Returning to Andorra

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERATwenty years ago I learnt to ski in Pas De La Casa, Andorra. It was my first trip to the principality, and also my first experience of snow sports. Two years after that first holiday to Pas, my family and I returned to Andorra for another week’s skiing in Arinsal. Fast forward 18 years, and I have once again travelled to Arinsal to ski.

I’ll be honest, of the four of us in our group, none of us had a particular desire to return to Andorra. Without wanting to sound negative, the principality exists because it is tax free, and has few of the redeeming features of other ski areas. The views over the Pyrenees are breathtaking, although not quite as scenic as the Austrian Alps. The ski areas offer pistes for all levels of skier, but due to the geography of the region are small, far apart from each other and difficult to connect up. On the plus side, I’ve always found the people in Andorra to be friendly, and nowhere near as aggressive on the slopes as their French neighbours. And if you’re looking to spend some money, there is that tax free shopping.

So, why did we choose Arinsal? The answer is simple. Snow has been poor in most European ski areas this winter, and Andorra’s location makes it the most likely to have pistes open while still within our budget. When you’re a skier, you’ll chase the snow pretty much anywhere.

The other thing that I’d forgotten about Andorra until after we’d booked is the four hour transfer from the airport in Toulouse up into the mountains. I think I’ve been softened by working in Austria, where the longest transfer is two hours. We did stop for a break in Tarascon, just enough time for everyone to grab a coffee and go to the toilet (facilities on ski coaches are notorious for freezing in the winter).

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Once we’d arrived in resort, my first task was to find a shop that could wax my skis ready for the next morning. I usually service my skis myself by hand, but every few years I like to have them put through a machine so I get the best out of them. For the past ten years, every resort I have visited has only offered machine servicing. Annoyingly, the one time I actually want my skis put through a machine, I visit seemingly the only resort in Europe where the technicians like to service skis by hand. With all respect to those technicians, I could have done that myself. So, with my skis over my shoulder, I trudged up the hill, further and further into Arinsal, until I found someone who could help me. Then, we headed along to our Crystal Rep Jake’s welcome meeting where we pestered him with about a hundred questions (which I then promptly forgot all the answers to and asked him again the next day), grabbed some food, and it was time for bed and dreams of skiing.

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