in March 2019.

Work is already underway.

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra

It will not only enhance the racing but will leave a legacy behind with car parks and other developments that should attract extra visitors in the coming years.

The Grandvalira area is funding it yet the owners of the Pas de La Casa side not only object to paying for it, they believe it will take away business from them as money is divided by where people start their ski day.

The new car parking facilities may change where locals start their day. 

The development has been approved by the government, despite it breaching planning regulations. 

It was deemed to be 'in the national interest'.  

If the resorts split there are real worries the joint lift pass may go and people will not be able to ski between the two areas.

And my personal take on that? 

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra


So, is it actually going to happen? 

That depends on who you talk to but the hostilities are there and the threat is real.

The optimistic ones believe that either the parties see the stupidity of commercial suicide or the government steps in to stop it. 

"I can't see how it will split up and no joint lift pass offered.  The resorts may go their separate ways but I think the pass will remain and at the end of the day the skiers and snowboarders don't mind who owns what and where it is all run from, they just want to ski the whole area," said the long-time boss of the Soldeu ski school, Gordon Standeven, to me.

Another veteran of the Andorran ski scene that I spoke to has a similar view. 

"The situation is real and delicately balanced but I can't see it happening," said Patrick Cantwell.   

He ran Top Deck Ski for 25 years in Andorra and also a hotel in Pas de La Casa.  

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra

The British operator, Neilson Holidays, saw a 15% increase in its business last season to Andorra with 11,500 guests.

It now takes more skiers and snowboarders to Andorra than to the French Alps. 

"The size of the Grandvalira ski area is far and away the biggest selling point as it competes against the resorts in the Alps. To lose that would mean it falling back down the ski area league," said Iain Archer who runs the  Andorra programme for Neilson Holidays.

"Plenty of our guests don't actually use the whole area or they may head to the other end of the ski area for a day or so over a week, but that is not the point. They like the 210kms size and want to feel they have the option." 

Local media are portraying it as a childish feud with no winners. 

The main losers would be the skiers as the two sides row and play politics.

The aggression is there.

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra

To me it has similarities to a bitter battle that broke out a few years ago in Switzerland as Verbier was set to break away from the huge 4-Vallees ski area.

We reported on that as the threats were made.  
And when it was finally resolved.
Here at PlanetSKI after extensive on and off the record conversations with people here in Andorra we believe the situation in Andorra is more bitter and the threat greater. 

The stakes are high.  

What is needed more than anything is an outbreak of common sense coupled with a cold hard look at the commercial realities. 

Oh, and please give a thought for us skiers and snowboarders - the customers.

Here at PlanetSKI we'll keep you posted.

Grandvalira, AndorraGrandvalira, Andorra



PlanetSKI has been in Andorra this week to enjoy the snow and skiing, as well as look at the Grandvalira row.  

See here for our snow report from Andorra from James Cove:

And here for a rolling blog of our Andorran adventures from Katie Bamber:

PlanetSKI has been staying in the Piolets Hotel in Soldeu with Neilson Holidays.  

It also offers holidays in Pas de La Casa, Arinsal and El Tarter. 

In El Tarter it has its own dedicated chalet hotel, the Del Clos. 

See here for further deals about Andorra.   

Our editor, James Cove, stayed in the Del Clos in El Tartar last year with Neilson - see here for what he got up to on his Andorran Adventures in a 3 part blog.

And Neilson also offers its unique Mountain Experts programme across the resorts - free guiding and instruction.  

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: No1 for ski news

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