Andorra

11th January 2008 at 00:00
If you remember Andorra as the cheap and cheerful Pyrenean duty-free ski haven of your first ski trip, you are in for some bad news. A 4 per cent sales tax was imposed a couple of years ago and the price of lift passes has reached French levels.

The good news is that the apres-ski scene is still affordable, with cheap drinks and clubbing and it's still one of the first places families and beginners should look for inexpensive ski packages. Other plus points are mother-tongue tuition, with ski schools stuffed with friendly, expert Canadian, Kiwi and British teachers. More than pound;150 million has been spent in the past decade on facilities.

Vallnord (00 376 878 000, www.vallnord.com), which incorporates Pal, Arinsal, Ordino and Arcalis, has more than 70 slopes, three freeride zones, one snow park and two freestyle areas to accommodate mushing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, sledging and skibiking, with six areas set aside for children and more than 20 restaurants, covered by one ski pass.

Similarly, a pass covering Grandvalira (00 376 808 900, www.grandvalira.com) gives access to 110 pistes, including 22 black runs, touring trails, new slopeside restaurants and children's ski clubs, accessible from Pas de la Casa, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo and Encamp.

A new adventure centre in Espiolets will offer dog sleigh rides and paragliding; there's snowbiking for children at Abelletes, while spa seekers should make for Caldea, the largest natural mountain hot spring centre in Europe, in a glass pyramid 5km away from the Grandvalira ski area. Independent skiers can get to the slopes via daily shuttlebuses from Barcelona airport. Toulouse, Carcassonne, Girona and Reus airports are also within reach

Readers recommend

Andorra was brilliant for my boyfriend when he was a beginner, he came on such a long way in a week. Most of the instructors are English, or speak it fluently, so there are no language problems. It's also cheaper than many of the Alpine resorts. - Ashley, London

Arinsal is probably one of the best places for beginners. Get yourself booked into the ski school and by the end of the week you'll be snowploughing like a natural. The apres-ski is fab as well. - Gemma, Dewsbury

We went to Pas de la Casa (party central, if that's your cup of tea) and Soldeu (much quieter). Many of the instructors are British, and the non-British ones will speak English fluently, so you should progress quicker than if there was a language barrier. The catering is heavenly too: there are amazing restaurants, all really cheap and welcoming. - Winnie, Gloucestershire.

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