SKI AREAS & RESORTS
A Little Giant
For such a tiny country, the Principality of Andorra punches way above its weight when it comes to snowsports.
Ever since the first ski lifts were installed in the 1950s, the country's ski stations have continuously ploughed investment into extending their boundaries and upgrading their facilities, services, lifts and pistes.
This consistent drive for improvement resulted in two of the most important tourism initiatives in Europe in the winter of 2004/05, and boosted Andorra into the world's snowsports super-league:
Linking it All Together
The already lift-linked stations of Pal-Arinsal
agreed a joint marketing and commercial strategy with the little-known but exciting station of Ordino-Arcalís
in the neighbouring parish. Although not linked by lifts/pistes, all these stations now share a combined lift pass, increasing the value and choice for holiday-makers to this region of Andorra, now collectively marketed as the Vallnord
The biggest news of that season though was the long-awaited full commercial linking of Andorra's biggest and most internationally renowned ski areas:
and Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig
. These two ski areas had already expanded to the point where they shared a couple of pistes on historically disputed meadows along the border between the two different parishes to which the stations belong. The resulting super-domain, named Grandvalira
, is now one of the planet's top ten ski areas as measured by uplift capacity, modernity of ski lifts and extent of pistes.
Vallnord and Grandvalira may be relatively new names in snowsports travel, but these impressive developments are now the biggest and most progressive ski stations in the Pyrenees. On-going investment is also ensuring that this tiny vibrant patch of a country, on the otherwise now less colourful tapestry of the European map, continues to be a major player in the world's snowsports travel market.
ALTERNATIVE SKI AREAS
Lesser Known Ski Stations
Andorra also offers a couple of alternative, little-known snowsports areas which are ideal for those visitors for whom the mainstream resorts either don't cater or simply don't appeal:
Nordic ski enthusiasts will love the principality's dedicated cross-country ski station at La Rabassa, next to the Spanish border; whilst the Parador Canaro, near Soldeu, offers what could be described as a nano-resort, great for very nervous beginners and/or weekend dabblers.
La Rabassa (‘Naturlandia’)
This is Andorra's dedicated cross-country ski station, located on a tranquil high plateau straddling the Andorran-Spanish border. The station is a 17 km (12 mile) drive from the town of Sant Julià de Lòria, south of Andorra la Vella.
The station has two green-graded circuits of around 1.5 km (1 mile) each, a 5.5 km (3 mile) blue circuit and a 6.5 km (4 mile) red circuit. Equipment hire and instruction are available on site, along with a range of complementary activities including snowshoeing, inflatable tube-toboggans, snowmobiles, dog sledding, an Inuit village for children to play in, plus the fantastic Tobotronc
, the world's longest rail-toboggan. There is also an authentic mountain refuge, housing a lovely rustic restaurant, with rooms available for overnight stays.
The peace and tranquillity of the setting provides an insight into the true spirit of this Pyrenean micro-state, and the views over the forests towards the imposing Serra del Cadi mountain chain in Spain are sublime.
Situated in the Vall d'Incles, on the main road between Soldeu and El Tarter, the Parador Canaro has its own gentle, button-tow served, snowfields offering absolute beginners and nervous novices a tamer environment in which to learn.
It is ideal for those travelling with very young children; to experience the joys of snowsports without the expense or hassle of visiting one of the major ski stations.
The Parador is a small traditional stone-built hotel, located just next to Andorra's main arterial highway. There is free car parking on site and a bus stop nearby; the hotel's attractive bar and quality à la carte restaurant have a large sun terrace which overlooks the snowfields. Toboggans and ski equipment hire are available on site and the operation also has its own team of instructors.