Nine ways to enjoy Spain’s mountains that don’t involve skiing

From zip lining over slopes in Andorra to sledding down a two-kilometer track in Huesca, here are 10 ski resorts that offer alternative outdoor experiences

A snowshoe hike at the Cerler ski resort in Huesca.
A snowshoe hike at the Cerler ski resort in Huesca.Aramon

No skis? No problem. Long gone are the times when ski resorts were used exclusively for skiing. Today, resorts have been converted into recreational centers that offer a wide range of outdoor activities that mountain lovers can enjoy. Here are nine ways to make the most of the snow and mountains without having to strap on a pair of skis

1. Ride a snow groomer across the Sierra Nevada

When night falls on the Sierra Nevada ski resort in Granada in the south of Spain, the snow groomers come out to play. With more than 600 horsepower, these powerful machines are used to groom the slopes for the next day’s skiers. Driving one of these machines, or just simply enjoying a sunset view from its windows, is one of the most incredible experiences offered at the resort. On these two-hour adventures, the machine’s strong headlights illuminate the mountain as its blades smooth down the snow. A strong safety cable prevents the snow groomer from slipping down the slope. Driving one of these machines does not require a license. The price per snow groomer, which can hold 12 people, is €750 and includes an aperitif.

2. Zip lining in Grandvalira

The zip line at the Grandvalira ski resort in Andorra in the Pyrenees mountains stretches 550 meters, making it one of the longest in the country. Because it is a chair-and-pulley system, which doesn’t require a harness, it is open to children as long as they weigh more than 30 kilos. The zip line flies 40 meters above trails such as Llac de Forn and can reach a speed of up to 80 kilometers an hour. It is an activity that both skiers and non-skiers can enjoy and costs from €15 per person.

3. Camping in Formigal-Panticosa

At the ski resort in Tena Valley, located at the southern side of the Pyrenees in Huesca province, visitors can camp in large igloo-shaped tents 1,800 meters above sea level. The resort mixes nature, luxury and adventure, allowing guests to enjoy the clear night sky with all the comforts of a high-end hotel. During the day, the site offers snowshoe walks and survival lessons, and at night, guests can enjoy meals made from locally sourced produce. The resort can only be reserved for one night (€395 for two people).

4. Tobogganing in Huesca

The Formigal-Panticosa ski resort has a 2.5-kilometer-long sled track, which is likely to be the longest in Spain. The track opens at night after the slopes close and is only available to visitors who dine at the Italian restaurant Trattoria Cantal. After dinner, for €42 a person, you can grab a wooden sled and race down the long illuminated track.

5. Segway in La Molina

Explore the forests of the Cadí-Moixeró natural park in an off-road segway at the La Molina ski station in Catalonia. The easy-to-use, two-wheeled electric vehicle allows visitors to lose themselves on the paths and trails that wind through the park’s pine forests. The outing can last anywhere between 15 minutes and two hours, and costs between €14 and €60, depending on the length of time.

6. Visit Pic Du Midi observatory

Tucked into the mountain beneath one of the highest astronomical observatories in Europe, the Pic Du Midi Hotel, located in the Hautes-Pyrénées in France, invites guests to gaze at the stars at an altitude of 2,877 meters. For those also interested in skiing, the hotel has 10 kilometer-long slopes with a spectacular descent of 1,700 meters. The experience costs €399 per person.

7. Snowshoe hiking in Cerler

For those who have never worn snowshoes and want to discover the world of winter hiking, the Cerler ski resort in Huesca, offers a simple three-kilometer long circular route in a beautiful woodland that can be done in an hour. The experience, which starts at the base of the Cerler peak and the Ampriu stream, costs €30.

A fatbike at the French Le Mourtis ski resort.
A fatbike at the French Le Mourtis ski resort.Eduardo Salete

8. Fatbiking in Le Mourtis

When the French ski resort Le Mourtis closes to skiers for the day, visitors are able to take the last ski lift up the mountain and ride down the slopes on a fatbike, a mountain bike equipped with thick tires. The experience, which is available to anyone over 12, is supervised by a state-certified instructor and is a great opportunity to explore the slopes and forest paths in a new and unique way. Fatbiking costs €25 per person.

9. Yoga in Loudenvielle

Located in the Loudenvielle Valley in France, at the foot of the Peyragudes ski resort, is Vacance-Pène Blanche, a five-star campground focused on relaxation. The campground has a chill-out reception area, mobile wooden homes, and offers yoga, tai chi, breathing classes, as well as Japanese pools and Nordic baths.

English version by Asia London Palomba.

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