WHEN he first arrived on the slopes at the age of ten 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.

Escuela Oficial de Esqui
Escuela Oficial de Esqui

“It was pretty artisanal and rudimentary to say the least,” explains ski veteran Juan Luis Hernandez, who frequently came up to ski with 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 the year 1969 came up to start his first job.

Some four decades later and the amiable Granadino is now running Spain’s biggest ski school, the Escuela Oficial de Esqui, which is bigger than most of its counterparts in the Pyrenees.

Now, hitting its 30th anniversary this season, its dozens of instructors counts on numerous languages and hundreds of years of experience.

“We have around a dozen different nationalities and everyone is required to speak English,” he stresses from his office by Borreguiles ski lift 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.

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