The European continent plays host to some of the best snowboarding venues in the world due to its rugged interior mountains. Switzerland, France and Austria all come to mind as having some of the most spectacular extreme sports winter resorts but there are other hidden gems that await the ambitious thrill seeker. Nestled in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains is the tiny principality of Andorra, the vast portion of which consists of high-altitude mountainous terrain. With nothing but valley towns and mountains, Andorra’s natural features have allowed it to become a snowboarder’s perfect scenario and as a result, an increasing number of snowboarders are flocking to this quaint area.
Location, Location, Location
When it comes to snowboarding in Andorra, location makes all the difference so it is vital to find an area that it suitable to one’s skill level along with any requested amenities or layout. Soldeu is a 92 square kilometer resort in the eastern fringes of Andorra and is purported to have the best terrain in the country on which to snowboard. Unlike several other resorts, Soldeu offers extreme sports opportunities for all skill levels. There are 64 modern lifts, a half-pipe, three terrain parks and four off-piste routes with a piste-groomer tow. There are multiple English hotels in the area along with great restaurants and easy access.
Arinsal is another resort that offers great courses, especially for beginners and those looking to go snowboarding in Andorra in a relaxed fashion. It is a rather tiny resort with simple terrain and that is what makes it ideal for first-timers. Extreme sports junkies may grow tired of the course, but they need not worry; a gondola connects Arinsal to the nearby resort of Pal, which together comprise the VallNord Ski Area. Around Arinsal is a small community mainly consisting of bars, a disco and a Mexican and Chinese restaurant. The nearby town of La Massana is connected to Arinsal via gondola and offers a better selection of bars than in the resort town.
Lessons and Gear
Many extreme sports fanatics do not need instruction on how to snowboard, but for those that do, there are local instructors to assist in learning the art of snowboarding. Renta-Ski offers professional classes at the Grandvalira Ski & Snowboard School. The resort at Soldeu also offers in-house snowboarding lessons to help make the experience of snowboarding in Andorra a more enjoyable one.
Virtually all resorts in Andorra have many snowboarding gear shops and rental outlets to assist individuals sans équipements get geared up. Andorra is a duty-free principality and many individuals flock here to purchase goods without paying tax; it is for this reason that snowboarding shops, among many other things, are prevalent throughout the area.
With these basics in mind, considering a snowboarding adventure in Andorra should now be at the top of your to-do list. With excellent snowboarding venues and other winter extreme sports opportunities available, the wintertime is the best time to chill in the frosty Pyrenees of Andorra. Friendly locals, duty-free shopping and vibrant town life make the experience even better. The inner snowboarder is sure to find the perfect piste in Andorra.
Creative Commons Photo by Nic Redhead