The tiny mountain country of Andorra is nestled in the Pyrenees between France and Spain, and its location makes it an ideal European skiing destination. The Grandvalira area is known for its beauty and reliable snowfall, but it can be a pricey option (home to one of Europe's most expensive passes). Excellent snowfall, snowmaking and pristine grooming are all big draws to the region.
If you are aching to get onto the slopes and your normal destinations are suffering from patchy snowfall, read ahead to learn more about skiing in Grandvalira, Andorra.
Choosing the best base for your stay
The most central place to stay in the Grandvalira area is the bustling little village of Soldeu. Located on a steep hill that faces the ski area, this small town is situated on the road France to Andorra la Vella and on to Spain. As a result, the area can feel hectic, with traffic whizzing by.
If you prefer a more quaint experience, you can choose from other villages as a place to base yourself. Pas de la Casa is closer to the French border, and you will need to take transport to and from the lifts. El Tarter has its own lifts and return pistes, located just a few miles from Soldeu . Prefer to be even more isolated? Canillo and Encamp both have gondolas (but no lifts). Your Ski Andorra pass will cover all of these areas so that you can choose your location with no limits.
Skiing and Snowboarding Options
The resort area is home to 210 km of pistes. Taking the gondola from Soldeu is efficient and quick, and you will pass over the north slopes and Espiolets (where the ski school and nursery slopes are located). Queues for the lifts and gondolas are minimal, and while the blue slopes can get crowded, you’ll find that the black and red hills are far less busy.
If you fancy some time at a terrain park, the main park is called Snowpark El Tarter. It has a wide array of options, including huge gap jumps, kickers, a wide array of jumps, many rails and a giant airbag. Certain times of year you will even find a halfpipe.
There are options for experts, though the blacks are often quite easy (especially when compared to others on the continent). Intermediate skiers will have a blast, and this is a great resort for beginners and kids. The British run ski school is often lauded as one of the best in Europe.
Snowboarders are well served, as Soldeu is widely regarded as the snowboarding capital of the Pyrenees. Not only is this a great place to learn the sport, but it is also home to a lot of backcountry and off-piste routes for experts.
Where to stay
There are options available in Soldeu for a wide array of budgets, from five-star luxury hotels to cheap and cheerful hostels.
The Sport Hotel chain owns the three main hotels in the village, located just 50 metres from the main gondola. The most luxurious option is the area's first five-star hotel, the Sport Hotel Hermitage & Spa. A huge Wellness Mountain Spa, complete with a massive basement pool, links all three Sport hotels to one another. Even if you do not stay here, it is worth purchasing a day pass for the spa experience.
A few other high-end options in the area are the Hotel Himalaia Soldeu and the Hotel Piolets Parc & Spa. Prefer to stay further away from Soldeu? The Hotel Euro Esqui is closer to El Tarter and boasts free transfers to the El Tarter chair and an indoor pool, perfect for soaking those aching muscles after a day on the slopes.
If you are working with a more modest budget, the two-star Hotel Bruxelles has decent rooms, personal service and a fantastic restaurant. Hotel Roc de Sant Miquel is a family run affair and offers Spartan rooms and lovely owners.
Eating and drinking
If you are looking for a wild night on the town or a truly gourmet meal, Soldeu may not be the best option for your needs. Many of the town’s bars and restaurants are located inside the hotels, and serve large portions of humble Andorran, French and Spanish cuisine. Check out Fat Alberts for steaks and burgers or the delicious offerings at the Hotel Bruxelles.
If you want to eat on the mountain, there are a few table service and buffet options, but many locals advise that the village has much better food. Try the Arosseria Pi de Migdia, located at the top of the El Tarter gondola, or the Riba Escorxada pizzeria. If you are self-catering, there is a picnic room available at Espiolets.