With fresh snow flurries and breath-taking mountain scenery in the heart of the Pyrenees, venture to Spain's ski capital for a white winter in Lleida
Strap on your skis to discover arguably the most perfect pistes in Spain, with alpine runs and cross-country jaunts to suit every ability. Better yet, these superb slopes come with excellent hotels, fun apres ski and truly majestic mountain scenery. Discover them now, before the rest of the world catches on...
Jump feet first off the ski lift and spout up a snow flurry as you race down pearl-white tracks over the Pyrenees mountains. Whether it's your first time taking to the slopes or you're looking to twist and turn on red-routes, these alpine resorts are ideal for the whole family and welcoming to all abilities.
Baqueira Beret boasts the highest quality luxury accommodation and aprés ski offerings – including the spectacular mountainside Moët winter lounge – which makes it the resort of choice for the Spanish Royal family.
Fortunately, despite its upscale vibe, it's still excellent value compared to most of Europe's other swanky resorts – a bottle of fine local red for £5, anyone? The skiing is great, too. Sprawled on the Pyrenees' northern slopes, Baqueira Beret is slathered in abundant powder all season long, and offers both lovely long runs for all levels and some daredevil off-piste-ing.
Best for: Sophistication and scope of slopes
Max altitude: 2,510m Pistes: 105 Alpine ski runs: 152km Cross-country: 7km
Breathtaking in both altitude and mountain splendour, Boí Taüll has the highest alpine ski runs in the Pyrenees – even the lowest slopes of this north-facing resort are above 2,000m. This means superb, high-quality snow is a given, and the views are hard to beat. Boí Taull is also well spread out, so never feels overcrowded. It offers all kinds of skiing, from beginner slopes and an excellent ski school to competition-level pistes and one of the top Pyrenees snow parks, where freeriders can hone their tricks and flicks.
Best for: Dizzy heights and super snow
Max altitude: 2,751m Pistes: 43 Alpine ski runs: 45km
Nestled next to the high, tree-cloaked peaks of the Aiguestortes and Estany de Sant Maurici National Park, this super ski resort boasts an enviable location. It's also very cool for kids and was awarded an official 'Family Tourism Destination' seal of approval. It has a welcoming vibe and multiple ski schools, as well as fun, easy runs and a Play Park where children can try tubing, sledging and messing about in the toy-filled snow garden. Or you could strap on a pair of snowshoes and trek off into Espot Esquí's fairytale forests.
Best for: Family fun
Max altitude: 2,500m Pistes: 22 Alpine ski runs: 25km
Some say Port Ainé offers the best powder in the Pyrenees. With its largely north-facing slopes and magnificent location, tucked under 2,440m Pic de l'Orri, it certainly offers first-class conditions right through the winter season. Keen skiers don't even have to come off the mountain – the resort is home to Port Ainé 2000, the Pyrenees' highest hotel. A real draw is the pioneering snow park, which has an innovative design, dedicated lifts and areas for all abilities. Newbie freestylers can learn on the Initiation Slopestyle run while improvers and pros can try the high jumps and obstacles of the Streetline and Slopestyle PRO courses.
Best for: Freestylers of all abilities
Max altitude: 2,440m Pistes: 25 Alpine ski runs: 27km
With a plum location in Central Catalonia's dramatic pre-Pyrenees, Port del Comte offers some of the most accessible snow fun around – Barcelona Airport is only a little over an hour away, making ski day trips easily doable if you're time-poor. However, despite its convenience, this family-friendly resort never feels too busy, thanks to its extensive range of runs – seven green, 11 blue, 13 red and six black – plus scope for getting off-piste amid the Spanish pine. The snow is reliable, too, with over 250 cannons on-site to pump out plenty of artificial powder if required.
Best for: Accessible adventures
Max altitude: 2,400m Pistes: 37 Alpine ski runs: 50km
Cosy, compact Tavascan is less a ski resort and more a refreshing immersion in pristine wilderness. It sits in the middle of Alt Pirineu Natural Park, an extensive protected area of mighty mountains and rich cultural heritage that can be traversed via a range of Nordic ski circuits, alpine pistes and even extreme skiing. Enrol at the trailblazing Tavascan Alpine Centre to learn everything from ski and snowboarding basics to advanced mountaineering techniques.
Best for: All sorts of skiing
Max altitude: 2,250m Pistes: 7 Alpine ski runs: 5km Cross-country: 14km
Take the scenic route over freshly set snow plains and meander through pine forests, immersed in a mountain scenery backdrop. If you're seeking a challenging glide and to escape the crowds then head to the wilderness with these cross-country resorts.
Nestled in the Cerdanya Valley, on the border of France and Andorra, the two ski centres of Aransa and Lles de Cerdanya merge to create an enormous playground for Nordic skiing and snowshoeing. The extensive network of trails weaves amid snow-cloaked meadows, thick pine forest and majestic mountain scenery. There are family-friendly routes as well as more testing possibilities. Toughest is El Mirador, a 10km adventure that reaches a high-point of 2,150m but rewards with far-reaching views of the El Cadí sierra.
Best for: Cool cross-country exploration
Both resorts - Max altitude: 2,916m Cross-country: 67km Snowshoeing: 39km
Strapping on your Nordic skis and setting off along the sparkling trails of Sant Joan de l'Erm is a bit like swooshing straight into a Christmas card. The resort, located in the scenic expanse of Alt Pirineu Natural Park, is a winter wonderland of snow-draped Scots pine, spruce, fir and birch. Routes reach over 2,000m above sea level, offering fresh air, mountain vistas and good workouts. Refuel with copious amounts of creamy local Urgélia, the only Catalonian cheese to have Protected Designation of Origin status.
Best for: Fragrant forest fun
Max altitude: 2,080m Cross-country: 40km Snowshoeing: 5km
Only 140km from Barcelona, Tuixent-La Vansa offers easily accessible and absolutely beautiful Nordic skiing. The resort's views – of the distinctive two-pronged peak of Pedraforca and the sweeping El Cadí sierra – provide a spectacular backdrop to cross-country skiing of all levels. There are challenging trails, but also routes suitable for beginners as well as a ski school. Or sign up for some of the other activities: take a snowshoe tramp, join a treasure hunt or have a go at building your own igloo.
Best for: Nordic circuits with spectacular views
Max altitude: 2,150m Cross-country: 25km Snowshoeing: 11.5km
Deep within Alt Pirineu Natural Park, Virós-Vallferrera offers a different take on winter recreation. This resort is well off the beaten track, set in a landscape where Mother Nature is definitely in charge. There are exhilarating Nordic trails that will take you into the wilderness. You can also mush a dogsled, orienteer amid the snow-cloaked trees, whoosh down the hillsides on a traditional sleigh and head out with a guide to track some of the park's many creatures. Sleep at the cosy Gall Fer refuge, nested at an altitude of 1,690m, for the most complete immersion in the mountains.
Best for: Natural beauty and overnight adventures
Max altitude: 2,200 metres Cross-country: 23km Snowshoeing: 16km
Main image credit: Baqueira Beret (F.Tur)
As well as ski resorts, the Lleida Pyrenees offer a wide range of activities organised by companies specialising in wintersports. Enjoy the snow and nature in total freedom and with the fullest of guarantees.
For more information see: esports.aralleida.com
This article was supported by the Catalan Tourist Board (www.catalunya.com) but it is impartial and independent, just like all Wanderlust editorial.
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