WHEN he first arrived on the slopes at the age of 10 it took well over an hour to get there from Granada and the ski lifts comprised one stretch of wire that dragged you about 200 metres.

“It was pretty artisanal and rudimentary to say the least,” explains Juan Luis Hernandez, who frequently came up to ski with some of his six older brothers.

“You couldn’t rent skis and there was hardly anywhere to eat or stay, but there was something very special about being in the mountains,” he continues.

He had soon bought his own set of wooden skis – which he still has today – and in 1969 came up to start his first job.

Some four decades later and the amiable Granadino is running Spain’s biggest ski school.

With 80 teachers and countless ancillary staff, the Escuela Oficial de Esqui, is even bigger than any of its counterparts in the Pyrenees.

“And we have around a dozen different nationalities and everyone is required to speak English,” he stresses from his plush new office by Borreguiles ski lift and overlooking the resort’s main square.

“In fact if they can’t speak English we don’t hire them.”

This has become increasingly important over the last few decades with British being the second most important group of visitors to the slopes, alongside the Portuguese.

“And on top of this you have all the other northern Europeans who all speak English,” he adds.

“And now we have the Russians arriving, so we have hired a Russian journalist from the coast to work in our reception.”

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