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Andorra, Grandvalira ski resort
Yes, is the short answer. Andorra is the winter destination for the skier who has seen it all.
Or in more detail: What is good enough for professional skiers is probably good enough for you. This is after all the location for the world cup speed skiing finals. With 210 kilometres ski able area, a la carte restaurants, hotels on the slopes, snow parks, comfortable soft seated chairlifts, daycare, cross-country pistes and children designated areas the Grandvalira resort offers something for everyone.
Skiing in Andorra
The slopes in Andorra consist of six connected areas: Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo and Encamp. It is possible to ski from one area to another via pine-framed paths. Early in the morning when the trees wake up, you get a hint of Christmas scent. The ski area is surrounded by the capricious peaks of the Pyrenees. An app (MyGrandvalira) shows your location, keeps track of your route and tells you your maximum speed. That leads to all sorts of new insights: “Mummy, mom, according to the app I went 84 kilometres per hour.” And, ‘No, it is not dangerous to ski so fast along the cliff edge because there are safety nets in place.’ Anyway.
Strategically on the slope placed terraces make a perfect location to calm down after the heart attack caused by your brood’s comments. Whilst sipping champagne, eating oysters (yes, seriously) enjoy all that surrounding beauty and give your legs a good rest.
Which, incidentally, does not necessarily have to be better than ‘junk food’, because I’ve eaten the tastiest burger ever on one of the Grandvalira’s slopes.
All in all rather pleasant, because after 10 seasons on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada I was ready for some ‘fresh snow’, so to speak. I am the first to admit it, I am spoiled! As Europe’s most southern ski resort is very nice indeed.
Only here, in Andorra, everything is a size bigger. On a given day one does not have to do the same slope twice during a day of skiing.
The size is also a disadvantage because getting back to your starting point takes quite some time. Especially because the connecting lifts between the different areas can be a bit of a bottleneck on busy days. That means starting early to return to your point of departure. Count on a few hours for your return trip, depending of course, on your experience and knowledge of the area.
If you too late, take the ski bus back to your departure point. These run every half hour during the winter season. That will not be a big problem for most winter sports enthusiasts, but if you, like me, rather be lazy than tired, try to avoid being late to take the last lift up.
What will a skiing holiday cost you?
A family skiing holiday is never cheap but it does not have to break the bank.
- To rent an apartment will set you back from 25 euros per person per night.
- If you cook yourself than prices in regular supermarkets are comparable to those in the rest of Western Europe. Try to avoid the corner shop as you will likely pay twice the normal price.
- A ski pass costs 51 euros per day. With a ‘ski pass plus’ you get a discount from day two and you only pay if you actually ski on that day. Family discounts and children’s rates apply. The passes must be arranged online in advance.
- Winter sports insurance costs 2.50 euros per person per day, which also has to be organised before you hit the slope.
- The hiring of equipment: (skis, shoes, poles, helmet) depending on the quality of the equipment costs around 15 – 30 euros per day.
- Parking at the gondolas is either free (El Tarter) or cost a few euros per day.
Andorra is not part of the European Union
Euros are used as the currency, however, Andorra is not part of the EU. This is important for several reasons:
- The tax rates are much lower than in most of the EU. So, if you’re into booze, cigarettes and other addictive drugs, this is the place to go shopping.
- To avoid unpleasant surprise after the holiday, consult the rates for roaming in Andorra.
- Check your health insurance. Take out additional insurance if necessary.
Andorra La Vella
Andorra la Vella is the capital of this little micro state at the crossroads of Spain and France. The official language is Catalan, but with French, Spanish and English you also come a long way. It is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, but otherwise, there is not much to do. Andorra la Vella has some nice old buildings and you can shop well.
On days with bad skiing weather visit the Caldea spa, an 18 storey glass building in the centre of the city.
- Some areas offer the possibility to store your skis in a locker overnight.
- Between the different starting points, a ski bus runs every half an hour in winter.
- Although it is not necessarily necessary to go by car, it is useful if, for example, you want to go shopping in a different location.
- If you go in the winter by car, make sure to bring snow chains.
Grandvalira ski resort
- The Highest point 2815 meter and lowest point 1710 meter
- Total pistes 210 km: green 16% 34 km, blue 38% 79 km, rood 30% 62 km, black 16% 35 km
- Lifts: gondolas 5, chair lifts 30, towing lifts 22