Sun and Snow
Did you know that after Switzerland Spain is Europe's most mountainous country? Whilst famous mainly for tourism to the sunny costas, few people are aware of the exciting prospects for skiers in Spain.
The best Spanish ski resorts are in the Pyrenees, which are comparable with the mid-sized Alpine resorts. Further south, above Granada in Andalucia is the Sierra Nevada, which in spite of its sunny climate has hosted the World Alpine Ski Championships in 1996.
The Sierra Nevada is Spain's number one ski destination. Only two hours drive away from the Costa del Sol it offers some of the finest pistes and snow you can find on the Iberian Peninsula.
There are not many places in the world where you can sunbathe on a beach in the morning and go skiing or snowboarding in the afternoon, but with the Costa del Sol and Sierra Nevada it is very easy to do! There are over 65 kms of ski slopes in the ski resorts of the Sierra Nevada and you can expect snow for up to six months a year.
Sierra Nevada is ideal for all ski and snowboard fanatics and the resort caters for everyone from beginners to experts. The slopes range from simple to very difficult - the El Rio slope being the famous daredevil piste - a 3km near vertical drop! There are also numerous ski schools and equipment hire shops have everything you need can be hired out on a daily basis. The shops within the ski resort are normally open from 9am to 5pm and you can also ski at night over weekends and during holiday periods, it's a fantastic experience.
But the fun doesn't stop when the slopes shut. Sierra Nevada's ski resorts have rows upon rows of restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs and nightclubs... All of which fill up with skiers and snowboarders every evening, all out to relax and enjoy themselves in the energetic après-ski atmosphere.
Over the past few years snowboarding has boomed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, as it is an ideal place to practice the sport. There is also a half pipe being built with availability dependant on snow conditions.
The Sierra Nevada resort also has lots of snowboarding shops selling all the latest equipment. Snowboarding lessons (for all levels) are also available. Snowboarding is allowed on the entire mountain, but limited in the designated beginner ski area. There is a snowboard school and plenty of snowboard rental shops. The Borreguiles zone has a good boarder cross, but real riders go to the Laguna de Yeguas to head off-piste and play on the ridges and natural banked sides. After cruising down Laguna de Yeguas take the Dilar chairlift to the ridge and choose your spot to drop back into the bowl carving beneath the chair you just rode.
The facts: Sierra Nevada is located in Southern Spain in the Penibético Mountain Range and close to the Mankind Heritage City of Granada. Sierra Nevada is at an altitude of 2100 m with lifts going up to 3282 m. The ski resort is divided in 6 ski areas: Veleta, Laguna de las Yeguas, Borreguiles, Loma DÃlar, Parador y Rao. There are 30 lifts (2 Gondolas, 15 Chairlifts, 5 Surface lifts and 8 Magic Carpets) and 103 pistes (16 green, 35 blue, 43 red, 9 black). The combined skiing area is 94.8 km. The lift capacity is 49,545 skiers per hour. Sierra Nevada also offers 1 Snowpark and 1 Activity Area called Mirlo Blanco. The ski season generally lasts from December to May.