A guide to skiing in Spain: Costa del snow?

Newsroom Travel A guide to skiing in Spain: Costa del snow?

Brits abroad in Spain is a tale as old as time. Every summer sees an exodus from the UK as folks head out to destinations like Marbella, Mallorca and Benidorm. But did you know there’s just as much reason to visit in the winter too? There’s an abundance of excellent skiing to be done in Spain. Here’s the lowdown.

What’s skiing like in Spain?

As mentioned earlier Spain is best known among holidaymakers for how much sun it receives. The Spanish skiing experience is one of the sunniest going, but the area receives enough snow to ensure the mountains aren’t a slush-fest. Just remember to pack your suncream.

Spanish ski resorts aren’t as big as ones you’d find in the Alps, but that doesn’t mean the range of slopes isn’t worth your time. Sierra Nevada has 106km of pistes, with a top altitude of 3,300 metres.

British tourists rarely come to Spanish ski resorts, which has its pros and cons. If you’re looking to experience some authentic local culture, you’re in luck, this isn’t home away from home. However, don’t expect everyone to speak English the way they do at other European resorts. Maybe pack a Spanish phrasebook.

Snowboarder walking in Sierra Nevada
Here’s a snowboarder in Sierra Nevada. Still think Spain is only good for the beach? Photo: © Elson Castro/Unsplash

When to go skiing in Spain?

The season at most Spanish resorts stretches from November to April. As is common in Europe, January and February tend to get the best snow, although the mountains will be busier in February. In recent years Spain, and particularly the Pyrenees in the north, have seen excellent early season snow compared to the rest of Western Europe, making them ideal for early season skiing.

To keep an eye on the latest conditions, be sure to download the OnTheSnow app.

What are the covid requirements to enter Spain?

Spain recently changed its strict covid entry requirements. For a while, anyone over 12 needed to be fully vaccinated to enter. This was difficult for a number of British teenagers, who are only eligible to be vaccinated once they turn 12. In light of the problems, Spain relaxed its rules. Now, teenagers can enter as long as they have proof of a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours. Adults must be fully vaccinated to enter Spain.

People skiing in Boi Taull, Spain
Boí Taüll ski resort in Catalonia. Photo: © Shutterstock

Once you’re in Spain and at a ski resort, masks are still key. They’re mandated on lifts and indoors. It’s also worth downloading the EU covid pass, to ensure ease of travel.

Where to go skiing in Spain?

Spain is one of Europe’s most mountainous country, and it’s home to a few different regions that offer skiing and snowboarding. The most famous of these are the Pyrenees in the north. However, Spain’s most popular resort is Sierra Nevada in Andalucia, and there’s also skiing near Madrid in the heart of the country. Below, we round up some of Spain’s best resorts.

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada ski resort in Spain
Sierra Nevada, Spain and Europe’s southernmost ski resort. Photo: © Shutterstock

Sierra Nevada is Spain’s southernmost ski resort. It’s so close to the bottom of the continent that on a clear day you can see all the way to Africa. One downside of this is that if the winds pick up in the wrong direction, you can get Saharan sand landing on the slopes, as incredible as it sounds.

If the conditions favour you, there’s the chance to explore intermediate skier or boarder heaven, with reds galore (just under half the total runs). Also the coast being so close to the mountain is rather special – hot chocolate on the mountain in the morning, piña colada on the beach in the afternoon.

Snowboarders will particularly enjoy Sierra Nevada, thanks to its half-pipe. At 6 metres tall, it’s the biggest in the country.

This is one of Spain’s busiest ski resorts, so would be best avoided on public holidays.

How to get there: It’s roughly a 40 minute drive from Granada Airport. There are however, more flights into Malaga, which is two hours away.

Baqueira – Beret

Baqueira – Beret, ski resort in Catalonia, Spain
Baqueira – Beret in the Pyrenees. Photo: © Shutterstock

Baqueira is the Spanish Pyrenees’ most beloved ski resort, even among the Spanish royalty, who have their second home there. Perhaps what attracts them to the resort, is the splendid array of eateries that reside here. Restaurants lean on an incredible array of local suppliers, providing them with top notch cured sausages, lamb, trout, and cider.

As the royal patronage suggests, there’s ample luxury to be found here. The town is peppered with five star hotels.

Heading to the slopes, this is a medium sized resort. There’s 60km of pistes to explore served by 29 lifts. If you’re experienced and looking for something a little different, this is among the cheapest place to go heliskiing in Europe.

How to get there: The nearest airports are actually in France, Lourdes and Toulouse.

Fórmigal

Chairlift in Formigal, Spain
Photo: © Shutterstock

Fórmigal has the most extensive range of pistes in all of Spain, with 137km to keep you occupied. If that doesn’t quite cut it, your pass also provides access to the entire Aragon ski area, which has another 122km of piste to explore.

The resort is made up of four lift linked ski area, each with their own character. Sarrios is best for beginners, a flat-ish valley, with a must-visit igloo bar. Anayet doesn’t have plenty of runs, but it makes up for that with its stellar views. Tres Hombres is an advanced skier or snowboarder’s dream – lots of the reds and blacks here are left ungroomed after heavy snowfall, allowing you to enjoy the powder fully. Finally, there’s Portalet, home to one of the most unique lifts going. The ‘rat-track’ is just a piste machine that drives up the slope, dragging skiers behind it. Worth going for the photo alone!

How to get there: Huesca is the nearest airport.

Vall de Núria

Building in Spanish ski resort Vall de Nuria
Vall de Nuria is inaccessible by road. Photo: © Shutterstock

Vall de Núria in Catalonia is rather unusual when it comes to ski resorts. Firstly, there’s no access by road, instead you have to ride a train up the mountain. Top tip: sit on the right hand side, to take in glorious views.

Once you arrive, you’re greeted by one large building. This is a complete hub for the resort – it’s ski hire, restaurant, accommodation and information centre rolled into one.

Vall de Núria doesn’t just court skiers, it’s also an important Christian pilgrimage site, owing to a 700AD stay by Saint Gil. There’s a small chapel built by pilgrims you can visit, dating back to the 11th Century.

The resort itself is on the small side – just 11 slopes, so is best suited to beginners and families.

How to get there: The nearest airports are Girona and Barcelona.

Featured image: © Shutterstock

 

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