Being on top of a snow covered mountain against a backdrop of brilliant blue skies, serene silence and a view of snow covered mountain tops give you an immense sense of peace. It is one of the reasons why I love skiing so much. The other is the absolute thrill of speeding down a ski run over fresh powder and the buzz from conquering a steep run.
Skiing is one of my favourite activity holidays and I recently had the chance to ski in a totally new ski area in Catalonia, Spain. For British skiers, this ski area is not very well known. Just 3 hours north of Barcelona, this is a ski area that is devoid of British tourists. On this trip, we skied and snowboarded at 2 resorts, Boi Taull and Port Aine. One of the better known and larger resorts in this region is Baquiera Beret where the Spanish royal family ski. The day before we arrived, they had a heavy day of snow and as the weather had cleared leaving sunny blue skies, this made for perfect spring skiing conditions.
About the Boi Taull
The first resort that we visited was Boi Taull.
Centuries before Boi Taull became a ski resort, it was one of the villages inhabited by the Lombards from North Italy, choosing to make their home in the mountains as a deterrent against attacks and a safe spot to retreat to after fighting Saracens on the plains. Their legacy remains with 9 Romanesque churches in the area. One of these churches St Climent is the middle of the village and has been given Unesco World Heritage Sites Status. It’s well worth a visit to this church to see the very innovative interactive video display where they overlay videos over the faded frescos they found in the church.
A lot of the original frescos have been removed and preserved in a museum in Barcelona. The video cleverly reimagines the frescos as vibrant colourful paintings as it might have looked originally and really transports you back in time. Well worth a climb up the bell tower too where you get some great views of the mountains and the village.
Skiing in Boi Taull
Boi Taull is the highest ski resort in the region, with over 45kms of pistes, 15 lifts and a good number of blue, red and black runs for all ski levels. They have a ski school with a nursery slope that caters to kids and beginners. All runs end in the village which makes this a great resort for families who want to ski together or meet at the restaurant at the bottom. The ski school has English speaking instructors and guides too.
The ski lifts are a short drive away from our hotel and it’s easily accessible as there are regular shuttles. We were there on a weekday and the resort was quiet save for a few school groups. There were no queues at any of the fast chairlifts and almost every run was empty which makes a real change from the overcrowded ski resorts in France. Our ski guide took us on a tour of the red and black runs. The runs were long enough to be a treat for intermediate skiers. The black run was not overly long and was a treat to ski with the new snow. The resort had a dedicated ski area for beginners.
Skiing here is March is brilliant as we had blazing sunshine, blue skies and it was so warm that we only needed a t-shirt and a jacket instead of layers of fleece. Definitely a lot warmer than spring skiing in the Alps.
Accommodation and restaurants in Boi Taull
There are 6 hotels in the resort with a wide range of accommodation to suite all budgets. I stayed at the Aparthotel Augusta in a lovely room with a sitting room that has a sofa bed and a kitchenette, great for a family or small group. The views from the window over the valley is spectacular. This is one of the more luxurious options at the resort and they also have a spa with a swimming pool, steam and sauna to sooth the post ski soreness.
There are a handful of restaurants and pubs in the resort and a “disco” where all the staff seem to hang out. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the energy to check it out so I can’t vouch for this. We had dinner at the restaurant in the hotel which had a European menu with a few local dishes. Unfortunately, there weren’t too many Catalonian dishes available. The dinner option at the hotel is very reasonably priced for a 3 course menu at below €20 per person.
A buffet breakfast is served in the restaurant where they have some some delicious churros with hot chocolate, Catalonion charcuterie and the usual continental fare. Our other meal was at the Tribulosi German beer bar which seemed to have the largest selection of beers ever. The menu is about an inch thick, no kidding. They serve a selection of tapas and we also had a “raclette” but with Morbier cheese instead and some local Catalonian Charcuterie.
Skiing in Port Aine
Port Aine is the second resort we skied at and is a short drive from Boi Taull and Barcelona. It is a self contained resort with a hotel, restaurant, cafe and sun terrace in one complex. We were there on a weekend and it was full of day trippers from the city. Even then, the slopes were not that crowded.
Port Aine was one of the first resorts built in the Catalonian Pyrenees and is said to have the best snow in the Spanish Pyrenees as most of its slopes are North facing. It is a bit smaller than Boi Taull but it still has over 44 kms of pistes. There are only 9 lifts and from the top of the highest peak here you can see the highest peak in the Pyrenees and also the pass used by refugees during World War II.
The ski rental area is attached to the hotel and all the main runs are accessible by fast chair lifts just off the sun terrace. The main ski school area for is right in front of the hotel and they have a sizable nursery slope for beginners. Kids are well catered for with lots of activities like tubbing and sleighs. The English speaking ski instructors that we met here were young and very enthusiastic. It was a bit of a novelty for them to meet our group of British skiers and snowboarders.
The longer red and black slopes can be reached by taking a couple of chair lifts to the top. There is a long black run from the peak to the bottom and it will take you about 10 minutes to ski that . It is not that steep but it is quite narrow, not the most fun to ski on. If you prefer something more challenging, there are a couple more blacks slopes that are much more interesting to ski on although they may be a bit more red than black. If there is fresh snow, there is a lot of off piste skiing to be had as the whole ski area is like a big bowl, not unlike the ski resorts like Sugar Bowl in Lake Tahoe.
They also have an area called the Snowpark where you can freestyle, practice jumping and doing tricks and is a very popular attraction at this resort. They regularly hold competitions here and it’s the only part of the slope that has blaring pop music. There are different slopes for a wide variety of ski levels and would suit families really well. It might not have a big enough ski area for a week long stay but the ski passes allow you access to a couple of other ski resorts in the area.
Other activities in Port Aine
Besides skiing and snowboarding, you can do some guided snow shoeing and snowmobiling. The area around the ski resort is designated a Natural Park and is a very popular area for hiking in the summer. Through the season they hold snowboarding camps and some yoga and skiing weeks too. You can get more information about the resort here:
Where to stay in Port Aine
We stayed at the Hotel Port Aine 2000 which is right in the middle of the resort. It has a large dining room and is walking distance from all the chair lifts. The room I had was quite spacious with twin beds and a pull out sofa. All the meals are taken in the massive dining room or on the terrace and the food is served buffet style with a selection of regional wine and drinks on the table. Again, not a lot of Catalonian dishes here and the dishes served are mainly European.
The views from every angle of Port Aine are spectacular and I so many pictures as I can’t get enough of the pristine white snow and blue skies combination. Here is another one.
If you are a looking for a family friendly skiing holiday, you should consider the ski resorts in Catalonian Pyrenees. In my opinion, they certainly make a more interesting alternative to the purpose built resorts of France and you can probably get a lot more value for money too.
EatCookExplore was a guest of the Catalonia Tourism