Sierra Nevada - be surprised!
The average skier has a number of pre-conceived ideas on what a ski resort should be and what should be expected. Well known resorts in ski nations popular with Brits such as France and Austria often take precedence when deciding where you will be skiing next season which means most skiers will miss out on some of the hidden gems which can be found throughout Europe. One such resort that regularly impresses and surprises is the Spanish resort of Sierra Nevada, with its 106km of slopes and top lift of a lofty 3400m!
Spain is not a country readily associated with snow sports which is a real shame as there are some excellent resorts on offer, Sierra Nevada just being one pick from many. Hosting a number of championship and world cup events over the years, the resort has a reputation for offering a varied and challenging ski experience. The Sierra Nevada ski station is perched high atop the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which towers a mighty 3400m above sea level with the resort base sitting at a respectable 2100m. This paves the way for a long season that regularly stretches through till the end of May. I recently had the chance to fly out to Sierra Nevada to experience Sierra Nevada first hand with my colleague, Bruce - this is our story.
The resort is located just a short distance from the historic city of Granada, and this is where our journey began. Following a relatively short transfer from Malaga airport we arrived in the centre of Granada eager to get exploring and took great delight in sampling a tapas tour, which gave us the chance to admire and learn about the outstanding architecture and historic landmarks found all around us. The tour is a great way to find your bearings in the city and can be modified to suit your group, and is highly recommended. We also explored the world-class Parque de las Ciencias, an enormous 70,000m2 complex that is dedicated to educating in all areas of science through a range of exciting interactive exhibits. Of course the world-famous Alhambra Palace is the jewel of Granada, but this would have to be saved for a future trip as we were due to head onto Sierra Nevada ski resort.
We began the next leg of our trip in the early evening, heading towards the distant mountains of Sierra Nevada. The resort is very high sitting around 2100m and this made for some breath-taking views of the surrounding areas as we climbed higher and higher until the snow tipped peak of Mulhacen dominated the now darkening Spanish skyline.
Upon arrival into the upper village square of Pradollano, Sierra Nevada’s main base of operations, we headed straight for the hotel to check in and drop off our bags. I stayed in the Hotel Telecabina. This cosy two star hotel has possibly the best location of all accommodations in the area, being directly connected to the Borreguiles ski lift and 2 minutes’ walk from the Al-Andalus lift, the two key links to the slopes from the village. After freshening up, the next couple of hours were spent pottering around the village taking everything in. From the square it is possible to see the long and wide ‘El Rio’ ski run rising up from the village, lit on both sides by bright floodlights making evening skiing a possibility.
The centre of the village is arranged in an upper and lower square. The upper square is surrounded by many restaurants, bars and shops, this square is also the first place you hit once reaching the resort so many parking spaces fill the middle of the square. The lower square can only be accessed on foot and features a large number of ski and clothing shops along with many après ski activities, the medical centre and main ski lift. A second ski lift can also be found between the upper and lower squares.
On the second day, we had the opportunity to audit the available accommodation options within we will be offering to our groups in the area. In total we managed to audit 3 different accommodations all set up for group travel in addition to the Telecabina in which we were already staying.
After the hotel inspections. we visited ‘Mirlo Blanco’, a purpose built action park next to the slopes with a variety of exciting activities to distract you from the skiing for a little while. Featured in the park was a tubing run, ski bikes slalom, sledding and a 2 man rollercoaster all of which are included on a single, timed pass.
Happy with what we were seeing, and excited for the prospects of Sierra Nevada, it was time to experience the most important thing of all... the snow! Taking the Al-Andalus ski lift, just a short 2 minute walk from the Hotel Telecabina, we were soon rising up the mountain. The gondola passed over the ‘El Rio’ ski run giving us a chance to see the ski schools in action, cautiously making their way down the wide and straight run. Around 5-10 minutes later we had made it to Borreguiles, the main, central station on the mountain. Situated at the bottom of a snow bowl, mid-way up the mountain, it is safe to say the Borreguiles station is the life of the resort, with almost all runs leading back to this central bowl area.
Stepping out from the lift and onto the snow, we were greeted by 4 different chair lifts all rising further up the mountain in different directions. To our right was the nursery slope, serviced by two magic carpets and full of nervous yet excited faces and a lot of shaky legs. To our left was the station itself, consisting of a number of sit down and self service restaurants, ski schools, ski fitting, medical facilities, chill out and sit down areas, lockers, shops and more! Realising I wasn’t dressed to ski, I quickly made my way back down the mountain to get changed before heading back up. My skis were fitted at the station in a very efficient manner and the staff were all very warm and helpful.
I quickly made my way to the most central chair lift and headed further up the mountain. We had arrived at the resort on the front side of their peak season meaning the slopes were not particularly busy making it a joy to ski. The snow at this height was very good quality with little to no ice patches, good news for all the beginner skiers out there! From Borreguiles, it is possible to travel further up the mountain and come down on any colour run of your choosing from black for blue, making this an excellent place for groups to be able to reconvene for lunches.
I was very impressed with what I saw in Sierra Nevada. The infrastructure is very fast and efficient meaning less timing waiting around and more time skiing! Add to this that Sierra Nevada is primarily visited by Spaniards skiing weekends on Saturday and Sunday, meaning during the week days (when Ski Adaptable groups will be skiing) slopes are quiet if not largley empty.
That night after an exciting day hotel inspecting and skiing, we decided to experience a more formal restaurant setting. Once again heading to the upper square of Sierra Nevada, we settled on an unassuming restaurant and stepped in. Deciding on a meat fondue of sorts for two, we were presented with a selection of meats and vegetables on a stone tablet before the waiter set an electric heater on the table. The heater featured a number of hooks which were used to hold the meat in place while you cooked it to your tastes. This was something I had never experienced before but it was very tasty! The food on the whole trip was very authentically Spanish and very tasty.
Upon leaving the restaurant we noticed that the resort had started to burst with life as many of the locals began to arrive for a weekend of skiing on the Friday evening. Unfortunately an early morning transfer for us meant that an early night was on the cards. The following morning I checked out at around 5:30 am and headed outside where people were still arriving in their droves. The transfer directly from Sierra Nevada to Malaga airport took approximately 2 hours by car, leaving a little time to reflect on Sierra Nevada - a resort I will return to in the future and will jump at the chance of recommending to colleagues and teachers.
On the second day, we had the opportunity to audit the available accommodation options we will be offering to our groups in the area. In total we managed to audit 2 different accommodation options set up for group travel in addition to the Telecabina in which we were already staying.
First on our list was the Hotel Santa Cruz. This option is located just a short 10 minute drive from the resort centre, perched alone on the side of the mountain. The quiet, peaceful surroundings of the hotel and distance from the occasionally boisterous village centre make it a great option for groups with younger students or those looking for a more relaxing ski trip. The views from this hotel are just stunning and really do make you feel like you are on top of the world. With free private shuttle bus transfers inclusive, getting around will never be an issue.
Next we headed back into the village to visit the Hotel Nevasur an excellent, middle of the road, 3 star option located just above the village centre with excellent views over the ‘El Rio’. The nearby ski lift means that the slopes can be reached in around 10 minutes and the centre can be reached within 15 minutes’ walk. The Nevasur has been one of the longest serving hotels within the resort and their experience with groups really does shine through. The vast majority of the staff all spoke very good English which really does make you feel more comfortable and at home in the Andalucian mountains.
If you prefer to be in the middle of the action like myself, look no further than the Hotel Telecabina. Telecabina literally means Cable Car in Spanish and it’s easy to see where it gets name. The hotel is directly connected to the Telecabina Borreguiles and just a short walk 2 minute walk from Telecabina Al-Andalus so the slopes are always within touching distance. It also sits just off the lower square meaning you never have to venture far to get to get to where you want to go.
Ski Adaptable school ski trips to Sierra Nevada start from as little as £619 (by air), take a look in more detail at this fantastic resort now or contact us today to receive a no obligation school ski quotation.