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Saturday March 23, 2019 - Email this article to a friend

Our chief reporter is on a road trip to visit three little known ski areas in the Pyrenees in Catalonia. First up is Port Ainé.

The first thing to be said about coming to Catalonia is that you probably shouldn't say you are in the ‘Spanish' Pyrenees.

Here they call them the Catalan Pyrenees.

The people who live here are fiercely independent.

Or rather they wish they were.

Travelling by road you can't fail to see the signs of support for a Catalan republic, independent of Spain.

They're everywhere.

Yellow ribbons, Republican flags, graffiti on the mountain roads.

Catalan symbolsSupport for a Catalan republic

Catalan flagsSupport for a Catalan Republic

Catalan supportSupport for a Catalan Republic

They have their own language that has elements of Spanish and French.

And nearly everyone who comes to the small ski area of Port Ainé is from Catalonia.

It's three hours drive from Barcelona and two from the provincial capital town of Lleida.

There's one hotel in the ski area but I'm staying about an hour's drive away.

It's an early start to make the best of the spring snow conditions.

Road trip in Catalan PyreneesEarly start

The Pyrenees have not had a great winter for snow and there's been practically none for almost two months.

Off the pistes much of it has now melted but I'm surprised at how good the pistes are.

Port AineLooking bare away from the pistes

The skiing is from 1,650 metres altitude up to 2,440 metres.

Today the pistes, particularly the red runs, are fabulous and fast.

It's a warm, clear day, but 95% of Port Ainé's slopes are north-facing so the snow is protected from the fiercest rays of the sun.

Port AinéPort Ainé

There's nothing to challenge experts here - the black runs would not be classified as blacks in most resorts.

Black run sign in Port AineBlack run

But Port Ainé markets itself as a family-friendly resort ideal for beginner skiers and snowboarders.

There's a green run all the way from the top to the main station at 2,000 metres.

With only a couple of chairlifts and a couple of drags, it's impossible to get lost.

And despite the fact that it's a busy Saturday with a lot of people around, it doesn't feel crowded on the slopes.

Port AineQuiet on the slopes

I get chatting to some people who have travelled up from Lleida for the weekend.

Macia Querol is here with his 12-year-old daughter, Julia, and a family friend Ester Bonell and her daughter, Laia, who's 13.

Skiers in Port AineMacia, Ester, Julia & Laia

They tell me Port Ainé is their favourite place to ski in the Catalan Pyrenees, ahead of the largest resort in the country and one of the best known, Baqueira Beret.

"It's quiet, it's a family resort with different levels of skiing and there's a lot of space on the slopes," Macia says.

It's also cheaper than Baqueira Beret.

An adult day pass in Port Ainé is €34. In Baqueira Beret it's €52.

Port AineIn Port Ainé

I spend about three and a half hours blasting around by which time I've skied every run that's open, apart from a couple of greens.

Some of the nicest runs I've done twice or more.

By now the heat of the day is softening the snow, and there's an outdoor party with music, Catalan dishes and San Miguel on offer.

Port AineLunch & après

Port AineLunch & après

It's what spring skiing is all about - ski hard and early then relax in the sunshine with a cool beer.

In Port AineCheers!




Skiing in Port Ainé

Port Ainé is in the Lleida Pyrenees in Catalonia.  Lleida has 11 ski resorts.  For more information on them and what else to do in Lleida, visit the Lleida Tourism website.

Jane has now completed her road trip.  Read her articles on the other two ski areas she visited:

For the Spirit of the Mountains - PlanetSKI: Number One for ski news

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