Andorra is a hidden gem in the skiing world and is often overlooked when choosing a ski destination. Located between France and Spain, the Andorran ski resorts have just as good slopes as the French Alps but without the lift queues and ridiculous bar tabs. In March 2014 I booked a last minute ski holiday to Soldeu in Andorra. Like many skiers and snowboarders, I had never thought much about skiing the Pyrenees when we have the wealth of popular French and Austrian resorts at our fingertips.
My curiosity got the best of me when a friend that was working in the resort kept on saying how amazing the skiing was and her stunning snowy photos filled up my Facebook feed for most of the winter. As my planned week off quickly approached I decided to discover a new ski destination, so I booked a last minute ski trip to Soldeu.
Going up in the TC8 gondola from Soldeu Andorra is a hidden gem between France and Spain, with just as good slopes as the French Alps but without the lift queues and ridiculous bar tabs. The resort of Soldeu is situated in the middle of 210km of pistes in Grandvalira with linked access to 5 other ski villages including Pas de la Casa.
As Andorra is tax free, alcohol prices in the shops are amazingly cheap. This is great if you are looking for a cheap ski holiday as apartment accommodation prices are very reasonable and you can eat and drink cheaply so you should have no problem with over spending on your trip.
On the slopes in Pas de la Casa
There are regular ski events throughout the season in Grandvalira from professional skiing events to freestyle competitions. Recent events include the Speed Skiing World Championships at the Grau Roig Riberal slope, Alpine Skiing European Cup on the Àgila slope in El Tarter and the Total Fight Master of Freestyle competition held at the El Tarter Snowpark. The Andorran ski resorts have had incredible snowfall the past few seasons, with snow levels even topping our favourite French ski resorts. During the winter 2014/15 ski season Pas de la Casa recieved 734 cm snowfall, Soldeu had 715 cm and Arinsal got 608 cm. Does it all sound too good to be true? Why don’t more holiday makers make Andorra their ski destination of choice?
Fresh snow and quiet slopes on a powder day in Soldeu
I didn’t believe it until I experienced it myself and I had one of my favourite ski weeks ever. I was extremely lucky and encountered a perfect week of snow conditions whilst staying in Soldeu. For the first 3 days I woke up to nearly a foot of fresh snow everyday so I was able to make full use of my new Nitro powder snowboard, and then for the second half of the week we had beautiful bluebird days. I couldn’t have prayed to the snow gods for a more superb ski holiday.
To start your week off there are plenty of blue runs around the Soldeu and El Tarter ski area allowing you to easily warm up your ski legs before venturing on to any intermediate or advanced pistes. Each of the villages are well linked with hardly any need for traversing which is great for snowboarders.
Fantastic wide pistes with stunning views As you progress through the week head over to Grau Roig and Pas De La Casa for a superior choice of wider and longer blue and red runs. The black and red runs on the face in Soldeu are fantastic and are easily accessed straight from the gondola or the TSD 6 man chairlift. For the freestylers, the snowpark at El Tarter is amazing and quick to get to from Soldeu. There is everything you need from fun features to huge kickers for all levels to enjoy.
Mountain restaurant stops in El Tarter
There is no lack of après and nightlife in Soldeu town. If you like a late night or two, this is a resort for you! Fat Alberts is a favourite and where you will end up if it ends up being a big night out. With live music and themed nights throughout the week, it is a popular spot for holiday makers and seasonaires.
The Aspen in the middle of town is one of the most popular bars. The bar staff are awesome, there is a huge choice of drinks, plus there’s also pool tables upstairs and you can watch popular sports events here. The Irish bar, The Harp, is a top bar to hit for après and is often filled with the ski instructors as they finish their day of work. It is the perfect place to get the shots in after a day on the slopes and have some banter with the bar staff.
If you are looking for a late night venue to end your bar crawl, head to Pussycat that is open till 5am!
The end of an amazing week in Soldeu
View Ski Holidays in Soldeu | Ski Holidays in Pas de la Casa | Ski Resorts in Andorra
Words and photos by Krystelle
If there is one thing we know at Iglu, it's how to have a good party (with finding the perfect ski holiday a very close second!) So combining both of our top traits and finding the perfect après bar is what we can do best.
Earlier in the ski season our sales director AJ put together his top après ski destinations for this winter and now we have looked for some alternative suggestions for our top 5 ski bars to spend at Patrick's day in.
The ski lodge may not be an Irish bar, but it’s one of our favourite après venues in this part of the 3 valleys, as they sure know how to have a great time! There’s a sun terrace for perfecting that google tan in the afternoon then happy hour from 4-6pm to get the party started.
Find out more about La Tania
Head to Flannigans for your Guinness and Magners fix while in Kitzbühel. With regular live music, special events and sports games screened on the big TVs, Flannigans is a great escape from the chic shops and bars around the exclusive town. The bar has been around for 10 years, Paul and Stuart pride themselves on delivering the best entertaining atmosphere thoughtout the season.
Find out more about Kitzbuhel
This Irish run and owned bar has some of the funniest and friendliest staff I have ever come across in a ski resort. As well as the ‘best craic on the mountain,’ the bar has live music 7 nights a week. The nightlife is Soldeu is extremely lively so be prepared to be out till 3 or 4am some nights, so if you want to ski all day and party all night for St Patricks then Soldeu is your top choice.
Find out more about Soldeu
This Austrian après bar is a favourite amongst the Iglu ski team. Its electric atmosphere and Tyrolean dressed staff provide the best après ski vibe for any celebration. The music here is primarily modern dance so if you want some classic après tunes after you can head to Trofana Alm which is one of the best après ski bars in the world.
Find out more about Ischgl
This bar is as authentic as it gets. With the best beer selection in Whistler and live music blasting all day long, this is the ultimate bar to spend the luckiest day of the year in. The Irish spirit is well and truly alive at the Dubh Linn Gate Pub where you are guaranteed to have a memorable night with a tall beers, great food and the fun atmosphere. Find out more about Whistler
In the past few weeks snow conditions this season have completely turned around. It may have been a slow start to the ski season after the warm December temperatures, but since mid-January things have been looking up. There has been a series of huge snow dumps teamed with a string of sunny days occurring over the last few weeks, dramatically building up the snow bases of ski resorts across Europe.
The February half term was a perfect week for a ski holiday with up to 60 cm of snowfall on the half term transfer weekend then beautiful blue skies for most of the week after. View current snow conditions in our latest snow reports. As the busiest ski week of the season came to a close, it was reported in the long range forecasts that we were in for one of the biggest snow storms of the season over the next 9 days, including up to 231 cm of snowfall in just a few days. The Alps may not have received the 2m foreseen but 120 cm in Soldeu, 98 cm in Cervinia, 82 cm in Grindelwald and 66 cm in Avoriaz was very welcomed by the post-half term skiers and snowboarders. Snow bases and snow conditions are currently superb for the start of March. Particularly Austrian resorts are looking significantly healthy for this time of year (compared to last year):
Lower pistes cm / top pistes cm
Skiing in March is one of the most best times of the year, as temperatures start to warm up you can enjoy the fantastic ski conditions in the morning, then by the afternoon you can embrace the après atmosphere on a sun terrace on a mountain top bar. With the current great snow depths in many resorts across Europe, a ski holiday in March will be excellent. With even more snow storms on the horizon over the next 9 days, there will be no shortage of snow for the rest of the season. The snow conditions we have at present are the best so far this season and with Easter week just 4 weeks away it’s looking like there will be plenty of snow to enjoy this year. After Easter falling so late in April last year, this wasn’t a great time for a ski holiday. With Easter Sunday falling on the 5th April this year, many families will be heading out to ski resorts for the first week of April to spend the Easter holidays in the snow.
With temperatures rising towards the end of the ski season, your save bet is to aim for high resorts. It is always difficult to predict the snow conditions at the end of season so be sure to choose a ski resort with high altitude to secure the best snow conditions. You want enough snow to build a snow bunny don’t you?
Best resorts for end of season skiing
View Last Minute Ski Offers and Easter Holiday Ski Deals
Italy is a spectacular choice for a ski holiday, boasting some of the world’s best ski resorts it’s a destination that combines high altitude skiing, mouth-watering Mediterranean cuisine plus an après ski scene in a league of its own. Perhaps even more noteworthy is the affordable price tag and just how far your holiday budget can travel. Italy offers a great collection of ski resorts and the diversity on offer means that everyone from pro skiers, to first time beginners and winter sports fans can find their perfect winter escape. Get started on planning your ideal Italian ski holiday with help from our top 5 resorts listed below.
Sauze d’Oulx has long held the torch for being a popular party destination and has had Brits flocking in for the infectious après ski scene for decades. But times have progressed from the days when parties overruled the pistes and Sauze d’Oulx now flaunts an attractive balance of quality ski runs, mountain village charm and just the right amount of entertainment to ensure you don’t miss a full days skiing on one of the best pistes in the country. Skiing at Sauze d’Oulx can be great fun for all levels with competent and skilled ski schools available for beginners, intermediates or those looking to pick up a few new advanced skills. Evening meal times are a real treat with a flavoursome Mediterranean menu offered at many affordable restaurants.
Settled in the mountains of Northern Italy and spilling over into Switzerland, Cervinia is a popular snow sure resort offering a fantastic grand skiing area with useful links to Zermatt and Valtournenche. Skiers of all levels can expect to be welcomed by excellent snow conditions with a virtually guaranteed top to bottom blanket of snow on the slopes. Cervinia is a perfect resort for beginners and intermediates with easy gradients providing ample opportunities for practice runs. Advanced skiers can enjoy a fantastic range of slopes by taking advantage of the easy links to other popular resorts. Fuel your days on the slopes with homemade Italian pizza and delicious fresh seafood. Make some time to fully explore the resort as some of the best mountain restaurants are not pinpointed on the resort piste map.
Meet the elite of the Italian ski world at Italy’s most fashionable and stylish resort. As a previous host of the 1956 Winter Olympics and popular stop on the World Cup skiing circuit, Cortina d'Ampezzzo boasts premier skiing amongst the unbelievably magnificent backdrop of the Dolomite Mountains. Shopping and lunching hold as much prime time here as skiing, due to the luxury boutiques and top class eateries lining the charming cobbled streets of Corso Italia, the epicentre of Italian skiing lux. Keen skiers will appreciate the less crowded circuits (whilst more than half of Italian visitors parade their fur coats), perfectly groomed slopes and excellent selection of main skiing areas. All levels of skier are welcome and if you want to learn how to ski in style then this affluently nicknamed “Queen of the Dolomites” is the resort for you.
A favourite destination for British visitors and affectionately known as the ‘holiday valley of the Dolomite’, Val Gardena is a fantastic ski area situated in the charming alpine region of South Tyrol. With stunning scenery, idyllic pistes and enchanting wooden chalet-style accommodation, Val Gardena has all the ingredients for your next superb ski holiday. Visitors to Val Gardena can choose to stay in one of three attractive villages, Ortisei, S.Cristina or Selva and make the most of the 1,200 km of pristine slopes. Advanced skiers will love the Saslong World Cup piste and the Dolomiti Superski area whilst skiers of all levels can enjoy leisurely pursuits on the Sella Ronda circuit. Accommodation ranges from 5* luxury hotels to friendly guest houses and comfortable self-catered apartments. Enjoy great music and cocktails from a stylish local lounge bar or admire the striking scenery and indulge in gourmet delights from any of the perfectly placed restaurants.
Be wowed by the magnificence of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain and experience la dolce vita in the traditional alpine village of Courmayeur in the Aosta Valley. Charming and rich in history, Courmayeur has the warm welcoming glow of a classic mountain community combined with a fabulous array of shops, restaurants and bars plus an alluring après ski scene. Bordering France and with close proximity to Chamonix, advanced skiers can take full advantage of first rate ski slopes and enjoy a large area of great ski terrain. Thrill seekers will be glad to know that Heli-skiing and off-piste skiing are popular past times in Courmayeur, whilst beginners and intermediates are well catered for upon the gentle mountain terrain.
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