France might be top of the list for most UK skiers in search of good slopes, but to overlook Spain’s Sierra Nevada resort is to miss out on some spectacular pistes. Set in the Granada region of southern Spain’s Andalucía, the Sierra Nevada is Spain’s main ski destination and offers guaranteed snow during a season that runs from December to May.
This purpose-built resort played host to the 1996 World Alpine Ski Championships and as a result saw massive investment in infrastructure and new developments, including an underground car park and a new training camp. The resort is ideal for everyone from beginners to experts, with 61km of ski runs. The longest run is nearly 6km and there are six off-course trails and plenty of off-piste areas you can ski. The slopes are served by 19 lifts, including two gondolas, which can transport nearly 32,000 people an hour.
This is Spain’s highest ski resort with slopes as high as 3,305m, but in case the weather doesn’t oblige at this altitude, there are 25 snow cannons providing cover to 30km of trails (about 35 slopes).
Night-skiing is one of the resort’s best features. Introduced in 1994, lighting along the Rio piste means you can safely ski under the stars for an extra couple of hours from 7.30pm. This daredevil slope includes a 3km near-vertical drop, so it’s not for the faint-hearted, but if you’re not quite up to that level just yet, there’s plenty more to do once the sun goes down.
Après-ski options include a wealth of bars and restaurants catering for a wide range of tastes. There’s also the Montebajo Sports Club to explore, with five floors that house everything from a gym and massage facilities to Turkish baths, a Jacuzzi and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool. If you are just looking to while away an evening people-watching, then there’s no better place to do so than Crescendo. Located in the Pradollano Square at the bottom of the pistes it offers a cosy bar, warm fireplace and split-level lounge. The square becomes livelier later in the evenings, particularly after 11pm when most bars open their doors, but it’s the perfect place to watch the sun go down.
For a complete change of pace, just a short drive away, are the beaches of Granada and Malaga. This gives you the rather bizarre dilemma of whether to spend your day relaxing in the sun or dress up in your winter gear for a day on the slopes.
Out of season
There is, of course, much more to the Sierra Nevada than its snow, as you’ll discover if you visit outside the skiing season. Walks through the lush river valleys and pine forests of the Sierra Nevada National Park, the biggest in Spain, introduce you to all sorts of rare flowers, birds and lizards – you might even spot the odd mountain goat. One thing you’re less likely to spot is other people. If you’re thinking of planning a walk through the area then one of the best places to go is treksierranevada.com where they’ve done all the hard work for you by providing maps and itineraries for walkers of varying abilities.