Andorra Skiing and Boarding

This tiny country made its living for years smuggling. Today it's a center for duty-free merchandise, decent skiing, great prices and some dandy food.  

More than most winter sports countries, Andorra invites generalizations. Because it's such a small country, all the resort villages are remarkably similar, having almost all the same pluses and minuses: low prices (including duty-free goods), ugly villages, lively bars and clubs, good ski schools, fairly reliable snow, young clientele, a lot of Brits, mainly easy, well groomed, and often busy slopes with plenty of snowmaking facilities and mediocre mountain restaurants, are all fairly typical of Andorran resorts across the board.

There's an immediate temptation to compare Andorra to Eastern Europe. Some of the above pluses and minuses would be appropriate to Borovets and company, too. But Andorra really is in a different league. It is somewhat more expensive (though still cheap by Alpine standards), has much better lifts and other resort infrastructure, much livelier nightlife, attracts a mostly young and lively clientele rather than families, and has more reliable snow.

In recent years there has been substantial investment in efficient, modern lifts and this year's reporters have been extremely complimentary about the new lifts and the high standard of piste maintenance and grooming.

As with most places that draw a young crowd, boarding has a big following in Andorra. Most of the resorts now boast fun-parks and half-pipes amongst their facilities, and many areas are installing more chairs and gondolas. Tuition is excellent, and there is a lively apr├Ęs-board scene, with good cheap bars and pumping clubs.

What's Great
What's Not-So-Great

+ Cheap packages; duty free prices in resort

+ Excellent choice for beginners and early intermediates, with resorts that offer good tuition, good piste grooming and mountains that won't frighten

+ Lots of efficient, modern new lifts

+ Lively nightlife with cheap drinks and generous measures of spirits

+ Resorts close enough to each other - and some are now linked - so you can sample at least one other during a week

- Fairly limited slopes, with little to challenge experts

- Most resorts have little in the way of charm, and Soldeu and Pas de la Casa are sited on the busy main road through the country

- Nightlife tends to revolve around booze and clubs - not much variety and can get rowdy at night