With all the ski resorts of Europe now closed, and the season in North America winding down, a skiing post may seem irrelevant. However, most keen skiers will already be thinking about the search for fresh tracks, and planning next seasons foray on the pistes. The usual suspects will be considered, Switzerland, France, Italy, or Canada, but how many will consider Spanish skiing, specifically the resorts of the Catalan Pyrénées?
Many skiers, and boarders may be unaware of this region of Europe, and probably not considered exploring it. Having visited earlier this year, I found there was plenty to recommend, it’s a tale of three distinctly different resorts.
Strictly speaking, this is post is about four resorts, as Alp2500 is actually, two resorts; la Molina and Masella. Located a short drive from the pretty village of Puigcerdà, they provide 135km of extensive skiing within two hours of Barcelona. Ideally suited to beginners, and intermediates, the 117 runs also include 16 black for those in need of a stiffer skiing challenge.
At 953m they are not completely snow sure, but when our group visited in early February, there was plenty. Artificial snow making machines are available on nearly half of the runs, so regardless of the weather, skiing should always be available. Along with the groomed runs, there are 2 snowparks, and a superpipe for when a quick run isn’t enough.
The resort is well provided for in terms of fast, connected chairlifts so getting around is simple. During the week it’s popular with school groups, but the wait at any of the lifts is minimal, in fact most times we just skied straight on. Night skiing is available, with a well illuminated run, and even the opportunity to ski carrying a flaming torch!
The views are breath-taking, surrounded by snow-capped peaks, at times some of the resort can feel like a North American resort, or slap bang in the middle of the Italian Dolomites. There was a welcome fresh dump of snow the evening before we skied, and most of the day the weather was fine, blue skies with fluffy cumulus clouds drifting across the sky, occasionally obscuring the highest peaks; skiing perfection.
The dual resorts of la Molina and Masella provide pleasant, if not challenging skiing, in a great environment, easily reachable from the Catalan’s major cities.
This small resort in the eastern Pyrénées, only consists of a few runs, most of which are blues, and greens, but it is much more than a ski resort, it’s a mountain retreat.
In common with Alp2500 it is also popular with school groups, and most of the skiers during our visit were teenagers improving their skills. There are 11 runs, making up less than 8km of skiing, a couple of which are black. Apart from the beginners slope, all runs start from the same place, so there is only a need for one chairlift.
Access to the resort is via train, or a long trek, there aren’t any roads, into the glacial valley, with an elevation just under 2000m. The top of the chairlift sits at over 2500m, and there are around 73 snow cannons, so lack of snow shouldn’t be a problem. There’s also a sleigh specific run, another welcome option in this adventure valley.
Some pistes were closed during our visit, and those open were poorly groomed, which was disappointing. Vall de Núria may seem too limited for snowsport lovers, there is a true alpine wilderness within a short distance of the resort hotel.
Ski touring, and especially snowshoeing suit the terrain, and it is even possible to cross into surrounding valleys, linking it with other resorts. There’s a variety of wildlife, the lucky may witness arctic foxes stalking chamois, while Griffon’s vultures rule the thermals overhead. The very fortunate may see Bonelli’s eagles, or even wolves. Vall de Núria offers much more than a few hours skiing, it offers an adventure, and is already a favourite destination.
Vallter2000 Ski Resort
Located in the Camprodon Valley, near attractive Setcases, and close to Girona, this is another small resort providing around 12km of skiing on 12 groomed runs. 11 various lifts connect runs, which are mainly suited to beginners and intermediates, reaching an elevation of 2500m. There’s also a snowpark, and freeride park after blasting all pistes.
Mid-week skiing in Catalonia seems most popular with school groups, as it was pleasing to again see numerous children enjoying early adventures on the slopes.
I gave the ski touring a try, as the area is ideally suited for it; there’s a couple of ungroomed runs, without any lifts. These offer the perfect opportunity to fix some skins, and venture off-piste into some stunning scenery. It’s a good workout in an alpine pine forest, amid rocky outcrops and higher peaks, but it’s well worth the effort once the skins are off, and the scenery whizzes past on the way back down.
It’s unlikely advanced snowsport enthusiasts are tempted by Spanish skiing. For a distinctly different experience however, with ruggedly beautiful landscapes consider the resorts of the Catalan Pyrénées.
This trip was kindly sponsored by Costa Brava Tourism however all opinions are my own, formed on piste, in the backcountry, and especially during the après-ski.