Spain - Europe’s second most mountainous country and well known as a sun destination. But have you ever considered Spain as a ski destination? Spain is often overlooked as a ski destination and there are some superb ski resorts located in Spain, offering a total of 1154km of slopes and the ski resorts are served by 312 ski lifts. Plus, benefitting from long hours of sunshine in the winter and great entertainment and apres ski activities, with well cared for resorts and facilities, Spain is a good contender with the rest of Europe’s ski centres. Spain has a number of well known and established ski resorts namely Alto Campoo, Aramon, Baqueira-Beret, Cerler and Formigal and other resorts that are becoming more popular with tourists include La Molona and Massella, Puerto De Navacerrada, Sierra Nevada and a smaller resort in the Asturias that is a bit of a surprise. The advantage of a ski trip to Spain is that the resorts haven’t quite reached the popularity of ski destinations such as Courchevel or Val D’Isere, but are extremely popular with the Spanish and becoming more so with visitors.
Spanish Ski Culture
Skiing in Spain offers a slightly different experience that you would expect to have in other popular European ski resorts as the Spanish ski culture is a little different. The Spanish skier will traditionally take to the slopes anytime after 10am when they will ski vigorously; and stop for a hard earned lunch at around 3pm. After rejoining the slopes for the rest of the days skiing, they will then head for a siesta around 6pm, emerging for tapas and dinner at 9pm. Notably, when it comes to eating and drinking in Spain, even at the more popular resorts, it tends to be a fraction of the price compared to their counterparts in France and Switzerland.
So where can you ski in Spain?
One resort holds the honour of having a royal seal of approval in the Spanish Pyrenees - Baqueira-Beret is where the Spanish royal family have a holiday home. A sophisticated ski resort located on the high Bonaigua Pass in the Val d’ Aran in the north of the mountain range; it is the biggest and most visited resort. It is also quite a new resort established in 1964 and has many smaller villages located close by that are suitable for finding ski holiday accommodation. The terrain here is not for the faint hearted! With the ski runs mostly suitable for the intermediate skier there is an option further down in the tiny hamlet of Beret where there are some easy blue runs to complement the more demanding runs out on the Tuc deth Ossau, which is the highest point of the ski area.
Looking at other resorts, Alto Campoo is a resort located in the Cantabrian Mountains of northern Spain, in the Campoo Valley set on peaks 2000m above sea level and with 32 km of ski runs, the winter sports area is located at 1659m to2120m. Having 13 ski lifts the resort is capable of carrying 13,000 skiers and snowboarders per hour. It is a great resort for intermediate and beginner skiers. It also offers great cross country skiing.
Moving away from the Cantabrian Mountains in Asturias and to a resort located in the Ribera Baja del Ebro, Zaragoza - Aramon, here there is around 259km of downhill skiing
served by 72 ski lifts. Aramon is considered a 5 star area for snowboarders and with ski lifts as high as 2630m, skiing and snowboarding is pretty accessible throughout the season.
From the city to the slopes
There are two resorts that can be found around 2 hours away by car from the Catalan city of Barcelona, one of which is known for being the home of the first ski lift and ski school in Spain - located in the Pyrenees the ski resort of La Molina with Masella close to the borders of Andorra and France on the northern slope of the Tosa d’Alp. La Molina is the oldest resort - establishing itself as a ski centre in the 1940s, the oldest ski lift in Spain is located here and dates from 1943. This winter sports area in the Pyrenees offers 145km of slopes and makes it the largest ski area in the Pyrenees.
Continuing the city to the slopes theme, Madrilenians have only 32 miles to travel from their home city of Madrid to their local ski centre of Puerto de Navacerrada and have the opportunity to spend a day trip skiing and snowboarding, here amongst the slopes there is also a ski jump and a slalom stadium. With 5 ski lifts and two ski areas offering a total of 10km of ski slopes where the upper slopes offer difficult and intermediate pistes and the lower slopes offer the intermediate /beginner pistes.
Aramón Formigal-Panticosa is located in the Pyrenees which is the largest mountain range in Spain, spanning from the north east of the peninsular across 440km. The area where the resort is located is called the Tena Valley and one of the few ski resorts in Spain with an elevation difference of more than 1000 metres. In the Panticosa sector it is one of the best Spanish ski resorts to enjoy skiing in its purest state. Aramón Formigal-Panticosa is one of the best resorts in Spain for passionate freeriders, with designated zones for beginners as well as for expert riders.
Formigal has good facilities for younger skiers and has an area known as the snow gardens. This resort is popular with both Spanish and French skiers as its location is within driving distance of several cities in North West Spain and South East France.
Moving on from the Pyrenees heading down to the most southerly ski resort in the whole of Europe. Sierra Nevada- Pradollana. Close by is the city of Granada and with its ski station being the highest in Spain the resort can offer a ski season from November through to May and with its proximity to the Mediterranean coast, it means it is possible to swim in the sea and ski in the mountains on the same day!
And finally, to the much lesser known part of Spain for winter sports compared to the better known Spanish ski resorts of the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada - offering 25km of pistes particularly suited to beginners and located in the Asturias region of Northern Spain close to Oviedo and Leon. The resort of Valgrande-Pajares has 9 ski lifts and the winter sport area is located between the elevations of 1455m and 1840m. With 12 km of easy and 10 km of intermediate pistes, the ski area is smaller and quieter and a bit of a surprise.