There’s something comforting about the Pyrenean ski resorts. Unpretentious and overwhelmingly frequented by locals, they ooze down-to-earth cheerfulness. The beautiful people may have headed to the Alps and the aprés ski is mostly conspicuous by its absence, but who cares when it’s all just so friendly? If you’re an accomplished skier, then you may have already worked out the best spots. If you’ve never tried, then what are you waiting for? The many resorts offer something for everyone, from complete beginners to advanced skiers. Skiing locally doesn’t need to break the bank either. If you’re on a tight budget, there are still plenty of affordable options.
BEGINNERS AND FAMILY-FRIENDLY
Vall de Núria
Vall de Núria is a small resort in a spectacular setting. Surrounded by dramatic peaks, this peaceful valley lies 2000 metres above sea level, and can only be accessed by a “zip train” from nearby Queralbs. Its compact size makes this an easy option for families and beginners —there are just seven kilometres of pistes, mostly aimed at novice skiers. And the snowpark with sledging and tubbys (like big inflatable tyres) will keep non-skiers happy. The resort has a large, reasonably-priced hotel with a restaurant and bar. The valley can get some bad weather, so check the forecast before heading up.
Pistes: Green: 3, Blue: 3, Red: 2, Black: 2
One-day ski pass: €19.50 (€29.50 including zip train)
Roughly a two-hour drive from Barcelona is the easygoing resort of Vallter 2000. It is situated in the lush Vall de Camprodon and is the only resort with views of the Mediterranean. There are just under 18 kilometres of downhill skiing available. You could just about make this a day trip but if you’re looking for a weekend break, the picturesque town of Setcases, just a few kilometres from the slopes, makes a good base. The resort’s website has several local accommodation suggestions.
Pistes: Green: 2, Blue: 3, Red: 6, Black: 2
One-day ski pass: €25. www.vallter2000.com
Port del Compte
Located at the north of the Serra de Querol mountain range, and the closest resort to Barcelona, Port del Compte is great for beginners and families. It has plenty of easy runs, mostly through woodlands and it’s generally less busy than some of its more popular neighbours. The two-star Hotel Serhs is perfectly positioned at the foot of the beginners’ slopes and offers simple, comfortable rooms for a weekend stay. Non-skiers can try tubbys, sledging, snow-shoes or even the snake gliss, an articulated sledge that slithers down the mountain with you and your friends atop.
Pistes: Green: 7, Blue: 11, Red: 13, Black: 6
One-day ski pass: €32. www.portdelcomte.net
INTERMEDIATE AND ADVANCED
La Molina and Masella
Although located right next to each other, La Molina and Masella are run by different operators. A telecabin links the two, and provides a total of 121 skiable kilometres. Both resorts have lots of accommodation options very nearby, details of which you can find on their websites.
The bigger of the two, Masella, opened in 1967 and has a skiable area of 68 kilometres plus the longest run in the eastern Pyrenees. Most of the pistes have you gliding through thick pine forest. There’s also a great snowpark, La Pleta, for snow boarders of all levels. Just an hour and a half from Barcelona, it’s a popular family resort with a good range of skiing for all abilities.
Pistes: Green: 8, Blue: 21, Red: 20, Black: 7
One-day ski pass: €41. www.masella.com
Neighbouring La Molina began life as a ski resort way back in 1923. Smaller than Masella, with 53 skiable kilometres, this is a very popular resort with Barcelona residents, in part as it’s one of the easiest to reach without a car (the train takes about two-and-a-half-hours from Sants station). Non-skiers can also enjoy the Parc de les Arbres, a treetop adventure park which is open all year round.
Pistes: Green: 13, Blue: 16, Red: 16, Black: 6
One-day ski pass: €41. www.lamolina.com
Referred to as Spain’s lower-key answer to Aspen by the New York Times and frequently mentioned on the pages of Hola! magazine thanks to its patronage by the Spanish royal family, Baqueira Beret is Catalunya’s most up-market ski resort. It’s also the largest ski area in Spain, sprawled over six peaks and divided into three separate ski bases. Located in the Vall d’Aran, 200 kilometres north of Barcelona, it has 108 kilometres of slopes. Its Atlantic climate guarantees good quality snow and the longest skiing season in Catalunya.
Pistes: Green: 5, Blue: 33, Red: 25, Black: 6
One-day ski pass: €47. www.baqueira.es
Thanks to its location just below the Pic de l’Orri peak and with 95 percent of its slopes north-facing, Port Ainé enjoys excellent snow quality when other resorts are getting out the snow canons. There are 32 kilometres of pistes and a new snowboarding zone which offers plenty of challenges even for the most advanced snowboarder. If you can afford to splash out, the Port Ainé hotel (the highest hotel in the Pyrenees) is conveniently located right at the foot of the slopes.
Pistes: Green: 7, Blue: 4, Red: 13, Black: 4
One-day ski pass: €32. www.skipallars.cat
Located in Pallars Sobirà, Espot Esqui enjoys an enviable position beside the lush pine forests of the Aiguëstortes and Sant Maurici National Park. The resort offers 23 kilometres of skiing and has plenty for the young and non-skiers, with a snowpark, sledging with dogs and snow-shoe trails.
Pistes: Green: 2, Blue: 9, Red: 7, Black: 4
One-day ski pass: €32. www.skipallars.cat
Boí Taüll, which opened in 1991, is the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees at 2,750 metres. It offers a wide range of winter sports, including extreme, mountain, downhill and cross-country skiing. It is located in the Vall de Boí, 270 kilometres from Barcelona.
Pistes: Green: 2, Blue: 9, Red: 7, Black: 4.
One-day ski pass: €38. www.boitaullresort.es