Andorra is a lesser-known ski destination with a lot to offer. We sent three of our ski experts on a spring trip to the Grandvalira ski area to find out what it’s like.
So where exactly is the Grandvalira?
Amy: The Grandvalira is the biggest ski area in Andorra, which is a tiny country in between France and Spain.
What’s the skiing like?
Alice: There are around 210km of runs, mainly blue and red, and with a variety of tree-lined and wide, open pistes. The slopes were pretty empty and there was plenty of fresh snow, which was a pleasant surprise so late in the season.
Phil: I’m an intermediate and I found the skiing in the Grandvalira brilliant – challenging but not too taxing.
Amy: It’s excellent for beginners too. Unlike other resorts, the nursery slopes here are at the top of the mountain, so you get to go up in the gondola instead of being stuck at the base. There’s usually better snow higher up too – not to mention the beautiful views.
Is the ski school good?
Amy: Yes! A lot of the instructors are ex-pats from the UK and Ireland, so they all speak perfect English. All of them were great and they all had their own tips – if one technique didn’t work for me, they’d suggest something else. I also had a private lesson which I can’t recommend enough. I felt so comfortable working one-on-one and I was skiing blue runs by the end of the day.
Phil: The intermediate ski lessons were exceptional. My instructor was funny and patient, and he used brilliant analogies to explain different techniques. They also teach you to do things like carving, so you can ski the same runs in a whole new way.
Where is there to stay?
Amy: There really is something to cover everyone’s needs. Pas de la Casa is the biggest resort and the accommodation is great value – but still gets a big thumb’s up on quality. For groups, the Aparthotel Olimpiades is ideal. It’s right next to the slopes so you get lovely mountain views and you can ski straight from the door.
Alice: Soldeu is more scenic, with luxurious hotels that are just right for families or couples. The Sport Hotel Hermitage & Spa was my favourite, with its amazing kids’ club and three-storey spa. The gondola station is right in the hotel too so it’s very convenient.
How’s the food?
Alice: There’s a big Spanish influence on the cuisine, with tapas offered in almost every restaurant. It made a nice change from all the raclette and fondue you get in other ski resorts.
Amy: There are places to eat at the top of all the lifts so it’s easy to meet up for lunch. Soldeu has some cute cafés too – don’t miss the empanadas. And the half-board buffets are really high quality, with everything from steak to seabass, as well as the usual burgers and chips.
And the nightlife?
Alice: Pas de la Casa is very lively. At après time, you can stroll straight off the piste into bars with outdoor terraces, live music and beautiful mountain views. Soldeu is much quieter and the centre is one road, so it’s easy to walk around and find somewhere for a cocktail.
Phil: There’s always somewhere to enjoy a few drinks with new-found friends. The Red Lion in Pas has a fun, young crowd – and they can get pretty competitive when it comes to table football. In Soldeu, we went to Fat Albert’s, a hidden bar with a buzzing atmosphere and a good mix of people.
Is Andorra cheap?
Alice: Andorra is a tax-free country so the shops are really cheap – definitely go to the supermarket to stock up on drinks.
Amy: Restaurants and bars are pretty similar to other European resorts, price-wise. But Andorra in general is really great value and you get a lot for your money – especially considering the high quality of the hotels.
Do you have any tips for anyone planning a ski holiday to Andorra?
Phil: Be open minded – Andorra might not be an obvious choice for a ski holiday but it’s a serious contender to the bigger European destinations.
Amy: Roaming isn’t free in Andorra so switch off your mobile data. Luckily there’s free WiFi on the mountain and in most hotels and restaurants.
Alice: Consider who you’re travelling with when picking a resort – groups should opt for Pas de la Casa for a week-long party on the slopes, but couples and families should choose Soldeu for a more sophisticated holiday.
Say ‘hola’ to the peaks of the Pyrenees and head to Andorra next winter.