When many of us think of Spain we think either of the sun-kissed seafronts of the Costa Del Sol or stylish, historic and culturally vibrant cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Cordoba. Very few of us, if asked, would consider Spain as a destination for skiing or snowboarding, and yet it’s second in Europe only to Switzerland for the sheer number of mountains it can boast.
There are 37 resorts in Spain, spread out across the country in the Pyrenees and the Cantabrian Mountains in the North, the Sistema Ibérico mountains in central Spain, and Andalucia’s Sierra Nevada National Park to the South. We’re going to focus on just two, to give you some idea of the variety of ski resorts Spain has to offer.
In recent years Spanish Pyrenean ski resorts have benefited from a fall in the number of visitors to their French and Andorran neighbours. Andorra’s reputation as a party town, popular with younger skiers and snowboarders has, it seems, turned away some older clientele, while France’s Pyrenean resorts have struggled in recent years to compete with other destinations for the quality of both accommodation and après ski.
Perhaps the best resort in the Pyrenees is Baqueira Beret. This top class destination offers the most snow-sure slopes in the whole mountain range. Granted, we’re not talking Alpine standards of snowfall, but visit Baqueira Beret at the height of the season and you’re more or less guaranteed good snow.
Like Andorra, Baqueira Beret is very popular with a young crowd, and the (often raucous) parties last until very late… Or very early, depending which way you look at it, but there are hotels there that cater more to families for those who need a good night’s sleep after a day on the slopes!
The resort itself may not be cheap, but the standards there are very high, with the restaurants a particular standout. What’s more, Baqueira Beret offers without a doubt the most varied and exciting terrain in the whole of the Pyrenees. That price tag pays for a certain amount of exclusivity, but it also gets you access to some great slopes, and even if you’re a beginner or intermediary there are excellent courses available to skiers of all abilities.
Sierra Nevada is Europe’s most southerly ski resort, just two hours’ drive from Malaga Airport and less than 30 miles, as the crow flies, from the Mediterranean coast, so it almost goes without saying that a resort so far south won’t be as snow-sure as its northern cousins, but even so a visit in mid-to-late February is usually a safe bet.
Getting there couldn’t be easier, with affordable flights into Malaga available from most European and many world cities, even in the winter months, and excellent transport connections between the airport and the resort itself.
The resort’s close proximity to the millionaire’s playground of Marbella (less than 2-and-a-half hours away by car) gives Sierra Nevada a very “showbiz” feel, but the hotels there are surprisingly inexpensive and – unlike Baqueira Beret – the nightlife isn’t quite as boisterous, making this the ideal ski destination for families and beginners.
About the Author: David Llewellyn is a keen skiing and snowboarding enthusiast, and writes for Ski Ici