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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
If you’re looking to kill a few calories but are unwilling to sign your soul away for an unused year at your local jazzy gym, why not consider the outdoor life and some truly awesome winter sports to get in shape the fun way. Of course the temptation of all that heavenly indulgent mountain food on a ski or snowboarding holiday (Tartiflette, Raclette, Fondue..) might have you concerned about piling it on, but fear not as food = fuel and that’s exactly what you’ll be burning tonnes of each day spent on the slopes.
Snowsports are an excellent form of cardio as well as a great way to tone and strengthen leg, core and arm muscles. Both skiing and snowboarding are particularly good for strengthening the ankles, lower legs, quadriceps and glutes, as you engage these muscles to control your board or skis. Both activities require good balance, which work your core muscles, pulling in your abs and helping to align your spine. As you balance, you use your arm muscles to help steady yourself, working to firm them up, particularly in the upper arms and shoulders.
When your muscles are strong, the body works harder to use them, therefore burning more calories. This, plus being in a cold environment (where your body burns calories just to keep warm) is great news for your metabolism! On top of all these great health benefits, skiing and boarding also release adrenaline and endorphins which lift your mood and make you feel more alert, awake and happy.
Skiing or boarding for 6 hours can burn a whopping 2000 - 3000 calories, depending on your age, weight and height. With that in mind, it may take a lot less time than you think just to burn off that mulled wine and 3 Wiener Schnitzels you had for lunch…
Here are a few examples of some popular, hearty ski foods and drinks with an estimate of how long it takes to burn off each one (each food portion is based on a 300g serving).
The amount of calories burned while out on the slopes are immense and give you reason to feel less guilty about what you consume après ski. A day in the mountains can be exhausting and you will find yourself needing to consume more food in order to feel energised. If you want to know about the best foods to eat in order to keep you powering through, we’ve created a little guide below.
Feeling in the mood for a ski trip now? Check out our Last Minute Ski Holidays 2015.
Thousands of Brits head to the slopes each winter for their one week a year on the slopes. As the mountain lifestyle is so different to our normal 9-5 lifestyle we all have strange traits and habits on a ski holiday – where else can you get away with a Glühwein stop at midmorning or where melted cheese becomes part of your daily diet?
We’ve put together some of our favourite humorous ski characters you’ll find in a ski resort – which one are you and your friends most like?
You don’t bother getting out of bed if there isn’t any fresh snow. If there has been snow forecast, you will be up before sunrise to hike up your favourite mountain for fresh tracks before most people are even eating breakfast. You are an expert in all things backcountry, avalanche safety and snow prediction and often found preaching to people on a chairlift. Ski Chic Even though you have been skiing since a young age, you now only get out on the slopes if it is a perfect blue bird day. You are most likely found occupying sun loungers and bar stools in Zermatt, Courchevel or Davos in late season. Your skis have seen more action in the ski racks of an après bar than on snow.
The Ski Family Are you a super mum that is always fully prepared for any weather or situation? Are you a dad that tries to fit in with the chalet staff at après and is the first one to get the jagerbombs in? Do your children either head straight to the snow park or fly down red runs when there are meant to be sticking to blue pistes? View more characters and full infographic here
Illustrations by Mark Owens
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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."