The tiny, mountainous country of Andorra may only have 77,000 residents, but during the winter months this population swells with avid skiers and snowboarders visiting the country’s excellent ski resorts. There are two areas to choose from – the linked Grandvalira ski area and the Vallnord resorts – both of which offer up varied Pyrenean terrain, plenty of sunshine, reliable snow conditions and great value.
Although the Pyrenees may not boast the altitude (or vertical drop) of the Alps, Andorra is home to some of the region’s best terrain and thanks to hefty investment in infrastructure, access to the slopes is now very good. Expect a good deal of fast chairlifts and slick gondolas, but there are a few slow lifts left – hopefully these will get replaced in the coming years.
The main ski areas are Grandvalira and Vallnord. Grandvalira is bigger, boasting 210km of linked slopes, most of which are high above the treeline and cross from valley to valley – there’s good variety for all abilities here. The main resort bases within this area are Soldeu, Pas de la Casa and El Tarter, but there are also alternative options at Encamp, Canillo and Grau Roig. Nearby Vallnord is not linked, but the slopes of Pal/Arinsal share a 63km network of intermediate-friendly slopes and the steeper terrain of Arcalis is only a short drive away.
As mentioned, Andorra offers great value, especially when it comes to accommodation and food and drink (the country has no sales tax and minimal VAT too!). There is a good deal of variety in terms of places to stay and a lot of the accommodation is ski in ski out, making it very convenient and family friendly. The food is usually good, mixing Spanish and French cuisine, in addition to the usual ski resort fare.
Getting here is the only slight issue, involving a fairly long 3-4 hour transfer from either Barcelona or Toulouse airports, but numerous companies offer competitively priced shared transfers and the drive if you hire a car isn’t that bad – plus it gives you the freedom to explore all of the country’s resorts. The positive however is that these airports are not major winter destinations, giving you the chance to score cheap flights.