Sierra Nevada

There are not many places on this earth where one has the option of going to the beach for the day or donning skis and boots and hitting the slopes. Less than two hours from the Costa del Sol and half an hour from Granada is the Sierra Nevada , home to Europe's southern most ski resort Sol y Nieve (Sun and Snow). Host to the 1996 World Ski Championships and countless other national and international ski and snowboard competitions, the Sierra Nevada is now firmly placed upon the world Alpine sport circuit.

Sierra Nevada Skiing
Sierra Nevada Skiing

Black Sheep of Europe

A bit of a black sheep amongst other European ski resorts, Sol y Nieve is certainly not your pretty Alpine village with big firs. The village is fun and typical of this region in Spain, laid back. The views are also very different to what most ski aficionados are used to. Craggy outcrops of rock jut from smooth, tree-less mountains and only the criss crossing lifts break up the cake icing look of the slopes.

Sierra Nevada Resort

The resort itself is a jumble of hotels and apartment buildings built on the side of a mountain with a steep hair pinned road and a chair lift which plies between the Parador at the top of the hill, to Pradollano, the centre of the village. Pradollano with its attractive Plaza de Andalucia is the main hub of the resort where most of the shops, cafes and restaurants can be found as well as ski and board rental and repair services. There are gymnasiums and spas and during winter months, an ice rink is set up in the Plaza.

From Pradollano two chair lifts and two gondolas transport you to the Borreguilles ski station sitting at a height of 2,645 metres. Here there is access to 52 pistes totalling 65 kilometres with 21 lifts capable of carrying 36,395 skiers per hour. Amongst the new installations is a 'magic carpet', a moving conveyor that aids beginners to the main Borreguilles station.

At Borreguilles there are various options to go a little or a long way further up the mountain and across to other areas. From Veleta, the highest point, it is possible to take in spectacular views of the Mediterranean coast and across to Africa.

Beginners to Experts

Beginners to Experts

The pistes offer skiing for all levels with several wide undulating short runs for beginners to stomach churning mogul fields. Most of the pistes however are coded blue or red, the easy to difficult range, as opposed to the very easy and outright insane.

Occasionally the resort receives little snow, a problem which has been overcome by the installation of over 300 snow cannons - the best snow making facilities in Europe.

Unlike some resorts in Europe, snowboarders are welcomed and special facilities are available. A professional half pipe is dug out every year between two of the larger pistes and slalom and downhill competitions are run all season. For the headstrong there is some excellent off-piste skiing and boarding with some hair-raising jumps.

For beginners in both sports, tuition is available in many languages. The long El Rio piste which runs right down into the village is lit up at night for skiers and boarders who just can't get enough. 30 kilometres of night skiing are available in total, including the Neveros black run.

The après ski in the Sierra Nevada is a lively affair with the usual bar, restaurant and club action going on until dawn.

The difference here is that it is considerably cheaper to eat, drink and be merry than it is in the Swiss or French Alps.