“ESQUIAR por la mañana y tomar el sol en la playa por la tarde!” – “Ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon!”
That’s how the saying goes here in Granada anyhow. Personally, I had always been skeptical. Not in the sense that I didn’t believe the feat was possible, just as to whether the trip was actually worth the hassle. I mean, snow-covered mountains, albeit much higher up than the stony beaches to the south, must surely be an indication of not-so-hot ground level temperatures? And all that travelling to and fro; hiring a car if you don’t already have one; and the cost of a lift pass that you’d only use for half a day? Hmm.
The idea seemed far-fetched, if not imprudent. But with the abrupt departure of freezing temperatures and arrival of a much welcomed heatwave, I was feeling a lot more open to far-fetched if not imprudent suggestions oddly enough. So when a friend of mine proposed the idea I seized the opportunity. We would see this niggling and unproven myth put to the test, and not become disillusioned by mounting expenses or the inevitable struggle of having to tear ourselves away from the mountain come lunch time.
The objective was simple: Arrive at the Sierra Nevada for around 08.30am in time for the first lift, ski relentlessly until 13.00pm, grab lunch, hit the road and be at the beach with beer in hand for 15.00pm. It was on.
We awake to crisp, cloudless skies, and begin the day with the galling task of having to wedge our skis, boards, boots, beach bags, sandwiches and springtime, animal-themed onesies into the back of our awfully cramped Ford Fiesta. Eventually, after an accidental detour into the abyss of Granada’s one-way street maze, we are on our way.
We finally shuffle into the Telecabina cable car and begin ascending the mountain, though we are already way behind schedule. Traffic had been scarce along the way but a combination of lengthy queuing, impromptu toilet breaks and my apparent inability to dress myself into a giraffe suit had held us up. Sun is shining brightly though, and it’s smiles all round.
The snow, as we had expected, is pure slush, which means gathering speed will be hard, but the pistes are looking surprisingly bare, given that it’s a Sunday. Slush can still be fun anyhow. We make the quick descent to the Stadium chair and dare I say turn a few jealous heads as we zip past in our effortlessly trendy garb.
There’s less slush at the top, but a bit of a draft that sets off an uncomfortable spell of nipple chafage. It soon wanes however, as we waste no time in launching ourselves back from whence we came.
With two mandatory runs down the stadium completed, we plot our next foray. We spy that Laguna – a run that for one reason or another has eluded us each time we have visited – is open. We make a beeline for its entrance, which involves crossing another, wide and often quite busy piste to get to. Earlier this season I discovered that at the expense of one very indignant skier. This time, there are far less people to worry about, and despite the increasingly watery slush, we manage to make it across in one clean sweep.
I get bored of the flat section and veer off-piste. Big mistake. We are on the backside of the mountain now, which up until this point has seen very little sunlight. Thus, rather than the mushy slushy stuff I was actually rather beginning to enjoy, I am met with a steep grade of rock-hard ice, which then develops into actual rocks. Thankfully, I am able to quickly dodge and navigate my way through without taking a tumble.
Back at Laguna’s summit, we head as far right as possible, to where there appears to be some actual snow. We are wrong. It’s just more ice slowly melting into slush, though we do find a nice jump, which, after a rather wobbly run-up, I fling myself from with one arm flailing in my wake.
Time for a stroll in the Sulayr superpark. Things have improved since our last outing – at least at the top anyway. Three more boxes and a slanting picnic table have been added, and features of the resort’s recent Freestyle World Cup remain, though almost all of the jumps are unworkable due to yet more slush. Further down, however, there is a nice beginner section that allows for fast grabs and slides. At this point, the giraffe onesy has become extremely sweaty and I’m beginning to feel queasy. One more run and it’s back to the bottom for a quick bite to eat and Piste 2 Playa part two.
Fed, changed and almost an hour and a half behind schedule, we finally exit the resort and begin the race down to the coast. The overabundance of slush had meant that it wasn’t as difficult to drag ourselves away.
Playa de Cantarriján is the chosen destination. I have kept my onesy on so I can have my photo taken in the same clothes on the mountain and the beach. This, rather predictably, turns out to be another big mistake, as the temperature seems to increase by at least half a degree for every mile we cover. Photos are taken and some high-pitched whoops are let out before I promptly fall into a dribbling coma.
I awake to a cheer. We have arrived at Cantarriján, a small, secluded beach just beyond Almuñecar, where, judging by first glance, there doesn’t appear to be an awful lot of beachgoers. I am dripping wet by now, but stubbornly refuse to remove my novelty outfit until that memorable snapshot is taken. We make our way from the car park.
So it turns out Cantarriján is a nudist beach, yet as we saunter past the restaurant and onto the scrabrous sands the only oddball being gawped at is me. In fact I could not be dressed more inappropriately. The photos are promptly taken, the onesy duly taken – sorry – peeled off and the afternoon’s first beverage cracked open and swiftly consumed. We’ve done it.
Time for a dip in the sea. We last a mere 10 seconds before retreating in tandem with an outburst of squealing more redolent of a group of 12-year old girls. It’s back to the towels, where we eventually pass out to the sound of woozy indie music and gentle waves lapping against the shore.
We awake, and sluggishly make our way to the beachside restaurant for an early dinner. The views, if you’ll forgive the surfeit of unkempt genitalia on show, are wonderful, and the food – freshly caught Bacalao served with chips and steamed veg – and accompanying mojitos go down very well indeed.
As the last of the sun’s rays finally disappears behind the craggy overhang, we concede that it is time to leave. We cram ourselves back into the Fiesta and begin the steady climb to the highway.
The car boot is wide open, and none of us have noticed.
“Maletero abierto?” my friend says bewilderedly as she points to the dashboard.
“Shit. The boot’s open” replies another, as we suddenly break.
We each envisage a snowboard skidding its way down the hill and ending up beneath the wheel of an unsuspecting vehicle. Fortunately, all skis and snowboards are still with us, but we learn from the next car to arrive that a Tupperware box had been narrowly averted a few corners back. It was mine.
“Step on it” I tell my friend, “we are not leaving without it”. I’m not joking – that Tupperware box is an essential vessel for mountain fodder and I’d be hard-pressed to find another one as good. Thankfully, the box is retrieved and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The journey recommences.
Stuck in heavy traffic. Not looking good for getting the car back to the hire office (at Granada airport) on time.
Made it – with fifteen minutes to spare, though we have just missed the bus back to Granada city centre and must wait for another that leaves at 23.00pm. No matter. We crumple to a heap among our bags, boards and skis and reflect on what has been a truly epic day. Mission complete.
The trip was well worth doing, despite my initial uncertainty, and will most definitely be repeated next season. Unfortunately it also marked our last day at the Sierra Nevada for this season, which by the way, has been brilliant, even if I did only make it up six times.
Here’s a breakdown of the cost of our ‘piste 2 playa’ daytrip:
Car Hire: €35
Car Hire Insurance (optional): €36
Total (split between four): €115
Ski pass: €41
Parking Fee (between four): €10
Ski rental (if you don’t have your own equipment): €20
Lunch at the beach: €11
Two mojitos: €10
Have you ever been to the Sierra Nevada and the beach on the same day?