ONE of the things I love about living on the Costa del Sol is the sheer diversity of things to do to occupy the mind, and the muscles!
While the summer months pretty much take care of themselves, with local beaches and chiringuitos vying for our attention, the winter season can turn into a battle of wills, in our household at least.
To the west, the Costa de la Luz has waves that need to be surfed; to the north east, those slopes of the Sierra Nevada are calling my name. Although when I first moved to the “sun coast” I had never even thought of regularly skiing in Andalucia, it soon became one of my preferred winter distractions.
In my ideal world (lottery win required), we’d spend alternate weekends in each of my favourite haunts: one weekend satisfying my partner’s wave addiction, and the next dusting off the snowboards and skis, while inhaling churros and chocolate (they’re allowed when you’re doing all that exercise).
The mountains of the Sierra Nevada are an easy drive from the Costa del Sol.
From Málaga, head up in the direction of Granada (about two hours); then it’s another 30 minutes or so up to the village on the mountain road.
Normally you can drive straight up but if there’s been heavy snowfall, the police will be at the bottom making sure everyone has snow chains or snow socks. You can buy these at shops and petrol stations nearby if you need to.
The Sierra Nevada is very easy to find being well indicated by brown road signs from the Granada ring road. This road leads you into the middle of the village where there is an enormous underground car park. What could be easier!
There is a great website providing general information on the resort. It features some amazing photographs of skiing and snowboarding action, weather reports, piste conditions and lift passes. If you click on SIERRA NEVADA HOY in the top centre of your screen, a web cam, weather report and summary showing the current state of the main parts of the resort will drop down for you to peruse. It’s a dual season resort so in the summer months, the website is dedicated to summer activities in the region so don’t think you’ve ended up on the wrong site if it’s only showing green fields and hiking routes!
Editor’s Note: Or you could download the Olive Press’ Sierra Nevada guide with its comprehensive information on the resort and selection of the best places to eat and stay.
The ski resort usually opens around 1st December depending on snow conditions and the season can carry on straight through until Easter. In 2010 the snow held up until May with some amazing snow dumps late on.
The Sierra Nevada is fantastic for beginners with lots of wide motorway runs and several ski schools which rank among the best in Europe. We particularly like the team at British Ski Center, Sierra Nevada who were fantastic when my teenage niece joined us for her first ever skiing experience.
The resort is small enough for one of you to pootle around on your skis while your friends are in ski school and then easily meet up in the central area for refreshment. This a huge plus when you’re skiing with a group of people who are all skiing or snowboarding at different levels and abilities.
The village is not very big either but there is a good selection of hotels, shops, restaurants and bars to suit most tastes and budgets. The party animals tend to eat early and then head back down to the city for the nightlife, although I’m not sure where they get the energy after a hard day’s skiing!
You can hire everything you need in the resort, including clothes if you’re not too worried about style! On your first day, aim to get to the village for about 8.30am – hire shops open from 9.00am and there’s sometimes a queue for the two cable car lifts that take you up to the slopes.
Avoid the main Spanish holidays and weekends if you can to optimise your skiing time and minimise your waiting time!
The website for the resort includes pricing for lift passes. It’s around 30 to 35 euros a day depending on the season and gets cheaper the more consecutive days you buy for. Ski and boot hire is about the same. There are discounts for children, disabled skiers and senior citizens. Non skiers can buy a return ticket in the cable car if they want to join you for lunch or just go up to see what all the fuss is about.
The resort is very high (from 3000m) so it is susceptible to bad weather in which case it has to close. High wind is often a problem. However this is the only resort we know that refunds your lift pass if they have to close! When you buy your lift pass, they will charge you an extra 6 euros which is, in effect, a deposit on the card itself. At the end of your trip, you can either put the card back in a machine (dotted around the village) and get your 6 euros refunded, or hold on to the card until your next trip when you can credit your lift pass online before you drive up and avoid the queues!
Weather wise it’s normally glorious – light ski jackets are best with a t-shirt underneath. If it’s clear and you can cope with a moguly red run, there is a great view of the sea from the top. It’s a good idea to keep a pair of goggles in your rucksack though as if the clouds come down, visibility on the last run to the village can be a bit tricky. You can always come down on the cable car though if you’re not confident skiing through cloud cover.
It’s a great experience whether you are a beginner or a bit more accomplished.