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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
Getting away and hitting the slopes on a big group ski holiday is a fantastic way for family and friends to get together. Here are our top 5 resorts that will keep any group of friends or family happy throughout their ski holiday.
If you love the choice of skiing and attractions of large French resorts, but seek for a more cost-effective alternative then look no further than Soldeu. The attractive Pyreneean resorts sits at the centre of the Grandvalira ski area with access to a fantastic 210 km of pistes, so there is enough variety to satisfy the most demanding skier. With large properties, numerous restaurants, shopping and bustling night life there is plenty to do off the slopes as well. Andorra is well known for its duty free status and drinks are not served in uniform measures but by the amount that you want. This all helps to create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere on ski holidays in Soldeu.
Les Deux Alpes has an extensive ski terrain and is snowboard friendly, with one of the best freestyle parks in Europe. With an impressive snow record, the ski area peaks at a huge 3600m so is guaranteed snow throughout the season. This mixed ability ski domain lends itself to all levels of skiers and snowboarders alike with endless fun to be had both piste side as well as village side in the bars, restaurants and other sports facilities that this fun filled town has to offer.
Set in the beautiful Ziller Valley, Mayrhofen has long earned its place as one of the world's top ski and snowboard resorts. The ski area is large, varied and high. The terrain offers a good mix of cruisers and steeps and is well laid out for beginner skiers around the mid station of the Finkenberg. For advanced skiers there is the Harakiri piste, as well as some impressive off piste ski terrain. There are good quality and affordable accommodation options which makes Mayrhofen a top resort choice for families and large groups . Mayrhofen is famous for the legendary end of season blowout, Snowbombing and has some of the finest Austrian après bars to keep you entertained throughout your holiday.
Skiing in Tignes in so vast, it is great for all abilities. Joint with the just-as-amazing resort Val d’Isere, the 300km Espace Killy ski area is one of the most loved circuits in the world. Tignes is perfect for adult groups with the large selection of accommodations and après across the resort, and families will love this ski area with the fantastic beginner areas and excellent ski and snowboards schools. Children will love the activities in Tignes, with ice skating, bowling, swimming pool and Husky rides on offer. I have had amazing ski holidays in Tignes with both family and friends groups, and still consider it to be one of my favourite ski resorts.
There is no surprise that Sauze d’Oulx is a firm favourite amongst British skiers, with over 400km of pistes over the extensive Milky Way ski area there is excellent skiing available for all skiers. From the stunning tree lined runs of Sportina to the black runs of Mount Motta and Mount Sises. With long hours of sunshine you can ski all day long then party all night long in the lively town. Down in resort, Sauze d'Oulx's original village has retained its old world charm, while the newer part provides all you need for a fun-filled holiday. The transfers are short, the accommodation is good value and the food is delicious.
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We've pulled together our booking data from the 2013/14 season to bring you a selection of the most popular places to go and the most popular months to visit the mountains.
Val d’Isere has been voted one of the top places for winter sports holidays in Europe. With plenty of piste to explore, as well as three glaciers, Val d’Isere is a consistently popular resort amongst skiers and snowboarders. It’s also the home to one of the popular Folie Douce bars, offering great après to complete a long day out on the mountain.
Meribel lies at the centre of the Three Valleys ski area, where it is linked by lift to both Courchevel and Val Thorens. Meribel is known for its efficient lift systems, which virtually eliminates the need to queue. The resort offers plenty of great runs, as well as the opportunity for some great off-piste skiing too.
Tignes is part of the large Espace Killy ski area, which is known for its consistent snowfall. The resort provides excellent skiing and boarding for the absolute beginner right through to expert due to its varied terrain. Tignes is also well known for its après ski and party atmosphere.
The resort of St Anton is popular due to its reliable snow coverage and brilliant piste conditions. It’s also well in reach of other ski areas, opening up your choice of pistes. St Anton also has a particularly good reputation for its lively nightlife.
Solden has an excellent lift system, with little to no queues. It is situated at a high altitude, bringing reliable snow conditions and some brilliant off piste skiing opportunities. It is also home to two glaciers, extending the resorts season and making for some great springtime skiing.
Obergurgl is located at a very high altitude, resulting in guaranteed snowfall throughout the season. The runs are never crowded and you’ll never find yourself queuing for a lift. The ski area is very easy to access, with the lift running straight out of the main village where most of the resort accommodation is situated.
Sauze d’Oulx is part of the popular Milky Way ski area. It offers long skiing hours, some excellent runs and great snow conditions. The resort has a traditional Italian village feel to it, complete with some fantastic bars and restaurants, serving up delicious Italian cuisine.
Cervinia is a high altitude resort, bringing great snow conditions across the season. Its runs are particularly suited to beginners and intermediates. For those wanting to experience more advanced runs, the resort is linked to the nearby resort of Zermatt by lift, opening up your choice of ski area.
Cortina is a great resort with a real traditional Italian feel. The town is bustling with lots of shops and the large number of restaurants and bars attract plenty of non-skiers too. The resort has great snowmaking facilities and the pistes are kept in brilliant condition throughout the season.
Soldeau has a relaxed, laid back atmosphere with some great duty free prices and rather large drink measures! The resort is particularly great for beginners and intermediates and it offers fantastic snow due to the majority of pistes being situated above 2000m.
Arinsal has a great ski school with English speaking instructors, making it an ideal resort for first timers. There are some top runs, with many passing through picturesque woodland. The resort is also known for it’s cheap, lively après ski, making it particularly appealing to a young crowd.
Pas de la Casa is one of the highest resorts in Europe, giving it a long season with plenty of good snow. The resort has a French feel to it, as it is situated close to the French border.
Zermatt plays host to the stunning backdrop of the Matterhorn, offering challenging intermediate and advanced runs, heliskiing opportunities and the chance to ski to the nearby resort of Cervinia.
Verbier is part of the vast 4 Valleys ski area, giving guests access to some wonderful intermediate and advanced runs. It offers excellent après ski, but also features plenty of quieter areas, which are well-suited to families.
The resort of Saas Fee boasts three world records – it is home to the highest revolving restaurant, the highest metro train (which runs right up into the mountains) and the largest ice pavilion. It also offers huge amounts of snow, glacier skiing and a large variety of runs.
Whistler offers wonderful skiing across both the Whistler and Blackcomb mountains and receives a whopping nine metres of snow on average each season. Here, you’ll find the famous PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola, offering stunning views across the valley. The resort has something for everyone and is family friendly.
The resort of Tremblant is known for its varied terrain, as well as having the biggest half pipe in Canada. Situated on the East Coast, it is one of the easiest resorts to access for those coming from Europe. One part of the mountain is dedicated specifically to beginners, making it a great choice for a first ski holiday.
Banff is part of the Big 3, along with Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. You can gain access to all three resorts with your lift pass. The resort boasts over 200km of pistes, stunning views and some fantastic après ski and dining opportunities.
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"I was so impressed with the way Laura handled my initial call that as soon as I got home I decided to forget all of the other agents and companies and call her straight back and book the holiday. Thank you again Iglu for being so user friendly and more importantly thank you to Laura for being such an asset to your company and the sales profession."