Skiing in Spain: Really?!

It’s not the first country you think about when planning to hit the slopes, probably not even in the top 10. The stereotype just suggests that Spain is a hot country, and that is that. However, 33 resorts grace these lands, and are not just confined to one area. The question is, how good is it there?

The answer is, not as good as the likes of the countries which have the Alps, but it is a viable option. Spain has just 4 resorts with a maximum possible vertical descent of over 1000m, the geography can only help so much. But people of all abilities can enjoy most of these places together in harmony, and some of the bigger resorts can offer passes for beginners at a reduced rate. Most of the resorts are perfect for beginners and mediocre skiers like myself, who isn’t afraid to try the occasional red or black slope.

The ski culture here really isn’t anywhere near at the same level as that of France and Switzerland. People rarely take it up professionally (GB won more medals than Spain in the 2022 winter Olympics), and even many major cities that are relatively close by a resort don’t have mass interest in winter sports in general. So why is Spain overlooked as a place to go skiing?

Prices are quite high.

Compare your experience to the cost, and you’ll find in general, you pay more for your ski pass and sometimes ski rental, than places of a similar size in Central Europe. The difference in minimal though

Not so many choices in many regions.

With the exception of the Pyrenees, most of the other mountain ranges may only have a couple or even just one resort in the whole region or whole range itself. The resorts that are scattered around the country are relatively small with the exception of the Sierra Nevada resort in Granada, and some don’t even have any black slopes.

The weather plays it’s part.

The majority of the resorts are usually open in time for the December 6 Constitution Day holiday, but many don’t open until January, and that is depending on if they get enough snow. The Winter of 2019 was too dry for the resorts in the Cantabrian Mountains to open until the latter part of January. I went to La Molina in the Pyrenees that month and only about 30% of the resort was open. Conditions may not be as reliable compared to the Alps.

However, providing conditions are good, Spain can be just as enjoyable as any other country, and they are never too busy, even during peak season, queues are only long in the first couple of hours in the morning, and at the end of the day, you will have a lot more freedom of the slopes.

Here are some resorts that are well worth checking out in Spain:

Baqueira- Beret, Lleida

This is the highest rated resort according to the majority of websites, and the biggest in the Spanish Pyrenees. The resort is split into 4 zones, Baqueira, Orri, Beret, and Bonaigua. The resort is at the highest end of the Val d’Aran at the source of the Arriu Garona, and all the stations can be connected by various lifts and slopes. There are bus connections to Vielha, the biggest town, all the way to Les near the French border, stopping at every village on the Journey every hour. A single day pass for a regular adult costs 62€ with insurance, the most expensive in the Pyrenees, and ski rental is around the 30€ mark. A discount for beginner skiers is available but limits you to small parts of the resort. with 160km of ski slopes, Only Formigal in Aragón has more.

It’s worth the price, and you can also rent snowshoes and do various trails such as the Montgarri Trail, and do cross country skiing as well. Champagne bars can be found at various points, and people also will enjoy their après ski moments in the likes of Vielha, Bossost, and Salardú just to name a few places, with a really good spa in Les that I personally recommend.

Valgrande Pajares, Asturias

Located on the famous N-630 away from Puerto Pajares, The resort is on the border between Asturias and León province, and people travel from both León and Oviedo in about an hour. The resort has about 30km of slopes of which have all the colours available, and the longest being 2km. The best part of this resort, is that it is beginner friendly, and even they can enjoy views from the very top, which is Cueto Negro at 1862m where there is also a café. The bottom is located at the 1400m mark, where there is some accommodation, though it must be said that the vast majority would actually not spend the night in the station, as it is quite a quiet place.

Ski passes for one day are 29€ for adults, thought the offer various other tariffs like half- resort, beginners/ snow park, and even 4- hour passes, all with insurance included. Ski rental is available at a standard price of 28€ for the day. The season usually runs late November until April depending on conditions.

Cerler, Huesca

Cerler is another resort in the Pyrenees, but this time in Huesca province, near the town of Benasque in the valle de Benasque. The highest mountain in the chain, Pico de Aneto is just one ridge over, and can be seen from the top of the resort, as well as Posets which is on the other side of the valley. There are 80km of slopes available to skiers with lifts from two main locations, Cerler at 1500m, and Ampiriu at 1900m with the latter reaching the highest point, Gallinero at 2728m, via two separate lifts, though you can’t ski straight from the top of the mountain.

Cerler is the biggest resort in Aragon after Formigal-Panticosa, and has slopes catering for all levels and accommodation the resort as well as the picturesque village of the same name, and most people will spend more than just a day there. Benasque is also a popular place to stay as the bus connections between the two places are excellent. A Snowbus service from Lleida to the resort operates every Saturday until the end of season (Usually mid-April) Passes cost about 48€ for the most expensive days, which is usually a Sunday. The only drawback with this place is that the website is a pain to use, and I found worked better on my phone than my computer.

Sierra Nevada, Granada

The southernmost ski resort in Europe can be found on the mountain range of the same name, and has 100km of slopes. It is also the highest in Spain, reaching just below the peak of Valeta at 3300m, and has more than 1000m possible descent, one of only 3 stations where that is possible. The resort town of Pradollano is the lowest point at 2100m and has everything you need, and is very popular to stay overnight, or even several days, with famous chains like Melia setting up shop there. The middle station, Borraguiles is beginner friendly with most of the green slopes in that area. Passes are quite pricy as a single day will set you back 58€, but you can get half day passes, and ski rental is between 26-42€ depending on your ability.

Conditions at the resort are unique here compared to anywhere else, as you are more likely to get a good sunny day, with what feels like warmer conditions. The bottom even in January can get a bit soft, but from Borraguiles upwards, the snow is usually top draw. The views are some of the most spectacular you could hope for, and since they have slopes several kilometres long, and snow parks used in competition, there’s something for everyone. The middle part can get crowded, so the sides were my preferred areas to check out after 11am. The resort is unique, in that you can enjoy a morning skiing, and then head to the costa tropical, which is only an hour away, or take a cultural visit to Granada, 30 minutes away. I would say it is my favourite resort that I have checked out so far.

Port Ainé, Lleida

This is one of the smaller resorts on this list, but I’m highlighting it because it’s one the most beginner-friendly, and value for money resorts in the country. Not only are you blessed with spectacular views from the top, Torreta de L’Orrí, you can also ski down from it as a beginner. Starting from 1650m with the main section at 2000m where all the facilities are, including the only hotel and ski rental shop, The resort also has a café in another location about 2150m or so, again with easy access for beginner and non- skiers. The downside about this place is that while there is an itinerary for snowshoes and cross- country skiers, there are no rental facilities in the resort. You are most likely to get them from Rialp, the nearest town.

Port Ainé may be the cheapest day out for any skier in the Pyrenees, as you can get a ski bus operated by Alsa at weekends from Lleida, via the major towns of Balaguer, Tremp, La pobla de Segur, Sort (capital of the Pallars Sobirá comarca) and Rialp, with the last 2 stops having more services for skiing, including rental. The pass is included in the price and cost 37.50€. So ski rental, travel, and pass for one day will set you back 61.50€, not bad for one day. The same service via a change at Sort, will also take you to Espot, another ski resort further up the valley. Alternatively, a taxi service runs from Sort to both resorts for a very reasonable price.

Ski 2500 La MolinaMasella, Girona

The biggest of the resorts in the eastern Alps, The resort of La Molina is one of the most famous resorts in the whole of Spain, and has hosted international competitions a number of times. In collaboration with Masella which shares the highest point, La Tosa at 2537m, it is the only joint resort in Spain, where cable cars and slopes can connect the two resorts, and the ski passes can also be sold as a joint, package, or as each individual resort. Prices for one day cost 45-47€ per day per resort, or 51€ for both, so why not enjoy skiing down both resorts? The resort also offers night skiing at 20€ a night. The resort often opens in November for the season, and finishes around mid-April.

Travelling to the resort, is one of the easiest of the lot, and you even travel from Barcelona by Train or bus for a special deal. 46€ for the L3 from Barcelona Sants, Plaça Catalunya, Clot- Aragó or La Sagrera to Puigcerdà/ La Tor de Querol where theres another 2 ski resorts on the French side a short bus ride away (Font Romeu and Les Angles). Ski buses are a little more expensive, but have a variety of leaving points, such as Puigcerdà, Manresa, Sabadell, Terrassa, Vic, and Ripoll as well as Barcelona- Arc de Triomf. Ski rental is not included, and is about 20€ a day, one of the cheapest rates in Spain. La Molina has a large beginners area, as well as slopes up to 4km long of all colours, Whereas Masella more caters for slightly more competent skiers.

While these are just a small selection on what’s on offer, there are quite a few more on the list below with the links that are definitely worth checking out:

Pyrenees

Cantabrian Mountains

Sistema Ibérico

  • Valdezcaray ( The only resort with black slopes in the Sistema Ibérico) La Rioja
  • Javalambre Teruel
  • Valdelinares (The only resort in Spain where you can access both the top and bottom of the resort by car) Teruel

Sistema Central

Sierra Nevada

  • Sierra Nevada (see info above) Granada
  • Puerto La Ragua (cross country skiing, rarely open except for tourism) Granada/Almeria

At the time of writing the 2021-22 season will almost be over, but I’m sure you’ll think about Spain as another possible destination for your skiing holidays in the forthcoming seasons. With technology, and the ability to combine non-skiing activities in many spots, this country can offer you a different experience compared other European countries.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: