Andorra has the highest density of ski lifts in the world, mostly clustered in its two main ski areas Vallnord and Grandvalira. Ranging in altitude from 1,500m to 2,640m, Andorra is snowsure all season. More than 1,300 snow cannons cover 54% of the ski area.
Its ski areas have been steadily developed from ‘cheap and cheerful’ in the 1970s and 80s to be increasingly sophisticated since 2000, with modern lifts, ski areas reaching world-class dimensions, and the opening of luxury hotels.
Andorra remains a good choice for families on a budget. Travel, accommodation, lift passes, rental, lessons and childcare are all much cheaper than is the norm in the Alps. In fact, Andorra’s tax-free status means the country is invariably cheaper than its Alpine rivals.
Naturlandia in La Rabassa, is Andorra’s only Nordic skiing resort and, for youngsters especially, is a great alternative to the downhill slopes. There are 15km of marked trails but for the kids the main attraction is the Airtrekk – an array of rope circuits forming the largest sky trail in Europe – and Tobotronc, the world’s longest alpine toboggan run at 5.3km.
Ski area: 210km Pistes: 118
Lifts: 64 Summit: 2,640m
Vertical drop 930m
Beginner 25% Intermediate 50% Expert 25%
Grandvalira came into being in 2004 when the previously fiercely competitive resorts of Pas de la Casa and Soldeu finally shook hands and became a single ski area – the largest in the Pyrenees.
The 2013/14 season saw Grandvalira celebrate its 10th year by finishing the new slope Àliga, which is 2.9km long. Located in El Tarter, it’s the only descent line in Andorra, gearing up to host first-class international competitions. The resort also increased its skiable area by 5% using artificial snow. A highlight of a visit here is a night at the resort’s ice hotel, Hotel Igloo.
Grandvalira has great freeriding terrain with natural jumps above the treeline and great fun descents down through the trees. Slope access by chair and gondola is also very ‘boarder friendly’ and the resort’s positive attitude to the sport on and off the slopes has been rewarded in hosting several top international events.
Ski area: 93km Pistes: 69
Lifts: 45 Summit: 2,625m
Vertical drop: 1,010m
Beginner 22% Intermediate 64% Expert 14%
Another ski marriage, Vallnord first combined the ski resorts of Pal and Arinsal and later added the freeride paradise of Arcalís.
The area has long been popular for its friendly environment, excellent English-speaking ski schools and high value, lively apres-ski, particularly in Arinsal. However the past decade has also seen a distinct move upmarket with higher quality on and off the slopes.
Arinsal is the most beginner-friendly of the three, with new skiers progressing to Pal. For experts, Arcalis is revered by locals as the principality’s most exciting ski area. It features lift access to some of Andorra’s wildest terrain and consistently offers the best snow conditions. Heli-skiing makes this even more of a must-ski.