Andorra's ski resorts are divided into two domains: Grandvalira and Vallnord.
Vallnord is comprised of Pal, Arinsal and Ordino-Arcalis; Grandvalira is Encamp, Soldeu-El Tarter and Pas de la Casa-Grau Roig.
So which of Andorra's ski areas is superior? Well it depends on what you are looking for. Both Grandvalira and Vallnord are popular ski areas with up-to-date facilities and some of the cheapest lift tickets in Europe.
We're pitching Grandvalira against Vallnord, comparing the two for: size of terrain, freeriding, freestyle, family facilities and non-skiing activities.
SIZE OF TERRAIN
Grandvalira (205km) has more than double the ski area of Vallnord (93km). Not only does Grandvalira have more ski runs, but all of its ski areas can be reached without taking off your skis. In Vallnord, Pal-Arinsal and Arcalis are not connected by lift. So Grandvalira wins hands-down for size of lift-linked ski area.
In terms of off-piste (or freeriding), the ski areas are more evenly matched, in fact Vallnord slightly pips Grandvalira.
Vallnord's Arcalis has been blessed with natural freeride conditions: north faces, high altitude, and lift-accessed freeriding. The DVA Park has recently been installed, providing an enclosed space and practical training in the case of avalanches. Pal-Arinsal is widely regarded as the best freeriding in Andorra.
Grandvalira's El Tarter has three freeride zones: Encampadana Canal, Canal of the Solenelles and Bosc de Cornella, all of which are attached to Grau Roig's freeride sector.
Steep off-piste in Vallnord. Courtesy of Vallnord Tourism.
The two domains offer good options for acrobatics on the slopes. In Vallnord, the A.S.P Snowparks team has been designing and building the snowpark for six years. Each new season brings a new line of modules designed for beginners and a line of kickers for pros. Also in Vallnord you'll find the Arcalis Woodpark in the forest, with its dozen natural and artificial modules.
Grandvalira was one of the first ski areas in the Pyrenees to build a proper large-scale snowpark with quality modules and daily maintenance - the original snowpark was located in El Tarter. Today, the domain has four snowparks as well as a Freestyle Academy.
Freestyler at Vallnord's Woodpark. Courtesy of Vallnord.com
Grandvalira and Vallnord both have comprehensive childcare and mulilingual ski schools.
In Vallnord, children aged 1-4 years can play, paint, listen to stories and watch films together at the baby clubs - there's one in each of Vallnord's resorts. All three sectors also have 'Pekeparks' - playgrounds in the snow where the kids (aged 4-8) can join in supervised activiites, like building igloos and snowmen. Arcalís, Arinsal and Pal's ski schools offer skiing and snowboarding lessons for all levels from the age of 6.
There are four crèches for children aged between 12 months and 4 years, at Canillo, El Tarter, Soldeu and Grau Roig. The Soldeu, El Tarter and Canillo kindergartens only accept children over 24 months old. Children between 12 and 24 months old should go to the Grau Roig kindergarten. Grandvalira also has 450 ski instructors across seven ski and snowboard schools.
Kids' ski lesson in Grandvalira. Courtesy of Grandvalira.com
Both Andorran ski areas offer plenty to do off the slopes.
Grandvalira has two large adventure activity centres located in Grau Roig and El Tarter. This winter, the domain will activate a new adventure activity area at the foot of La Solana chairlift in Pas de la Casa. Here you'll find activities like winter walks, dog sledding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. Other activities available include paragliding, skijoring, heli-skiing or high-altitude scuba diving.
Vallnord was the first ski area in the Pyrenees to allow speedriding (paragliding and skiing). It also offers snowshoe tours (both day and night), snowmobile tours, paragliding, and ice diving.
In terms of apre-ski facilities, Grandvalira's Pas de la Casa (followed closely by Soldeu) is the undisputed party capital of the Pyrenees with a dizzying choice of thumping bars and clubs.
Speedriding in Vallnord. Courtesy of Vallnord.com
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