December 7, 2015 by marksetchfield
Looking to squeeze in a last-minute ski trip before the warm weather hits? You could do worse than visit Andorra – a tiny, tax-free country about the size of the Isle of Wight, nestled happily on the border between France and Spain. , secure in the heart of Andorra, is a great family destination, with a vibrant nightlife and a range of recreational activities giving it universal appeal.WHEN TO GO?
In the winter, the snowboarders and skiers head to Arinsal in their droves. The season starts in mid-December and because of Arinsal’s high-altitude slopes (up to 2,560 metres) it lasts through to mid-April, with good snow cover throughout. This is thanks to a combination of natural snowfall and manufactured snow. Which guarantees skiers a ‘good fall’ every day.WHAT TO DO?
Ski Arinsal. Linked with the village of Pal, forms part of the Vallnord ski area and has great facilities. Served by a high-speed gondola, the resort covers 90km, with 70 runs served by 43 lifts. Arinsal’s ski school is proud of its excellent reputation. It offers excellent professional tuition for advanced skiers and patient instruction for beginners. English is widely spoken, prices are low and lessons are fun.
There is a ski kindergarten and a non-skiing crèche for younger children, so you can be assured your children are in good care while you master the slopes.
Buy a ski pack
This consists of your lift pass, lessons and rental equipment, and provides unlimited access to the ski buses that run about every 30 minutes between resorts. A six-day ski pack costs from around €130pp.
At the start of the week, once your skis are fitted, and you’ve got used to the equipment, the instructors send you up a small slope for you to demonstrate your ski skills. From there you are grouped with fellow skiers at your level. This is an excellent way to meet and mingle with fellow skiers and swap ski tips be prepared for an X Factor moment as you all stand and scrutinise each other.’
Best for beginners
Over the ridge from Arinsal is Pal a charming ski location that’s ideal for newbies. Unlike other ski resorts, Pal remains a quiet and picturesque mountain village, with a small, reasonably varied wooded ski area a couple of kilometres further up the hill.Fun for intermediates
For more challenging terrain, go to Arcalis a remote resort that’s worthy of a day-trip. Artificial snow covers the base area and guarantees some of the fastest and most dangerous ski slopes. Newly acquired ski skills are put to the test here on the smooth, long blue and red runs.
For the full tax-free shopping experience visit Andorra la Vella, the capital city. It boasts many familiar high street stores including Gap and Zara, but with the added value of being tax-free. You’ll find a fantastic array of shops selling predominantly fashion, electrical goods, jewelry, perfume, alcohol and tobacco all at duty-free prices’ Last year a four per cent sales there’s tax was introduced, but bargains remain for the taking. Don’t forget to check guarantees for electrical goods are valid once you are back in the UK
Arinsal’s nightlife is lively, and there are plenty of bars and nightclubs, many staying open until 4 am. The resort reps will happily advise on the best destinations for your needs and, if you feel up for some fun join the weekly O Bar crawl, expect to get involved in party games (a fun way to make more new friends!) Check out the super cool Quo Vadis, where you can relive the day’s skiing on the numerous plasma screens, and enjoy a well-earned drink and snack. ‘Woody’ the barman even I braves the cold early mornings to capture on video your days skiing.WHAT TO EAT
Arinsal has a decent selection of restaurants to choose from, including Mexican, Thai, Chinese, British and even Argentinean, as well as the local Catalan cuisine, which is well worth trying. Foodies should try butifarra – the local type of sausage, usually enormous and served with pale beans. Another local dish is Faves a la Catalana, made from broad beans fried in olive have a bit of fun with –making your own tasty snack by rubbing tomatoes, garlic, oil, salt and pepper on to it. For dessert, try the delicious Crema Catalana (Andorra’s very own version of crème caramel).
THE BOTTOM LINE
Directski has a week’s ski holiday in Arinsal from £259 per person. A week’s half-board at the 3* Hotel Montane costs from £389 including flights from Gatwick and transfers, based on two sharing. Manchester departures are from £399. Visit wwwdirectski.com for details.