Spain is a country of contrasts. Only a few hours from where they’re basking in the sun on the beaches they’re skiing down the slopes in three layers of clothes and woolly mittens.
One of the amazing things about Spain is the variation in its climate and its landscape. For the majority of people Spain = hot. Any resident will quickly point out that this not always the case. Perhaps during the months of June, July, August and September you are sweltering in a subtropical climate. But the rest of the year the temperatures, especially in the north and inland, can be surprisingly cold.
The high altitudes in some parts of the country mean that snow is not a rarity and for the Sierra Nevada it’s, its life blood. So if you would like to sample the skiing experience that Spain has to offer, where might you start?
The Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada is in fact a national park. Situated to the south of Granada it is covered in snow for the majority of the year and offers fantastic skiing opportunities from November to May.
What makes it particularly attractive is that you can be based down in the historic city of Granada and leave the milder Spanish weather on a daily basis to venture onto the slopes in perhaps forty minutes. A great benefit if you have members of your family who are not so keen on skiing themselves.
The ski resort is quite compact and the resort village, Pradollano, includes the usual ski shops, cafes and bars to break up the skiing day. Equipment can be hired at arrival at the resort, or if you want to splash out you can buy your own.
There is a good balance of nursery slopes and more challenging runs and ski schools operate for all ages and nationalities.
There are 86km of pistes including:
Green runs – 8
Blue runs – 33
Red runs – 35
Black runs – 4
This good selection means your family can select according to their skills and daring and meet up quite easily at one of the stations for lunch or to return to base. There’s the added bonus that on many days of the year you will be skiing in the sun with opportunity to pause at lunchtime and survey the scenery in one of the terrace areas.
Granada – for those who don’t want to ski
If some of your party are more interested in site seeing than skiing then Granada is ideal. It has a very different atmosphere to most other Spanish cities. You can stand at the back of the Alhambra palace, gaze across the river and feel the Moorish influence.
If you do decide that you want to visit the Alhambra you will need to book your visit as only a specified number of visitors are allowed each day. It is extensive and inspiring and well-worth the visit. But it’s not just the palace that’s worth a look, Granada is a World Heritage Site as declared by UNESCO. There is the hilltop Albaicín which is full of narrow alleyways and small squares and at La Cartuja monastery there are some Moorish-style baths that you can actually try out for yourself.
If you’re not particularly interested in history, Granada is a major city which also provides ample opportunities for shopping and nightlife. You can take part in Flamenco dancing around the El Sacromonte district which is the historic gypsy part of Granada. There are numerous fiestas, concerts and other opportunities to party, particularly around the Paseo de los Tristes at the foot of the Alhambra.
The Sierra Nevada might be the most famous ski resort in Spain but it’s not the only one. For example, Formigal is in the far north of Spain very close to the French border. It includes 18 blue runs, 33 red and 39 black runs, totalling up to be Spain’s largest ski domain. It’s also advertised as an all-year round destination with summer activities and interests catered for too.
If you want to travel that little bit further you can travel over the border into Andorra which is also renowned for its skiing. Andorra is set within the Pyrenees between France and Spain. It’s a tiny country that boasts four ski resorts and offers good value skiing holidays.
In the main town of Andorra de la Vella you can enjoy Jacuzzis, saunas, plunge pools and Turkish baths in the Caldea Centre. A very good way of relieving the aches and pains you might have accumulated in the meantime.
Skiing isn’t to everyone’s liking, but if you want to give it a go then you wouldn’t go far wrong by trying it in Spain.