Most skiers and boarders head straight for the Alps when it comes to picking a ski resort; the snow is all but guaranteed to be brilliant and in abundance. But what about Spain? Most people don’t even realise that there’s snow in the UK’s favourite summer holiday destination, let alone enough of it to ski in. In fact, there are 29 official Spanish ski resorts, the most southern of which is Andalucía’s Sierra Nevada.
I am lucky enough to live within spitting distance of it– one of Granada’s many assests – and this March, as part of my #Take12Trips pledge, I had planned to stay beyond just the one day, so as to gain a little more of that holiday feeling. Fate, however, intervened. That is to say that the ‘twist’ in the title of this post doesn’t pertain to something unexpected or refreshingly unique, rather, a reference to my now thankfully healed shoulder, which bore the brunt of an abrupt tumble just 20 seconds into the first run of the first day of a planned two day trip.
I battled on, determined to shake off what was increasingly beginning to feel like a pretty serious spinal injury– I don’t give in easily –until I was actually sick on the slopes, at which point I decided it was probably time to go check in to the resort’s medical centre. Two hours, two x-rays and several sugary coffees later I was officially the irked victim of twisted shoulder tendons and a ‘straightened spine’. Ouch. And my trip was effectively over before it had really even begun. Double ouch.
I could, at least, salvage some consolation in that I’d visited many times before and would be likely to return in the near future, so it is expressly because of this that I have gone ahead and written this post regardless. After all I still made the trip.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range is located on the northern slopes of Veleta– the third highest peak in all of Spain –and is officially Europe’s sunniest ski resort. This can either be a good or bad thing, given that excessive amounts of sunshine tend to yield poor snow conditions. Presently, it is revelling in the aftermath of a brief but significant sprinkling after a long period of shoddiness, which has been a rare treat this year. The Sierra Nevada usually gets her mother-load of snow in March some time, so most of us are hoping that this is a final sign that things are on the cusp of taking a turn for the better.
There are 115 runs in the resort: 16 greens, 40 blues, 50 reds and 9 blacks, so something for all levels, and 29 lifts, including 2 gondolas and 2 drag-lifts. The Sulyar Superpark, where skiers and boarders show off their skills, is Spain’s biggest, and will no doubt play a huge part in next year’s World Universiade– the World University Games. The longest run– and my personal favourite – is the red El Aguila, flanking the right side of the Veleta when skiing down the mountain. Intermediate to advanced skiers/boarders tend to prefer the 6.18km long ‘eel’ due to its snaking and canyon-like nature. Beginners are best suited to the tame greens, Veleta, Velata II and Veleta III, all nestled within the central area of the mid-section where both gondolas finish.
I would love to be able to post photos of the resort’s aprés-ski scene– something which I am eager to experience after two and a half years of living here, and almost did that fateful day. Instead, I hobbled around my flat feeling very sorry for myself, but this is how Granada’s Sierra Nevada appears at night:
An adult-priced lift ticket for one full day during high season is €48, €3 of which is returned in exchange for the ticket (in plastic card form) at the end of the skiing day. Three consecutive days costs €101, four days €131 and five €156. For a list of all the 2013-2014 prices, have a look on this webpage.
There are public, direct buses that shuttle day-trippers between Granada and the resort throughout the day. The first bus leaves from Granada bus station at 8am, arriving at the resort shortly before 9. The next bus to leave after that is at 10am. Coming back, there are buses at 16.30 and 18.30, allowing for a full day of skiing and a quick tapa and tipple before heading home. For the full timetable, see Spain’s national bus service website, alsa.es. The cost of a return bus fare from Granada to the Sierra Nevada is €10. Car hire is more expensive but perhaps a better option if you intend to use the car for other purposes, like me and my motley crew did in April of last year.
The cost of ski-hire varies according to the quality of the equipment and reputation of the rental service, but those requiring skis/board and boots can expect to pay between €25 and €40 for one day and a steadily discounted price for each day thereafter. Intersport Riosport tends to be a popular choice and the friendly staff are always happy to let customers and friends of customers leave their belongings behind the desk for free while they enjoy their day. Alternatively, if you’d rather have your things closer to hand– a packed lunch, biscuits and extra layers, gloves etc –there are lockers available at the mid-section that only cost €1 to use.
Unless you are willing to pay at least €6 for a frankly underwhelming lunch, or €10 for a feast that will ensure uncomfortable skiing/boarding for the rest of the afternoon, it is a very good idea to take a packed lunch, which can be gobbled up in no time. Take plenty of fruit and sugary snacks to keep your energy levels up too.
There is a wealth of accommodation options to choose from if staying in the resort. Most hotels are highly rated on TripAdvisor and Booking.com and there are plenty of chalets available for a reasonable price if there is a large group of you. There is one hostel listed on HostelWorld.com that seems decent and affordable, though there are no reviews yet!
The cost and amount of forms I’d have probably had to fill out would have been much higher had it not been for one, absolutely fundamental piece of kit I happened to have with me on the day of my injury– the EHIC card, formerly known as the E111 card. These little godsends, provided to any UK passport holder by the NHS, will cover your arse for any accidents you might be so unfortunate enough to have, though mountain rescue is not included. As long as you have this, which is free to apply for via the NHS website, you won’t have to worry about paying sky-high prices and/or a lengthy, reclaiming process; everything is paid for and sorted out for you.
Fingers crossed I won’t be needing mine again this weekend, when I venture back up for the first time since that extremely painful and bitterly unforgettable day. Next month’s #Take12Trips enterprise, which I hope will be less about a trip in the falling-over-and-badly-hurting-yourself sense of the word, will see me taking on Lisbon, a city with which I’ve been detachedly fascinated for a very long time. Expect more than just the one post for this cheeky jaunt!
Have you ever been to the Sierra Nevada? What other lesser-known ski resorts would you recommend? Follow all the other #Take12Trippers on Twitter under the #Take12Trips hashtag.