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
The first week of March is a prime time for many of the Iglu team to head off on their ski holiday's. The half term crowds have disappeared, the chance of fresh snowfall is high and we get to enjoy the start of spring skiing conditions.This is the time of year where we can go to our favourite resorts. A large group headed to the beautiful Austrian resort of Mayrhofen, while others were in Tignes, Val d’Isere, Zell am See and St Moritz. It was an amazing week for a ski holiday with fresh snow at the stars of the week then sunny skies for the second half. Everyone agreed it was a perfect week in the Alps. There is so much snow in the Alps, it is the perfect time for a last minute getaway! Take a look at a selection of our favourite photos from the week:
Nick HH, Ned, Linda, Nick J and Krystelle enjoyed a week in Mayrhofen staying at the Chalet Stoanerhof. After a very snowy start to the week with more than a foot of fresh snow, the storms cleared up mid week so the team could enjoy the glorious sunshine and mountain bars.
Snowing down in the Village at the start of the week
Ned, Linda, Krystelle and Nick ready for their first day on the mountain
Krystelle and Ned enjoying the powder conditions at the start of the week
Linda loving the views and snow up the glacier
View ski holidays in Mayrhofen
Laura and Millie from the marketing team had an incrediable week in Espace Killy. It was a rocky start wiith high winds on day one, closing many of the lifts but after a foot of snow fell, the sun shone for the rest of the week.
Fresh snow in Tignes at the start of the week
Powder day for Millie in Tignes
Laura loving the breath taking views in Val d'Isere
View ski holidays in Tignes and Val d'Isere
Sam and Jason from the ski sales team spent a week in their favourite ski resort, Zell am See. As you can see they had an amzing week of powder days and apres sessions in the sun.
Power tree trails in Zell
A day trip out to Saalback
View ski holidays in Zell am See
Chris had a stunning week in the exclusive Swiss resort.
View ski holidays in St Moritz
View last minute ski deals
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
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.
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