When you arrive in Andorra from Toulouse, through the valley of the Ariège, it is brought to a complete and immediate change of scenery. The road described in the last few kilometres of sweeping curves, landscape, lonely, mountains peeled almost desert-like. And then there’s a border post, disproportionate as it crosses panting – it has a little lost the habit – conscious to leave at the same time France, but also Europe, of which the principality is not a member State. Stuck in a circus of mountains between France and Spain, the country has two passions, the trade in zero-rated activity, which has transformed its cities in large supermarkets, and skiing, which the area covers a third of its territory!

“The ski instruction is compulsory from kindergarten until the end of the studies,” says Marco, a young Andorran in charge of the social networks of the station of Grandvalira. It was well understood, the mountain is in the genes of 25,000 compatriots on the 80 000 inhabitants of the country. A State led by two co-princes, the president of the French Republic and the bishop of Seu d’urgell, the first town on the Spanish side.

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Thanks to this double patronage, inherited from the French side of the count of Foix, the country has secured its independence. Without the signature of two sovereign, no law is promulgated. The prelate is the most active and has considerable influence on the national life, with the result that, in particular, the absence of casino and money games in Andorra… A local particularism, which does not stop this small country and its inhabitants to look for an art of living, festive and opulent up to the ski slopes.

The wooden chalets are almost absent from the landscape of the mountains, and for the benefit of granite houses with roofs of slate.

Don’t look for the village of Grandvalira, its belfry and the town hall. It does not exist. The station with 210 km of slopes, presented by a clever formula marketing as “the most important south of Europe”, which encompasses six sectors, i.e. six gates of entry for access to his field: The Not-of-the-Box, the closest to France, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo and Encamp. Each has a front of snow on which a range of identical equipment: parking, ski lifts, ski school, child care centre, help centre, bars and restaurants. An organization confusing winter sports for the French. In addition to a planning that is different. The wooden chalets are almost absent from the landscape of the mountains, and for the benefit of granite houses with roofs of slate. Side hotels, they are luxurious, built in noble materials, interior decoration very neat. Created fifteen years ago, Grandvalira is, therefore, a ghost whose name defines just one brand.

once on the massif, you will quickly forget the area on which you can ski. As the field is very homogeneous and is located between 2 560 m (the peak Llosada) and 1 500 m (Canillo). Tracks instead of XXL, a bit like fields of snow, emerges sometimes a borda, home of shepherd. One discovers sublime views. The finest point of view is at the top of the pic Blanc (2528 m) from where one plunges into a plumb ruffling on the city of the Not-of-the-Box. A red track, the Directa 1, fairly sporty, leads to it. Sometimes, a change of scenery, a forest path winds its way between the black pines and fir trees, green needles sprinkled with snow, as on the Cami de Pessons, a track that leads to the summit of Cubil up to the beautiful lake Pessons. The 129 slopes of Grandvalira are rather easy skiing with 49 blue and 20 green. The 41 red runs often justify their colour by the presence of one or two walls. Once these difficulties have been taken, we slide on slopes that are less rugged, which is closer to the blue slopes. In practice, this is very nice on this field, it is the length of the descents, rarely interspersed by the use of a lift. The longest, Gall de Bosc, from Tosa dels Espiolets and then descends to the entrance door of Soldeu on more than 8.2 km. The children have their own track, very playful, named “Imaginarium”, spinning in the trees through the arches of coloured fabrics and with games of skill. As for the skiers very experienced, 19 black tracks give them good emotions, which Aliga and Avet, the altitude difference is impressive. They will host the final of the world Cup alpine skiing, 2019 from 11 to 17 march.

A skiing comfort and luxurious

“In Andorra, the Catalans give the” the ” after-ski festive with an array of bars to champagne or oysters arranged on terraces outside and taken away by a DJ from Ibiza.”

skiing in andorra, its customer base is Spanish, which made up 50 % of the skiers, has developed a very high-end, little customary in the Pyrenees. It is Top Class, VIP service exclusive accessible with the booking of ski courses of at least 4 hours. It begins at the exit of his hotel where a private car with driver picks you up and takes you on one of the six sectors of the station entrance, each equipped with a chalet Top Class. There is a cloakroom with a local ski heated, showers, a massage room, a lounge area with comfortable sofas and a minibar. On the slopes, in addition to a privileged access to the ski lift mechanic without waiting, a video of your descent is carried out, viewed in the end of the course on the screen of the chalet. You can also request to book a restaurant or to enjoy a companion guide for the shopping of after-ski. This concierge snow can organize a variety of experiences, such as removal by a helicopter to a summit of the slopes. The practice, prohibited in France, is permitted in Andorra, but very strictly regulated. Access to the service Top Class with a price, of 267 euros for the half day (4 hours), 402,50 euros for a full day (8 hours). At Grandvalira, the luxury is also in the outstanding quality of the restoration on the tracks: more than 60 bars and restaurants of high altitude semi-gastronomic, and often very accessible, price wise, because of the absence of VAT and taxes on alcohol. Distributions free of hot soup are also arranged to warm a skier, for whom the station takes great care. The smaller flat, for example, is the subject of a pull-rope…

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In Andorra, the Catalans give the “the” after-ski festive with an array of bars to champagne or oysters arranged on terraces outside and taken away by a DJ who came from the temples of music of Ibiza. Up to two thousand people are partying (Saturday night) at the’Abarset (El Tarter), the most well-known. A new address, The Post Amélie (Encamp), displays of ambitious promises with tapas, oysters and champagne. Other choices that are more magic again, spinning in Andorra la vella (the capital), located fifteen minutes away from Grandvalira, the heart of the city is dedicated to the duty-free shopping. There opens to the closure of the tracks (17 hours) the brand new museum a resident in the most famous of the principality of monaco, the baroness Thyssen, whose art collection would be 1 400 works. Thirty is presented in this museum, dubbed the “Carmen Thyssen Andorra”, through temporary exhibitions and thematic. “Femina Feminae” aims (until 10 September) to reveal different aspects of femininity in the painting. A few masterpieces, Béraud to Delaunay, illustrate the point.

Pass chairlifts on the walls of a prestigious art museum is a unique experience that offers an alternative to the après-ski tradition. The car is essential in Andorra, because, even if the distances are short, we crossed the country in 1: 30 without rushing, public transport is almost non-existent. Andorrans love big engined cars and the 4 × 4 that gasoline without tax, 1 euro per litre, making it very popular.

DIARY

Aim for Toulouse then take the shuttle direct from the airport of Toulouse-Blagnac airport and the train station of Toulouse-Matabiau (36 €) with Andbus. Count 2 h 30. www.andorrabybus.com

The only 5-star hotel in the Pyrenees, stamped Leading Hotel of the Word, The Sport Hotels Hermitage is in Soldeu, one of the sectors of Grandvalira. In the Face of Avet, world Cup track, open 135 rooms and suites, luxuriously appointed. A spa of 5 000 m2 and 8 restaurants add to the extravagance of the place. Ski room at the foot of the slopes with open bar. Of 360 € 1 065 €. Tel.: 00 376 87 06 70 ; www.sporthotels.ad

Another address, in the sector of Grau Roig, Grau Roig Hotel, a 4 stars hotel, completely renovated, ski to the feet. Of 295 € to 592 €. Tel.: 00 376 75 55 56 ; www.hotelgrauroig.com

It must be lunch at the Vodka Bar, an old barn , at the foot of the track Montmalùs, where you will be served escudella (pot-au-feu, andoran). Around 40 €. Tel.: 00 376 346 620. Dinner at the Refuge of the lake Pessons, alpine farm, wood fire and local products in a plate, unique menu at 100 € with drinks, the rise in night-time snow groomer understood. Tel.: 00 376 321 683.

Day: 51 € (adult), 46 € (12-17 years old), 35 € (5-12 years old). Day Six: 270,60 € (adult), 242,40 € (12-17 years), 181,80 € (5-12 years old). The resort closes on April 21.

tourist Office: 00 376 891 800. www.grandvalira.com

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