Skiing

A guide to the most fun-packed ski slopes

Free riding, speed riding, ratrack, snowparks, night skiing: there were never this many options

A snowboarder on the Baqueira slopes.
A snowboarder on the Baqueira slopes.Jorge Domínguez / AGE

1. Cerler ski resort: The enchanted forest

This is the name of the ski slope that opened in Cerler, Benasque valley, in 2014-2015, above all to provide safety and fun for youngsters. The kids, whose parents come along for the ride, enter a beautiful black pine forest where many surprises await them — both on the forest floor and on the treetops, including images of animal species native to the area. It is an interactive course that is chock-full of challenges (one of which is a tunnel that must be crossed) and which provides the skills and techniques to help children improve their skiing level without even noticing the hard work and effort they are putting in. The slope is green (the easiest skill level), and is situated in the Cota 2.000 section, accessible through the Fontanals slope. For those not yet comfortable while strapped on skis, there is a ski lift that can help them comfortably make their way down to the cafeteria.

More information on Cerler ski resort at www.cerler.com

2. La Molina: Fit for champions

Every skier wants to feel like a professional at least once in their life. La Molina in Girona gives skiers this opportunity with a slope about 634 meters long equipped with 12 slalom gates, a time-keeping and video recording systems right on the slope in Trampolí. The skier reaches the top of the slope with their ski lift pass; as soon as they start to go downhill, the chronometer starts tracking their time and when they reach the bottom, they are greeted by a large panel that gives them their time, as well as their speed throughout the descent. There is even a video recording that can later be accessed through the resort’s website (www.lamolina.cat). Those bold enough to take a stab at it should know that the best registered times average at around 33 seconds and a maximum speed of 80 kilometers per hour. There are similar slopes in Formigal, Baqueira-Beret and Sierra Nevada, among others.

3. Baqueira-Beret: The kingdom of aerials

Doing jumps with skis or while strapped onto a snowboard is tempting once you reach a higher skill level, but a good jump is not something you can easily find at any conventional course. Starting this ski season, the new Era Marmota snowpark, in Baqueira-Beret (in Arán valley), will be offering all-inclusive freestyle skiing opportunities. These will be at the Marmòtes slope, Beret, and Fernández Ochoa, the slope that can be accessed by a ski lift or the lift at the Reina and Jesús Serra. It has three parts. The first is the easiest, and includes a small boardercross, or a string of easy jumps and obstacles; it is open to novice-intermediate skiers. The second one has a long series of jumps, boxes, half pipes and railings that require a higher skill level; it’s a great course for any alpine skiers or snowboarders on the piste. The third part is more difficult, it is paradise for expert riders with big jumps and very difficult blocks to get through; it’s an experience so much for the athletes as it is for the audience watching. The first two are always open, but the third’s schedule depends on weather conditions. The quality of the course all depends on the amount of snow on the course and the staff’s daily efforts.

More information on the Baqueira-Beret ski resort at www.baqueira.es

4. Towed by a machine

Letting yourself get dragged by a piste-sweeper to an almost untouched mountain zone— inaccessible by ski lift— and then descending down a practically isolated medium-level difficulty slope (red) is what’s in store at Formigal in Huesca. Or why not take a risk with courses made for experts (Cueva, Infierno, Losa o Brocusso). The ski ratrak is one of the best things to do in Formigal, Huesca. It is open everyday to the public and is free with your lift pass. The machine transports a total of 30 skiers per ride who let themselves be dragged along as if on a ski lift. At the end, they take the Espelunciecha chair lift, in the Portalet zone, and make journeys to 2.228 meters high every 25 minutes along the beautiful view of the mountainside. Even though it’s important to stay focused on the cable that connects the skier to the machine in order to reach the top, it doesn’t hurt to steal glances at the impressive Anayet Peak (2.574 meters) with vertical jagged rock and ice formations. Using this service is the fastest way to get to the central part of the resort again, because you don’t have to worry about getting on any other lifts.

5. Under the moonlight (and the spotlight)

Masella, Girona is the location of the largest skiing area in the Iberian Peninsula: 13 slopes, 10 kilometers and seven ski lifts between the base of the resort to the 1.600 meters of La Pleta sector; a total of 420 meters of pure slope. The course, although bathed in moonlight, only stays illuminated for up to two hours, so you have to be fast if you want to get through the whole thing. The medium-difficulty course, Davallada, is definitely worth giving a shot, and was approved by the International Ski Federation to host big slalom nocturnal competitions. The snowpark, Estadi, and Pastors y Pastorets— the last two located in the Pla zone and great for amateurs— are also good spots for night skiing, and are all surrounded by forest. The night skiing schedule is Thursday from 6.15 to 8.15pm and Saturday from 6.30 to 9.30pm. The ski lift pass price is 55 euros per adult and 40 per child, and covers the next day as well. It is advisable to bring protective gear such as ski goggles to protect yourself from the strong winds and freezing temperatures. The temperature drop at night and the overhaul of the machines help to maintain the good quality of the snow on the slopes. The last day of the open season is March 10.

More information on night skiing in Masella at www.masella.com

6. Flying over the snow

Paragliding on your skis without quite flying— at least not at first. Speed riding is a fun variation on conventional skiing in which you switch your ski poles for equipment similar to paragliding sails that work as a brake and add a buoyancy effect for the skier, since it is harder to gain traction over a fresh bed of snow. The steeper the slope is, the more secure you’ll be, although there is a possibility that your skis will briefly lift off the snow. In Cerler you can ski in the Cogulla zone within the tube track at Cogulla, Royero, and Liebre. To start, you need to have a medium to high skill level and preferably sider skis that can glide well on any snow surface. The mandatory beginning course is open every day and includes four daily hours of practice over the course of four days, equipment, a radio to communicate with the base back at the resort and theory classes. The price for level one classes is 350 euros, while the more advanced level two class is 450.

For more information and to reserve a spot, call: 696 803 089.

7. On the lookout for animals

It’s the newest attraction at Baqueira Beret; a course tailored for kids, families and groups of amateurs, filled with monsters, giant flowers and recreations of animals that you can interact with as you descend. The FunPark is in the Beret junior zone, next to the ski lift that takes you to Clot Der Os— and here, speed isn’t important so much as how much fun you have. At the beginning of the course, you need to cross a zone of small inclines adorned with large rubber flora and fauna. Further down, in the forest, there are 11 animal figures, representative of local species (woodchucks, owls, wolves, deer, chamois, fox and grouse). Some are easy to find, but others are hidden within the trees, leading you to actively go looking for them. Keep eyes and ears open, because some of them will make identifiable noises to give you hints about their species and location.

8. Do you dare to cross through the tunnel?

The Funny Truck is a new conceptual slope in Formigal and Cerler. Inclines, jumps, tunnels, and other fun challenges for kids and adults have been molded with the snow on the slopes. For example, in Formigal, there is a double tunnel, bridge, giant molded hands to block your way, a xylophone, and a number of gongs you have to bang with your ski poles. It’s about putting your skills to the test on a course where you take minor risks. The slope is in the Izas zone at an altitude of 1.975 meters, it is a red course (medium skill level) and it is 1.224 meters long; it can be accessed through the Sarrios ski lift and in its vicinity there is a unique igloo café where you can grab a snack before you get back out on the slopes.

9. Unique in the Pyrenees

There is only one snowpark in the Pyrenees that is open at night. It is the Sunset Park Henrik Harlaut in the Grau Roig sector of Grandvalira, Andorra— in the Bordes d’Envalira zone. You can get to it by way of the road and parking will be provided at the base of the park. It is open, if the weather permits, from 3 to 9pm (and even later in the spring), Tuesday through Sunday. The ski pass for a day or a seasonal pass lets you access the park, but if you don’t have this, you can purchase a specific pass in the facilities for €25. The park is equipped with guardrails, jumps and boxes for medium to high skill levels. It has its own ski lift and you can do rounds of a minute and a half.

10. Sierra Nevada: Real competition

Ski cross is a spectacular event in which various athletes ski down a slope with elevation changes, jumps, and turns with the goal in mind of being the first to cross the finish line. It is an elite event and it is rare to find a course that is open to the public; but in Sierra Nevada, Granada, one of these does exist. Used in last season’s Freestyle and Snowboard World Championship, it is now open to skiers at the Andalusian ski resort. It is located in the Loma de Dílar zone, in the Sulayr park, and is 750 meters long with a slope of 155 meters, and a total surface area of 30.000 square meters. It can be accessed with a one-day ski pass, and is recommended only for highly skilled skiers and snowboarders.

For more information and to book a spot at the Sierra Nevada resort call: 902 708 070.

11. An unforgettable adventure

Picture 120 kilometers of backcountry skiing. The opportunity to freeride  at Ordino-Arcalís, within Vallnord in Andorra, is a unique one within the Iberian Peninsula. The quality and abundance of slopes on the fresh snow of the rugged terrain has been recognized by Freeride World Tour, the championship where the best skiers and snowboarders in the world compete for a title in the event.  To practice off-piste, Ordino offers two freeride areas, a total of 3,4 kilometers long, in the Coma and Creussans zone (for expert level skiers). In addition, there are five ski mountaineering (skimo) courses; all of them accessible to beginners, save La Coma, which is a mid-high skill level course.

English version by Laura Rodríguez.

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