Top Lift: 2580m
Ski area: 193km of piste
Adult lift pass: 176-232€ for six days
In a Nutshell
Grandvalira Soldeu and the adjoining village of El Tarter have considerable charm and provide the most agreeable base in the principality. It suits those in search of creature comforts and good, easy skiing.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
Grandvalira is a large linked ski area with seven different resorts: Soldeu, El Tarter, Encamp, Canillo, Soldeu, Grau Roig and Pas de la Casa. The biggest and best-known are Soldeu and Pas de la Casa, and together they promote themselves as a world-class destination for serious skiers. “A great resort to visit,” said a reporter, “I will definitely be going back.”
Soldeu lies just over the pass from the resort of Pas de la Casa, but is a world away in style and aspiration. New lifts and hotels abound, and the resort boasts a five-star hotel – complete with a four-storey spa of imperial proportions.
This is where the ambitions of the new Andorra are most evident. Long known as a cheap and cheerful skiing destination, where beer and ciggies were duty free, it’s spent most of the last decade trying to haul itself upmarket.
It’s going upmarket
£112 million has been spent on improving facilities and accommodation, with the combined ski area of Soldeu and Pas de la Casa – marketed as Grandvalira – the centrepiece of the project. With 193km of pistes on offer, this an area which is beginning to rival the leviathans of the Alps (the Espace Killy, for example, has 300km), and for a while the comparisons went to everyone’s head. A few years back we heard a tourist authority representative say, in all seriousness, that they wanted to compete with the Three Valleys – home to the likes of Courchevel and Meribel.
Now don’t get us wrong: we like what’s happened in Grandvalira Soldeu, a lot. But it’s never going to rival the A-listers of the Alps. These are the Pyrenees after all, and Soldeu is not so much a village, as a fringe of buildings along the road to France. You can’t imagine Princes Harry and William or Roman Abramovich checking in for their winter holiday.
In many it would be well advised to stay exactly where it is right now. Facilities are much improved, and the skiing in the area is great, especially if you’re an intermediate who isn’t looking to push their limits too hard. But for now at least the atmosphere remain unpretentious, without being beery, and there’s a happy vibe to the place. In the smaller, privately-owned restaurants, the food is great too; and prices are still lower than the Alps.