Winter in Spain is perhaps not the obvious choice. Years of summer holiday promotion has put paid to that. However, since the launch of Formigal as the country’s foremost skiing destination, Spain has hit the winter holiday brochures. Successfully marketed to skiers in the UK, the resort with its 110 slopes varying from green to black is set to grow in years to come. But Formigal is just ski resort number one, for there are others not so well known on the ski tour trail.
Just under four hours from Barcelona (or about an hour from Toulouse), Baqueira in the Val d’Aran is a great little ski resort with 78 slopes over a total of 120 kilometres of piste that sit mainly above 1,800 metres. Popular with skiers of all levels, most of the runs are red and blue so intermediates are well catered for. That said, with six green slopes and the ski schools providing tuition for all levels, beginners can join in the fun too. Not forgetting the more experienced skier, Baqueira offers some off-piste adventure as well as seven black slopes.
It’s fair to say that Baqueira is an allrounder and offers the kind of activity you would expect from any Alpine ski resort. There are cross-country routes, a snowpark and slalom course, you can take a dog sledge over the Pla de Beret, ride a horse through the snow, ice-skate or enjoy the thermal springs of Baroniade Les. This is Spain though, so expect special fiestas while you are there, particularly during carnival week in February-March time.
Formigal Ski Resort: www.formigal.com
Baqueira Ski Resort: www.baqueira.es
In terms of dining, Dani Garcia has teamed up with Paco Roncero to direct the superb tapas at El Refugi de San Miguel on the slopes at Port de la Bonaigua, about a 25 minute drive away from Baqueira. Also in Bonaigua, the Cap del Port’s humble huevos estrellados (fried egg, potato and jamon) will set your skied-out limbs back on course. Cafeteria 1800 with its open fire and jamon selection is worth checking out too.
El Refugi de San Miguel: Puerto de la Bonaigua, 25589, Alt An.u, Lleida, Tel. +34 626 287 637 / +34 973 639 001
Cap del Porte: Sorpe, Lleida, Tel. +34 973 250 082
Cafeteria 1800: Bisbe Ruano, 18, 25006 Lleida, Tel. +34 90 5551 063
Quite different to Baqueira, Sierra Nevada is another ski resort way down south that may suit a younger crowd looking for a bit more nightlife. Sierra Nevada skiing resort is actually in close vicinity to Marbella and the Costa del Sol so if you are staying on the coast you can be on the slopes in less than three hours. It’s no surprise then that Sierra Nevada has a party persona that feels a lot more Spanish than the traditional and somewhat functional ski resort.
It might not provide the most technical skiing experience, but the Sierra Nevada resort does have 105 kilometres of pisted runs. It also has a cross-country track, a snow park where freestyling snowboarders can strut their stuff and night skiing at the weekend. Popular with young skiers, Sierra Nevada’s strong point is the apres ski; again, perhaps no surprise there.
To begin your Sierra Nevada night out, dine in style at the Ruta del Veleta’s RdV Sierra Nevada. Given one sun from Repsol, and Michelin have taken note too: “Led with great professionalism. It's an interesting menu and the typical decor and its location in a luxury building give it unanimous recognition.” Another star choice is La Catina de Diego famous for its morcilla (black pudding).
Once you’re done head to the bars. The most popular are all in the main square. Don’t bother going out until after 11 p.m. and don’t expect to go to bed before 2 a.m. Which means of course, there’s no hitting the slopes until after 11 a.m. Although if you do, you will have them all to yourself.
Sierra Nevada Ski Resort: www.sierranevada.es
RdV Sierra Nevada: Bulgaria Building, 18196 Sierra Nevada, Tel. +34 958 481 201, www.rutadelveleta.com
La Catina de Diego: Paseo Del R.o, Esquina Con Callej.n De Ricarda 1, 18193 Monachil, Tel. +34 958 303 758, www.restaurantelacantinadediego.es