Tucked away in the Northwesternmost corner of Catalonia sits a series of ski slopes wide and tall enough to rival a world class contender like Vail, Colorado. Skiing in Europe immediately brings France, Switzerland and even Italy to mind, but Spain’s glaciers, peaks and piste surprisingly caught our attention.
Baqueira offers some 4700 acres of skiing and snowboarding spread across three valleys with ancient towns in the Pyrenees. From the five days we spent here it was obvious that the place could take weeks to cover.
The Val de Aran area feels notably remote and wild, what a true back country skier dreams of and yet it is situated two and three hours from Toulouse France and Barcelona Spain respectively. There are bus routes and rental car opportunities. We choose the latter. An advisory is that snow chains are required to be in the possession of the driver as per Spanish law during winter months. We found them readily available at a Carrefour in France on the way.
Perks of Skiing Here
We chose Baquiera as the center of our stay. It is the most urban setting with restaurants, shops, ski in and out hotels and beginner and intermediate ski runs. One beautiful perk for early risers is that Spanish are late sleepers, so the fresh morning runs are all for those who want to head up right away.
Culture and Cuisine
The beauty of skiing in Spain is that some of its cultural idiosyncrasies shine through the experience. Here skiers don’t lunch on fast food only to run back up the slopes for more action. Instead lunch is a sit down affair and easy to do with hotels being so close to the lifts. Wine, olives and Aranese cuisine topped with Catalunyan Priorat are an essential way to refuel with a laid back approach to the sport.
Where to Stay
The AC Hotel in Baqueira is a property that has been on our radar for quite some time. It is the crown jewel of their properties and its participation under the Marriott umbrella meant it offered some fabulous perks for Titanium membership. The hotel has an indulgent spa, alpine style rooms with fantastic views, attentive service and delicious food offerings. Not to mention it is steps from the gondola lifts.
The main hotel district and the most ancient part of town have a plethora of high end clothing stores especially focused on winter wear. We found the prices to be quite competitive, even during the high season and one of the best perks for a non EU traveler is the ability to get the tax refund at the airport.
Baquiera, Beret and Bonaigua, whichever of the three towns you choose to enjoy (why not all) have the perk of never being overrun, having spectacular facilities with over 33 lifts and 280km of skiing and best of all, enjoying the blend of ski and Spanish culture which is all about chasing the outdoor thrills, while making time for relaxation and indulgence too.