The Alps are undoubtedly the premier ski holiday destination in Europe, but they’re certainly not the only option. Coming off a 12-year gap since I last skied and travelling with my boyfriend who is new to snow sports, I was wary of splashing out on a costly trip to France or Switzerland. After lots of research, I opted for a weeklong winter escape in Andorra over a more traditional holiday in the Alps.
Andorra is nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain. To get here you first fly into Toulouse or Barcelona, then take a 3-4 hour coach ride into the tiny country. Andorra holds several major ski areas, including my pick, Vallnord.
A Vallnord lift ticket will give you access to three major ski areas: Arinsal, Pal, Arcalis. Since All the runs are connected by a network of gondolas, lifts, and free coaches, making exploring the whole region a breeze.
(Arinsal Village: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wanderbliss/13224759163/sizes/z/in/photostream/)
Now if you’re an expert at skiing or snowboarding, you’ll probably get bored with Vallnord pretty quickly since there are only a handful of black runs. However, if you’re rusty like me or a complete beginner like my significant other then Vallnord and the Pyrenees as a whole will really fit the bill. There are plenty of green and blue runs and a whole host of affordable lessons and private instructors to choose from. On top of that, hiring equipment is easy and simple.
In the seven days I stayed in Arinsal, I ended up skiing for five days and exploring the area for two days. What I really loved about Vallnord was that in addition to being much more affordable than alternative destinations in the Alps, it was also incredibly laid back and unpretentious. Everyone who took to the slopes was out there for the fun of it, and it made for a really nice atmosphere.