As the 16th smallest country in the world, relatively few people have heard of Andorra, let alone seen it with their own eyes. But allow me to let you in on a secret – part of Andorra‘s charm is that it’s still largely unknown.
As a snowboarder who’s explored big ski areas like the Three Valleys in France and the Milky Way in Italy, the little-known resort of Soldeu in Andorra had a lot to live up to. My group of six were put up by the 4 star Hotel Piolets Park and Spa, with friendly staff where nothing was too much trouble.
Little things make all the difference, and a big surprise was how easy and quick it was to get around the mountain. The lifts are super quiet – particularly in January – which means minimal queues for first lifts in the morning. Countless times on the mountain we skied right through the barriers and straight onto the next chairlift – a novelty compared to popular resorts in France.
As a whole, the ski area is an absolute blast for groups ranging from newbies to seasoned skiers. Gentle cruising blues and challenging reds spread side-by-side all over the mountain.
Soldeu skiing is an absolute ball for mixed ability groups, with gentle cruising blues and challenging reds spread side-by-side all over the mountain.
The huge 210km Grandvalira ski area – including Pas de la Casa, Soldeu and El Tarter – has seen incredible snowfall so far this season. From 7th-14th January over 70cm fell in a single day, and over a metre settled over the week, smashing four year records. This, paired with cold temperatures, means the resort will have a solid base for the coming months – and after that much snow, safe to say the conditions were unlike any I’d set skis or board on before.
Even on piste, my board cut through the soft snow like a hot knife through butter.
One of the best things about Soldeu is that everything is just a stone’s throw away. Although most hotels offer a free shuttle bus to the gondola, you won’t need them – it’s less than 7 minutes walk away. Mini supermarkets, ski shops and a range of bars are all by the gondola too – so it’s easy to slip in for a couple after coming off the slopes.
Painting the Town Red
The Aspen bar, complete with an upstairs pool area and drinks cheaper than your local, is definitely a winner. With an eclectic mix of indie and pop-rock tunes, the place has a great buzz. Irish bar The Harp has a friendly vibe, with seasonaires and locals alike enjoying the live music.
Out and About
On top of the skiing and snowboarding, the choice of off-piste activities is almost as good as action-packed resorts in Austria and France. Just 15 minutes from Soldeu lies the Grau Roig activity centre, a haven of outdoor adventures like dog sledding and snowmobiling.
Being pulled by a very energetic pack of dogs in a tarpaulin covered sled really is an experience not to be missed. The pureness of this form of transport really puts you in touch with nature.
In stark contrast, speeding along the straights and winding through trees in snowmobiles is a thrill seekers dream. The instructors are calm and patient getting everyone up and going, and there’s plenty on patrol to help you out if you get stuck.
Three days in the 210k Grandvalira ski area was barely enough to scratch the surface, so rest assured there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained for at least a week.
All this coupled with the very reasonable prices means you can eat and sleep like royalty – it’s a real surprise that more people aren’t raving about it.
My advice? Go there first, before the secret’s out.