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ACTION IN ANDORRA - DAY ONE - James Cove, Andorra
Sunday March 26, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

The tiny principality high up in the Pyrenees is only for intermediates with limited skiing and few challenges. Wrong - PlanetSKI de-bunks the myth. DAY ONE.

Andorra has been a favourite of mine for years and I have been coming back on and off for a couple of decades.

Some wonder why I like it so much and over the course of the next few days I'll aim to show you why in 3 separate blogs.

I'll be freeriding the steeps in Grandvalira, ski touring in a remote Andorran valley, following the tracks of the riders of the Freeride World Tour in Arcalis, hitting the slopes on a fresh tracks morning one hour before the slopes open to the masses and if that's not enough I'll be riding zip wires in Canillo and husky dog running in El Tartar.

And then finishing my whirlwind 72-hours with a relaxing soak in Caldea - the largest spa complex in Europe.

Then there is the small matter of the Andorran cuisine, plentiful supplies of cheap drink and the distinctive Pyrenean culture.

It is an utterly different experience from the well-known resorts in the Alps.


The Grandvalira ski area comprises the resorts of Pas de la Casa, Soldeu, Grau Roig, El Tartar and Canillo.  

It is big by any standard you care to use - 5 linked resorts, 64 lifts, 210km of slopes that start at 1,710m and head to 2,560m.

Those that know it will vouch for its charms - those that don't think it is a flat a featureless ski area suited only for beginners and intermediates.

I belong firmly in the former category and it is one of my favourite freeride areas in the mountains - given the right snow.

More of the freeride later as we hit it in the afternoon.

In the morning it was the pistes.

First up the men's World Cup GS run.

Steep enough at the top.

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Hard packed on the gliding sections.

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And in the afternoon we went off piste.

The first point to be made is that you can ski pretty much anywhere. 

Think 'in-bounds' in North America.

There are marked pistes but you are also free to ski the rest of the mountain - the piste patrol ensure the area is safe from avalanches and you can then go wherever you want within the ski area.

Your insurance is valid and freeriding is encouraged.

"It is great to be able to ski the whole area here and to ski off piste without the risks normally associated with venturing away from the marked runs," said the off piste ski guide, Stuart Fleming. 

He runs a special section of the ski school that specialises in freeriding.

"Andorra embraces freeriding and we have some very, very good terrain," Stuart added.

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I looked around with Stuart and could only agree.

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He was as good as his word as we skied the whole area in a blistering afternoon of hard and agressive skiing.

My top tip is the Grau Roig area it sits between the better know areas of Soldeu and Pas de la Casa.

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People tend to ski through it to get to the other areas.

Big mistake.

Stick around and explore the area a bit.

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Though caution is needed and it is best to see it with a freeride guide like Stuart.

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Tomorrow is the big one - first tracks at 8 O'Clock before the lists open to the masses, ski touring into the wilderness followed by zip wires and husky dog running.

Bring it on.

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Enjoy a week at the Neilson Hotel Del Clos in El Tarter from £649 per person, travelling on 7th January 2018. 

The price includes return flights from London Stansted, resort transfers, 7 nights at the Neilson Hotel Del Clos on a club board basis (daily breakfast and afternoon tea plus 6 evening meals), plus the free Neilson Mountain Experts guiding and coaching service.
Optional activities:
- Fresh Trax - €15 per person (includes early lift up the mountain, a guide and coffee/pastry at the end)
- Husky sledding - €36.50 per person.
- Zip wire – €15 per person. Available in Canillo sector only. Not an adrenalin junkie experience. More an aerial view over canillo and a gentle glide down.
- Free ride –
Freeride Introduction is 3 hours. €42.20 per person. Includes intro to avalanche safety kit and freeride.
Freeride session is 4 hours. €220 for the session with up to 6 people (cost is split by pax). Includes use of kit and freeride.
Guests can go on to take an ISTA qualification (€110 for the qualification, only available after 7 hours of sessions have been completed, and at a further cost of €110)

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the world of snowsports.

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