Andorra

Anyone following my Instagram stories will realise that I have been treated to truly wonderful press trip to Soldeu, part of the Grandvalira ski resort in Andorra.

Andorra has in the past been perceived as a younger sibling in the ski world, somewhere families went to learn to snowplough, but inevitably, a bit like all younger siblings – it has suddenly grown up.

The Grandvalira ski resort was established in 2003 by combining a string of villages – Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig (founded in 1956) and Soldeu-El Tarter (founded in 1964) plus, Canillo and Encamp making it the largest ski resort in the Pyrenees and one of the largest in Europe.

It now includes 210 km of completely connected slopes, with 71 lifts, accessible with a single ski pass, at elevations of between 1,710 and 2,640 m.

Year after year, Grandvalira has been reinventing itself to improve the experience of its visitors with new services, better transport and new products. Last year, the domain invested around €11 million in modernizing and extending the facilities at the slopes, improving the Ski and Snowboard School services, diversifying the restaurants on offer, and continuing to invest in new technology as a means of interaction with its customers.

In total, Grandvalira has invested over €130 million over the last 14 years, in order to continue optimizing customer experience. A state of the art snow cannon system has been installed throughout the resort and the local “artisans of the snow” (snow groomer operators) have 32 snow grooming machines at their disposal, enabling them to create perfect the snow conditions, almost whatever the weather.

Although catering for everyone, Andorra remains an ideal place for children to learn to ski, the Mont Magic Family Park is just gorgeous. Children can learn about Andorran folk tales while they have fun skiing and playing with the magical creatures that inhabit the longest themed kid’s slope in southern Europe

My companions were top ski and travel players, including, from left to right, Jon Bird from the Sunday People, Frank Baldwin, editor of Skier & Snowboarder magazine, travel writer, Penny Wainwright our super leader, Jo Bowdery, PR for travel group Tui , representing our host, Crystal Ski Holidays, me, travel writer, Isabel Conway, and Kisia Cove social media manager from Planetski,

We stayed in the magnificent Four star, Piolets Park hotel.

I tried not to bore everyone too much with my interiors chat, while I eyed up the fabulous decor. They all nodded politely enough when I started reeling off the ‘Rules of Interior Design’ one by one over drinks and dinner, but strangely, even though we had an intensely jolly time and I felt, bonded deeply, no one actually invited me to their house – funny that – I honestly can drop by for a cuppa without ripping the decor apart guys – I promise!

Piolets Park reminded me of the gorgeous hotel in the fab 2014 Scandinavian movie, set in a ski resort – Force Majeure. The food was absolutely knock out – a buffet breakfast and dinner every evening, I really love Spanish food, the choices were healthy and delicious. To sum up, I would describe the holiday as good value but knee deep in contemporary, luxury…

The spa facilities were incredible…

A great way to wind down and have more fun with your kids after a days skiing, or from 7pm onwards, quietly, for adults only… Find out the cost of a week here, half board, on the Crystal Ski website.

We were guided by Andorra legend, Bethol Standeven, pictured above, in the sky blue uniform. She arrived here in 1983 from Yorkshire, with her husband to be, and they never left. They now run the superb ski school and set an amazing example of ‘living the dream’, bringing up two boys here, both now at university in Britain, skiing all winter and working in the golf industry and the building trade locally in summer.

First stop was the loo with a view – did not quite get what the fuss was about but once you are in you are in – and you do get it!

  

Good laughs had by all…

Next stop was the Igloo Bothy – available for overnight stays to anyone keen really.

I am not in the queue I am afraid…

Frank, editor of Skier & Snowboarder for 29, yes, 29 years, knows a few things about overnight ski activities and here he explains some of the ins and outs –

Before settling in with literally – is that 4 ladies?? I think, in fact, it was more like 6…

Meanwhile, Jon, who works for a more traditional newspaper, was not quite so quick off the mark…

We really were thoroughly spoiled and treated to a whirl of activities and events, including my favourite – hot chocolate in the sunshine – the Spanish recipe to me seems like pure, melted chocolate…

Plus, some well outside my comfort zone…

No one related to me would believe that I was actually put in charge of a skidoo – but yes – there are mad people out there, or at least heavily insured.

A quick demo from the lovely Declan Reid, of Roc Roi Adventures,  from Glasgow originally and a white water rafting instructor by trade, was more than enough to enable Kisia and I to set off, not quite without a care in the world, but what an absolute blast we had, we swapped over half way – being a passenger is just as much fun as being the driver!

The next day was mushing in the afternoon

No one wanted to leave…

Followed by pre’s in the fabulous Barcode, where Argentinian musicians serenaded us and Jon really came in to his own…

After a glorious dinner with the manager of the Park Piolets, we nipped back out to the Harp bar, an authentic Irish bar, owned by two Irish couples, who like Bethol, never went home. There was more brilliant live music and the dancing started!

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2 thoughts on “Andorra

  1. What an interesting blog! My memories of Andorra are not quite so cheery as yours. We ran out of petrol mid-Pyrenees and it was so lucky that I managed to find a family who lived there who gave us enough to reach Toulouse. At least this happened in the summer though.

    Lesson learnt: If there’s a huge queue at a gas station before a big mountain range, don’t assume there’ll be another one a few km further up with nobody waiting!

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