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Scroll through a list of ski destinations and right at the end off your group brainstorm someone might, maybe, suggest Spain. Don’t be too hasty in your dismissal though, while France is chintzy and Austria’s powder is premium, Spanish slopes offer challenging runs and great après-ski at a fraction of the cost.
1. Baqueira-Beret, Spanish Pyrenees
As the biggest and most visited ski resort in Spain, Baqueira-Beret’s name precedes it. Located in Val d’Aran on a remote cleft in the north of the mountain range, Baqueira-Beret’s slopes are suave – and rather stately. Of a morning, you can expect to ski alongside any number of the Spanish royal family (King Juan Carlos has a holiday home here). Expect long runs of all standards with exciting, off-piste variations. Plus, for the best food and wine this side of a ski lift, head to Cinco Jotas Grill for lunch and Ticolet for fine-dining.
2. La Molina, Spanish Pyrenees
For those with a penchant for heritage ski – be it vintage ski-resort posters or 1970s-style fondue sets – La Molina is sure to entice. Revel in the historical surrounds of Spain’s very first ski resort, now something of an iconic Catalan gem. A great spot for mismatched-level skiers who don’t want to compromise on the quality of their skiing, slopes here offer wide, gentle runs and steep, winding trails. Linked to nearby Masella in the Arc 2,500 area, you can also enjoy the marked piste outside your immediate area. The chicest two-in-one we’ve come across to date.
3. Masella, Spanish Pyrenees
A 90-minute drive from Barcelona, when the pace of a city break becomes too much to handle you can head for the hills. Belonging to Alp’s municipality, Masella’s scenic pistes are navigable at any time of day, making those early alarm calls not as pivotal to a ski break as you might think. Overlooking the Cerdanya Valley – the nocturnal ski capital of the Pyrenees – Masella is a great spot for night owls, as its heady crowd of revellers can attest.
4. Sierra Nevada, Pradollano
Great for spa trips, snowboarding and Spanish tapas, Sierra Nevada – near the historic city of Granada – is a high-altitude fiesta. Translating as “snow-covered mountain range”, the ski area on the northwestern slopes of Veleta is the third highest peak in peninsular Spain. Adding to its accolades, it is also the most southerly ski resort in Europe. Plunge down 107km of pistes and stop for lunch at Ruta del Veleta. Order their marinated sardine coca over raff tomato relish with pea ice cream and toasted corn flour and retire for the rest of the day.
5. Port Aine, Catalan Pyrenees
This wallet-friendly valley enjoys powdery snow and a near-perfect terrain for snowboarders. Located beneath the Pic de l’Orri, 95% of it’s slopes are north facing – meaning excellent snow quality is pretty much a sure thing. A lesser-known spot for skiing, Port Aine still serves up some of the best beginners and intermediate slopes in the Catalan Pyrenees, with 28 longish runs to explore. While first impressions may not be great – the cafés and restaurants are a bit shabby and rental gear here is limited – the skiing and setting even things up; and the green run, Bella Vista piste boasts views to warrant its name.
6. Panticosa, Aragonese Pyrenees
A must-try spot for the charmed chalet dweller, Panticosa is “Pyrene” chic (read: a little rough around the edges). Tucked away in the sharp peaks of the Pyrenees, Panticosa makes its skiers work for their après-ski. A prominent spa town in the 19th and early-20th centuries, many historical spa buildings and baths still remain in the locale. Neighbouring Formigal, it’s foolish to conquer one resort and not the other; plus as Spanish ski resorts go, Formigal really holds its own in the night-skiing stakes.
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