Andorra has no army, no navy and no airforce; it is a duty-free state, and its inhabitants pay no personal income tax. It's no wonder, therefore, that Andorrans enjoy one of the world's longest life expectancies.
The country also has a unique sovereign status as a ‘parliamentary co-principality’. It has a head-of-government, but no president; it has two heads-of-state, yet neither are Andorran themselves.
This odd state of affairs has its roots in the medieval feudal system and has survived largely unchanged since the 15th century, thanks in part to the country's isolated surroundings: encircled by a natural fortress of mountains, with 95 per cent of its border over 2000 m (6560 ft) above sea level.
Location, Location, Location
Despite this insular high-altitude position, Andorra is just under three-hour's drive away from the Mediterranean coast and the buzzing cosmopolitan cities of Toulouse and Barcelona.
Andorra's fortuitous location in a major mountain chain, which is subject to an Atlantic influence, means that precipitation is relatively high, ensuring reliable snow conditions for its ski resorts; yet its proximity to the Mediterranean means that this region also enjoys paradoxically mild temperatures and an average of 300 full days of sunshine per annum.
EVOLUTION OF A SKI NATION
Until recently, Andorra suffered from a serious image problem:
many serious snowsports enthusiasts stayed away, believing it to be the haunt of booze-fuelled beginners staying in basic accommodation and playing about on limited cruising pistes. Many of these negative preconceptions had some previous basis in fact, but massive investment has resulted in a rapid evolution away from those rudimentary beginnings and seen Andorra's profile soar to join the world's superleague of snowsports nations.
The capacity per hour of Andorra's modern ski lift infrastructure can now accommodate almost twice the entire population of the country, ensuring that queues are kept to a minimum and on-snow time is maximised. Excellent facilities and world-class ski schools are the major attractions for today's visitors.
Along with its bargain duty-free prices, these continuing developments mean that Andorra is now definitely a wintersports destination that has got the lot!