Skiing in Spain

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Skiing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Spain because of its southern latitude. When most people think about Spain, they think rather of lemons, bullfights, palmtrees, flamenco, sangria, beaches, sun and hot weather. But snow? Only people in the know think of snow when it comes to Spain.

In reality, Spain is a relatively mountainous country and “high” in elevation, only second in Europe to that of Switzerland. Let’s take that in for a moment. The average altitude of land in Spain is higher than that of France, Germany, Italy or even the Scandinavian countries. There are lots of mountains in those countries, but Spain? Yes, Spain has mountains to boot, and snow to go with the mountains, as a satellite photo, courtesy of NASA, illustrates quite clearly (the photo was taken in the Spring of 2006, I believe. And muchas gracias, NASA).

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There are 14 regions in Spain that cater to the skiing enthusiasts with a total of 39 ski stations. And, in my opinion, some of those regions compete easily with the best of any European ski resorts.

In effect, the number of options in Spain to go skiing is quite profuse. The two main and favourite options are the Pyrenees and the mountain range of the Sierra Nevada. The Pyrenees are in the Northeast of Spain and help delineate the Spanish borders with France. The Sierra Nevada is in Southern Spain, above the city of Granada.

Some claim that the Sierra Nevada range provides the best snow and longest skiing season in the country (5 months). Apparently it is possible to ski there in the morning and then travel a short distance to sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon, obviously depending on the season.

If you’re considering a skiing holiday in Spain, the main destinations to consider are probably the following:

In the Catalán Pyrenees: Baqueira Beret, Boí Taüll, Espot Esquí and La Molina.

In the Aragon Pyrenees: Astún, Candanchú, Cerler, Formigal, Javalambre and Panticosa.

In Andalucía: the Sierra Nevada, east of Granada.

You’ll also find some good skiing in the mountains to the north of Madrid in La Pinilla, Navacerrada, Valcotos and Valdesquí.

Further north there is skiing in La Rioja at Valdezcaray, at Alto Campo in Cantabria and at San Isidro in León though none of these stations are geared up to large scale tourism like one can find in the Pyrenees and, to a lesser extent, in the Sierra Nevada.

And there is Andorra, which of course is not Spain, but from abroad, you might consider the Andorran ski resorts just the same: Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Pal and La Massana.

All of the above resorts have had good skiing conditions during the six weeks since New Year, and most of them are ensured to have snow for good skiing until the end of March, under normal conditions. For up-to-date snow availability in Spain you might want to check on the internet, such as on j2ski.

And don’t forget to build your first Spanish snowman.

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