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Sierra Nevada Day Trip: General Info, Prices, Tips & Recommendations

I’ll be honest: ‘skiing’ and ‘Spain’ were two words I had never used in the same sentence prior to my coming here. One pertained to package holidays in the French Alps, the other to fancy football and summer breaks on the beach.  Then, several weeks into my expat journey a friend said ‘Sierra Nevada’ and that all changed.

‘What? A ski resort in southern Spain? You are joking?’ I scoffed.

‘Nope’ replied friend. ‘Not joking. Why don’t you go and see for yourself?’

So I did. Three weeks later I was peering down the front face of the Sierra Nevada from its 3400m summit, strapped into my snowboard, ready to tear my way down to the bottom. Amazing, considering just a week before I had been sunbathing in 20°+ temperatures.

Enjoyable as it was, that particular occasion had been rather a last minute and hastily organised excursion; had I not let blind excitement get in the way of better judgment I might have saved a few pennies. Truth is, a day in the Sierra is a costly one, whether you have your own equipment or not, and if you’re in Spain for a quick getaway, a whole year or indefinitely, chances are you’ll be here on a budget.

So after two years’ experience as a Sierra Nevada regular, I’ve finally cobbled together a breakdown of general info, prices, tips and recommendations, so that you can find all the information you need in one frank and friendly place.

Let’s get started.

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Yours truly at The Sierra Nevada last December

General Info

 A few facts

  • The Sierra Nevada ski resort is constructed on the north side of Veleta, the third highest peak in Spain.
  • It is the most southerly ski resort in Europe and the highest in Spain.
  • The resort hosted the 1996 Alpine World Ski Championships and continues to host top-level races at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup.
  • A season typically lasts from late November until early May.
  • The resort is situated 27km away from Granada and 100km away from the Costa Tropical, meaning it is possible to ski and sunbathe on the beach on the same day.
  • The lowest point of the resort is 2100m and the highest 3,398m above sea level.
  • The resort is run by a private-public enterprise called Cetursa Sierra Nevada, S.A.
  • The resort spans 100km of alpine skiing runs.
  • There are 115 runs in total: 50 red; 40 blue; 16 green and 9 black.
  • There are 2 cable cars, both of which link Pradollano to the mid-station Borreguiles, 17 chairlifts, 2 T-bar lifts and 2 magic carpets.
  • There is one superpark and a halfpipe.

(Source: Wikipedia)

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The Sierra Nevada, Andalucía

Getting There

There are two ways of getting to the Sierra Nevada: by car or by bus. Let’s start with the latter. Buses leave from Granada bus station for the Sierra Nevada every day. The journey takes around 50 minutes and the current timetable is as follows:

Granada – Sierra Nevada

Mon – Fri:   08.00      10.00      ——       17.00

Sat – Sun:   08.00      10.00      15.00       17.00

Sierra Nevada – Granada

Mon – Fri:   09.00      —–      16.00      18.30

Sat – Sun:  09.00      13.00      16.00      18.30

The price of a single ticket is €5, and a return €9. Tickets can either be booked in advance on alsa.es or paid for on the day, providing you arrive with plenty of time to spare. Often the queue for tickets is enormous in the half hour leading up to the scheduled departure time, particularly for the 8am bus. The last thing you want is to be slithering along at a snail’s pace while the minutes on the clock tick past. Believe me, it is an awful feeling, especially when you miss it.

If, on the other hand, you or a member of your gang owns a car, then this is a much better option. Find your way out of Granada by heading towards Calle Neptuno or, if this is too hard to find, ask a local to point you in the direction of Mae West, a nightclub whose whereabouts is known to virtually everybody. Once here, take the third exit on the roundabout so that you join the A-395 motorway, where you should keep right to ensure you are heading in the right direction (the left lane will bring you back into Granada). Eventually, you’ll begin the steep climb up to the resort, where – at least towards the top – you’ll doubtless encounter a fair bit of traffic. Carry on until you reach Pradollano, where you will be guided to the car park.

Alternatively, if you neither own a car nor want to take the bus, it might be worth considering sites like blablacar.es or amovens.es, where rides are sometimes posted by drivers looking to make a saving on petrol, the total cost of which (for a return journey) tends to be around €15. Personally, I think that hiring a car would only be worthwhile if staying the night; picking it up in the morning before leaving is a hassle and it is easily the most expensive means of transport.

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With friends at the end of 2012-2013 season. Yes, we’re wearing onesies.

Prices

Parking

The cost of parking your vehicle depends on what ‘season’ the resort is in. During low season, the fee is €16 for anything between 10 and 24 hours, €18 for the same during mid season and €20 during high season. If you plan to spend less than 10 hours at the resort, click here for a list of prices by the hour.

Occasionally, during the week, there are free parking spaces further up the mountain (instead of following the signs into the car park, turn left and carry on climbing), though the chance of finding one is never guaranteed.

Forfait/Subidones

As with the parking fees, the cost of a lift ticket or – as it is translated to in Spanish – un forfait, varies according to the season. All public holidays and weekends except the opening weekend (promotion prices) and during April (low season/spring prices) are categorised as high season. All weekdays except during mid December and mid January (promotion prices) are categorised as low season. The standard cost of one forfait is €45 during high season and €43 during low season, which seems a bit pointless but there you go. Click here for more details regarding prices of forfaits.

Needless to say then, the cost of a lift ticket is ludicrously expensive. If you are a student, however, you’re in luck. Just sign up to Sierra Nevada’s official web page, create a profile and attach your matrícula, which you should have received when you first enrolled at Granada University. Doing this will qualify you for a subidon, which gets you five full days for only €145 – a deal not to be missed!

Ski-hire/clothes hire

Unsurprisingly, there is an abundance of ski hire shops in the Sierra Nevada and deciding which to choose is an unwanted headache (see below for my recommendation). The cost of hiring is pretty similar across the board: for skis (with poles)/a snowboard and boots, expect to pay anywhere between €15 and €40, depending on the level of quality you opt for. Waterproof trousers can also be hired from certain places, usually for around €10-15. I’ve never come across jackets for hire, but if you don’t have a proper skiing jacket then a decent anorak with plenty of layers underneath ought to do the trick.

If you’d rather do business before arriving, there’s always the option of hiring online before you go. In theory, this should mean that you’ll beat the queues and have your equipment ready and waiting to be used.

Ski School

There are a variety of ski schools in the Sierra Nevada, all of which offer a variety of options to choose from. Each school caters for all learners, from beginners right through to advanced. In the morning classes generally cost €40-45, as this is peak time, though during the afternoon some schools drop their prices to €25-30. These rates are for one-on-one classes – group rates are much lower.

Some schools even offer a class + ski-hire saver deal, which is ideal if you’ve never skied or snowboarded before. Click here for more details (unfortunately there is no English translation of this page).

Shopping

All shops in ski resorts routinely charge an unfathomable amount for just about anything they have on sale, and the Sierra Nevada, sadly, is no exception. Don’t be surprised to find Mars bars priced at €2 or multipacks of brioche for €3.50 in supermarkets. Ready made sandwiches/baguettes are cheaper than eating at a restaurant but are still expensive at about €4-5.

Although it is dear everywhere, I’d generally advise against buying ski/snowboarding equipment in Pradollano, as there will most likely be something just as good for a better price online or in Granada, such as the good people at Afterbang.

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Plaza Andalucia

Tips & Recommendations

Best runs for beginners, intermediate and experts

For obvious reasons, complete beginners are best sticking to the three beginner slopes directly in front of the Borreguiles mid-station. However these particular slopes quickly become clogged with zig-zagging ski schools and reckless I’ll-just-teach-myself types so I’d advise more advanced skiers/boarders to steer clear. Once you’ve got the hang of linking your turns, I’d recommend that you move on to a gentle blue run; el Cecilio off to the right, starting at the top of the Monachil chair would be ideal. It isn’t too long and brings you back to the mid-station, though be careful that you don’t accidentally take the Manazanilla red that runs parallel to it!

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Beginner Section

Generally speaking, the Sierra Nevada is perfect for intermediates. The mountain isn’t technical, and the wide-open nature of almost all of its runs allows for a lot of freedom, so most intermediates should be comfortable on any red and one or two of the blacks. The steeper reds are off to the left, coming own the Veleta ridge and a good black to get you started would be either la visera or el trampoline, both short, quick and accessed via the Emilio Reyes chair.

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View from la vuelta a zahareña

For the more advanced skier/boarder, there are several pistes worth checking out. My personal favourite is the long, winding agila (meaning ‘eel’) further down the left side of the mountain. This run necessitates the ability to make sharp turns at speed and chucks up a surprise every now and then. Moreover, it’s often very quiet since you have to traverse along the diagonal cauchiles (accessed via the Stadium chair) to get there. We snowboarders do not like doing this, but believe me, in this case it is worth it.

Elsewhere, a clutch of steep, rapid blacks can be found on the right side of the mountain, all of which come to a head at the lower Pradollano station. On a fresh powder day, there isn’t anywhere better to dig out massive carves, especially in the bowl beneath the blue villén. The far right side of Laguna also has some wide, often untracked pistes that are perfect for powder days, cartujo and monaguillo for example.

Buying from the street vendors

As soon as you arrive, you will surely notice the profusion of street vendors poking about the place. If you come by bus there will be one waiting when you step off it. Others lurk within the village centre. Generally, these guys do not try to rip you off; they know that you know (and if you don’t know then now you do) that their range of products are of a generally lower quality, so you will pay a fair price (which of course can be negotiated) for what you buy. I’ve friends who’ve bought gloves and sunglasses from these guys and they’ve served their purpose just fine, but they don’t expect them to last forever!

Eating and drinking

If you want to save money, don’t eat in restaurants. It’s as simple as that really. The cost of a burger and fries, for example, is usually in the region of €6 or €7. Taking your own sandwiches is a far more sensible idea and – if you want to get your money’s worth for the day – this also cuts down on lunchtime, as service at restaurants is often slow due to how busy it gets. I often take a bag and use one of the lockers found at the left hand side of the Borreguiles mid-station to store it in. That way, you can just ski down, grab your lunch, eat outside in the sun and rush off again. And it only costs €1 to use.

If you do want to push the boat out though, menus del día are perhaps the best way to go. Expect to pay around €9 or €10 for this at most restaurants, but this does include a starter, mains and either coffee or dessert.

At the end of the day, it’s always nice to kick back with a few beers and tapas somewhere. To keep costs down, I’d recommend 100 Montaditos, found on Plaza de Pradollano. The famously cut-rate franchise actually sticks to its normal prices, so big jarras of Cruz Campo set you back just €1.60 and any of their mouthwatering montaditos just as much if not less. Actually, on a Sunday everything – including the beer – sells for €1. Ordinarily I don’t go for Cruz Campo but at that price you can’t argue.

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That’s less than €7 right there… (Source: Trubble FlickrCC)

Ski-hire and Ski Schools

Personally, I’ve never had to hire equipment but friends of mine often use Intersport Riosport (a large, European based company) that offers fair prices for quality equipment. You can find it on Plaza Andalucía.

If you’re looking for native English-speaking instructors to teach you or your family/friends, I’d absolutely recommend The British Ski Centre, set up and co-run by two fully-qualified Brits who have more than fifteen years’ experience instructing in the Sierra Nevada. Click here to find out more about them.

Après Ski

Unless you’ve booked accommodation for the weekend, you are unlikely to properly experience Sierra Nevada’s après ski culture. There are of course various, lively bars to go to straight after the skiing is done for the day, El Golpe or Jaleo for example. But the real nightlife gets going later on at places like Mango and Sticky Fingers, where chupítos are aplenty, or Chimenea and Chicle, where you can use up whatever remaining energy you have left by dancing until 4 or 5 in the morning.

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Sierra Nevada Sunset

As for now, the winter has most definitely arrived here in Granada, meaning that – with a bit of luck – some snow won’t be too far behind either. There is already a base level and those ever-reliable snowmakers are working hard to keep the pistes fresh, but ultimately there is a massive dearth of snow at the moment. Skis crossed that changes soon!

Have you been to the Sierra Nevada recently? Do you have any more tips and recommendations? Please leave a comment icon smile Sierra Nevada Day Trip: General Info, Prices, Tips & Recommendations

Here’s last season’s official highlights video:

piste 2 playa, sierra nevada beach in a day, beach, cantarrijan, roadtrip

Project Piste 2 Playa: Granada’s Ultimate Daytrip

img 0959 copy Project Piste 2 Playa: Granadas Ultimate Daytrip

10.20am

img 0969 copy Project Piste 2 Playa: Granadas Ultimate Daytrip

15.55pm

“Esquiar por la mañana y tomar el sol en la playa por la tarde!”

­–

“Ski in the morning and sunbathe on the beach in the afternoon!”

That’s how the saying goes here in Granada. Personally, I had always been a little dubious. Not in the sense that I didn’t believe the feat was possible, just as to whether the trip was actually worth the hassle. I mean, snow-covered mountains, albeit much higher up than the stony beaches to the south, must surely be an indication of not-so-hot ground level temperatures? And all that travelling to and fro; hiring a car if you don’t already have one; and the cost of a lift pass that you’d only use for half a day? Hmm.

The idea seemed far-fetched, if not imprudent. But then I asked myself, where’s the fun in life if every now and again a little imprudence isn’t applied to an otherwise perfectly prudent situation? All it had taken was a sudden heat wave and for one friend to casually suggest the idea and I was sold; if there ever was a time to do it, that time was now (or then, rather). We would see this niggling and unproven myth busted right open, and not become disillusioned by mounting expenses or the inevitable struggle of having to tear ourselves away from the mountain come lunch time.

A car was hired for the weekend, which, split between four, wasn’t at all as costly as we had anticipated (see price breakdown below), and better still, the weekend’s weather forecast couldn’t have looked more promising.

The objective was simple: Arrive at the Sierra Nevada for around 08.30am in time for the first lift, ski relentlessly until 13.00pm, grab lunch, hit the road and be at the beach with beer in hand for 15.00pm. It was on.

P2P LOG

07.45am

We awake to crisp, cloudless skies, and begin the day with the galling task of having to wedge our skis, boards, boots, beach bags, sandwiches and springtime, animal-themed onesies into the back of our terribly cramped Ford Fiesta. Eventually, after an accidental detour into Granada’s one-way street maze, we are on our way.

09.40am

We finally shuffle into the Telecabina cable car and begin ascending the mountain, though we are already way behind schedule. Traffic had been scarce along the way but a combination of lengthy queuing, impromptu toilet breaks and my apparent inability to dress myself into a giraffe suit had held us up. Sun is shining brightly though, and it’s smiles all round.

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09.55am

The snow, as we had expected, is pure slush, which means gathering speed will be hard, but the pistes are looking surprisingly bare, given that it’s a Sunday. Slush can still be fun anyhow. We make the quick descent to the Stadium chair and dare I say turn a few jealous heads as we zip past in our trendy garb.

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10.15am

There’s less slush at the top, but a bit of a draft that sets off an uncomfortable spell of nipple chafage. It soon ebbs however, as we waste no time in hurling ourselves back whence we came.

11.30am

With two mandatory runs down the stadium completed, we plot our next foray. We spy that Laguna – a run that for one reason or another has eluded us each time we have visited – is open. We make a beeline for its entrance, which involves crossing another, wide and often quite busy piste to get to. Earlier this season I discovered that at the expense of one very indignant skier. This time though, there are far less people to worry about, and despite the stickiness of the increasingly watery surface, us snowboarders manage to make it across in one clean sweep (skiers needn’t worry what with those stabilizers poles they use).

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11.45am

I get bored of the flat section and veer off-piste. Big mistake. We are on the backside of the mountain now, which up until this point has seen very little sunlight. Thus, rather than the mushy slushy stuff I was actually rather beginning to enjoy, I am met with a steep grade of rock-hard ice, which then develops into actual rocks. Thankfully, I am able to quickly dodge and navigate my way through without falling or scratching my board (much).

12.30pm

Back at Laguna’s summit, we head as far right as possible to where there appears to be some actual snow. We are wrong. It’s just more ice slowly melting into slush, though we do find a nice jump, which, after a rather wobbly run-up, I fling myself from with one arm flailing in my wake.

13.00pm

Time for a stroll in the Sulayr superpark. Things have improved since our last outing – at least at the top anyway. Three more boxes and a slanting picnic table have been added, and features of the resort’s recent Freestyle World Cup still remain, though almost all of the jumps are unworkable due to yet more slush. Further down, however, there is a nice beginner section that allows for quick grabs and mini spins. Fortunately, I do not almost kill myself like the last time, though the giraffe onesy at this point has become extremely sweaty. One more run and it’s back to the bottom for a quick bite to eat and Piste 2 Playa part two.

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14.30pm

Fed, changed and almost an hour and a half behind schedule, we finally exit the resort and begin the race down to the coast. The overabundance of slush had meant that it wasn’t as difficult to drag ourselves away.

Playa de Cantarriján is the chosen destination. I have kept my onesy on so I can have my photo taken in the same clothes on the mountain and the beach. This, rather predictably, turns out to be another big mistake, as the temperature seems to increase by at least half a degree for every mile we cover. Photos are taken and some high-pitched whoops are let out before I promptly fall into a dribbling coma.

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The car clock was an hour behind…

15.45pm

I awake to a cheer. We have arrived at Cantarriján, a small, secluded beach just beyond Almuñecar, where, judging by first glance, there doesn’t appear to be an awful lot of beachgoers. I am dripping wet by now, but refuse to remove my novelty outfit until that memorable snapshot is taken. We make our way from the car park.

15.47pm

So it turns out Cantarriján is a nudist beach, yet as we creep past the restaurant and onto the scrabrous sands the only oddball being gawped at is me. In fact I could not be dressed more inappropriately. The photos are promptly taken, the onesy duly taken – sorry – peeled off and the afternoon’s first beverage swiftly consumed. We’ve done it.

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Highly inappropriate garb for a nudist beach

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16.15pm

Time for a dip in the sea. We last a mere 10 seconds before retreating in tandem with an outburst of squealing more redolent of a group of 12-year old girls. It’s back to the towels, where we eventually pass out to the sound of woozy indie music and waves lapping the shore.

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17.40pm

We awake, and sluggishly make our way to the beachside restaurant for an early dinner. The views – if you’ll forgive the surfeit of unkempt genitalia on show – are wonderful, and the food – freshly caught Bacalao served with chips and steamed veg – and accompanying mojitos go down very well indeed.

20.00pm

As the last of the sun’s rays finally disappears behind the craggy overhang, we concede that it is time to leave. We cram ourselves back into the Fiesta and begin the steady climb to the highway.

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Delish

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20.05pm

The car boot is wide open, and none of us have noticed.

“Maletero abierto?” my friend says bewilderedly as she points to the dashboard.

“Shit. The boot’s open” replies another, as we suddenly break.

We each envisage a snowboard skidding its way down the hill and ending up beneath the wheel of an unsuspecting vehicle. Fortunately, all skis and snowboards are still with us, but we learn from the next car to arrive that a Tupperware box had been narrowly averted a few corners back. It was mine.

“Step on it” I tell my friend, “we are not leaving without it”. I’m not joking – that Tupperware box is an essential vessel for mountain fodder and I’d be hard-pressed to find another one as good. Thankfully, the box is retrieved and we can all breathe a sigh of relief. The journey recommences.

20.25pm

Stuck in heavy traffic. Not looking good for getting the car back to the hire office (at Granada airport) on time.

22.15pm

Made it – with fifteen minutes to spare, though we have just missed the bus back to Granada city centre and must wait for another that leaves at 23.00pm. No matter. We crumple to a heap among our bags, boards and skis and reflect on what has been a truly epic day. Mission complete.

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Fail

The trip was well worth doing, despite my initial uncertainty, and will most definitely take place again. Unfortunately this marked our last day at the Sierra Nevada for this season, which by the way, has been brilliant, even if I did only make it up six times.

Here’s a breakdown of the cost of our ‘piste 2 playa’ daytrip:

Car Hire: €35

Car Hire Insurance (optional): €36

Petrol: €45

Total (split between four): €115

Ski pass: €41

Parking Fee (between four): €10

Ski rental (if you don’t have your own equipment): €20

Other expenses

Lunch at the beach: €11

Two mojitos: €10

Has anybody else ever attempted this grand challenge? Would you now you know that its doable? Please share and comment!

sierra nevada, spain, granada, snow, powder

Day 3 at The Sierra Nevada: Bluebird

img 0430 copy Day 3 at The Sierra Nevada: BluebirdFrankly, I’m ashamed to admit this outing marked only my third of the season. Perhaps if I was a student, or clever enough to forge one of these elusive student-status-corroborating matrículas like several of my friends, then I’d have gone up six or seven times by now. But I am neither of those things. So when I do go up I invariably end up having to shell out somewhere within the region of €60. And that’s without ski-hire. It ain’t cheap. But when snow and sun are in such abundance, as is the current case, skiing conditions are superlative in the most positive of senses.

Presently, The Sierra Nevada is enjoying its best spell in years, and last weekend, my trusty clan of skiadores and self set out to make the most of it. We took the early morning bus, aboard which there was none of the usual dosing and dim lighting – just people grinning from ear to ear and buzzing with uncontainable excitement.

The pistes couldn’t have looked any more inviting when we finally arrived. They were caked in the white stuff, gleaming under the cloudless sky. Curls of snow swept along the ridge of each mountain like silver linings, occasioning us to lick our lips in eager anticipation of what lay in wait.

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Anxious to get into the thick of it, we immediately headed leftward toward where we hoped would be a glut of vast, untracked powder fields. A second foray later in the day would prove that there were, but before we could reach the end of the annoyingly flat traverse that would take us there, our vehement spirits got the better of us. We ducked in and glided down a marginally mottled section of off-piste. Tracked or untracked, it was still a slice of hoary heaven.

More of the same ensued. It wasn’t long though, before we decided it was time for a spot of hiking. The fifteen-minute ascent aboard La Telecabina I not only serves as a means of transport but also as the perfect vantage point. Watching skiers and snowboarders alike hurl themselves down the off-piste sections to the right of the gondola, reachable only by foot, had wet, sorry, dowsed our appetites. We navigated a path and got to it. Twenty minutes and coughing fits later we had at last reached our zenith. We stood breathlessly on the same ridge that we had climbed on our last visit, staring into the pristine powder-bowl in the offing. I skulked across to steepest looking part, glancing over the edge every so often, and waited for friend, who had already plunged forth, to give his signal. He had been instructed to film me attempting to conquer a large boulder which had on the previous occasion defeated me. The signal came, and in I dropped, making a beeline for the rock. Don’t hold your breath. I’d love to be able to tell you that I span a perfect 540 with a flawless landing but, alas, I did not. Instead I landed awkwardly and performed another one of my textbook cartwheels. Defeated again.

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After lunch, I lost my friends, and, as I was to discover, my phone too, owing to one unzipped jacket pocket. There goes every contact ever made since moving to Spain. Oh well.

‘What better way to cheer myself up than going to the snow park for a couple of hours?’ I thought. ‘Perhaps there I’ll be able to make amends for the tumble taken off-piste earlier that morning’.

How erroneous of me. Not ten minutes after the commencement of my first run did I take a royally painful nosedive. I attempted to do something that I had no chance in hell of doing, basically. It involved a ‘box’ in the shape of a ‘c’, on a sideward incline, and I had soared towards it exhibiting all that sort of zest and pluckiness you’re supposed to when attempting something so dangerous, and leaped without hesitation…

Thwack! I was doomed from the moment I left the ground. Not even remotely close. I’d landed on the front edge of my board, leaning into the box – viz, I was done for. My board had slipped from under me, causing me to fly forward and smash my ribs onto the aluminum pipe that lined the box’s edge. I performed yet another textbook cartwheel, twice, and landed unceremoniously in a crumpled heap.“¿Estás bien tio?” a nearby voice called out. Winded and visibly wounded, all I could muster back was a croaky “Si. Gracias”. Clearly I wasn’t fine, but for the sake of avoiding further embarrassment, I quickly got to my feet, pretended to laugh and fled the scene. Seconds later, when out of sight, I sank to the ground and swore like a trooper.

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I left the park after that, feeling rather crestfallen and as though I should probably seek out a paramedic. I didn’t. Instead I soldiered on and ignored the pain. Stupid, I know, but these conditions were simply too good to pass up. I stuck to the easier-going pistes for the rest of the afternoon, while trying in vain to find my phone. Soon though, it was home time, but not before what has now become a après-ski ritual visit to 100 Montaditos. On Sundays, everything costs a euro, including beer. Suddenly my rib wasn’t hurting anymore, nor was I particularly bothered about my absent phone. It had been yet another epic day at the Sierra Nevada.

Day four hurry up already.

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Who else has been up to cash in on the perfect conditions we are currently having?

sierra nevada, spain, snow, powder

Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

img 0279 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

The Sierra Nevada

Imagine, for a moment, that you are a starving vampire, stranded in a faraway place, void of all human life. You haven’t fed in months– a year even*. All you can think about is getting your fix, but it simply never comes. Nary a drop of blood has passed your lips, and you are growing weaker and more despondent by the day; you are essentially ready to give up the ghost. Then, out of nowhere, a mass deluge of the red stuff rains down on your sequestered castle, and you are suddenly spoilt rotten and overcome with euphoric joy. It’s literally a bloodbath. This, in essence, is what has just happened to me. No, I am not a vampire– though I do by my own admission possess a need almost as intrinsic as that of a vampire’s for blood: snow. Living in the south of Spain and all, this may come as a bit of a surprise to you. But, I’ll have you know that not one hour to the east there lies Europe’s most southerly ski resort. If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you may have already gathered as much– I do tend to go on about it a fair bit. Moreover, it won’t have escaped your notice that this post is in fact an account of my second outing into its hoary heights, therefore rendering the aforesaid analogy rather meaningless and inconsistent. However, that first foray, while undeniably enjoyable, lacked significantly in the very thing that makes the trip all worth the while: snow! img 0281 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW! There was some snow, but we were, disappointingly, for the most part dependent on the efficiency of the resort’s ever-droning snowmakers, whose job it is to shower its otherwise ice-swathed slopes with artificial sheets of the fine matter. This was more or less the précis of last season’s woeful showing too. So, last week, when my inbox pinged with the latest weather update and I saw this…

screen shot 2013 01 24 at 15 06 27 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

…I was, as you can probably imagine, giddier than a schoolgirl. A schoolgirl, if you’ll pardon the faux pas, on a cocktail of glue, helium, e and too much coke (of the cola variety of course). That, or keeping in line with the original analogy– a starving vampire knowingly on the cusp of a long overdue feeding frenzy. You choose. Either way, I was positively roused by what I had seen. Several misspelt and excited text messages later, and we had a date. We would venture forth on the Sunday, when there were, according to my trusty weather update, purportedly perfect conditions: masses of freshly fallen snow and bluebird skies. The drought looked to be finally over. Then, a profoundly fat spanner was flung into the works. Saturday had been so overcome with wind and snow that the mountain had been forced to close. This was a very unsettling development indeed. We ummed and ahhd at great length before concluding that we would still go– despite having lost our driver and there being simply no way of knowing for sure what the morning would bring. We clung in earnest to the hope that my weather update could be trusted.

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And still the snowmakers whir away…

Next morning we awoke at 06.30am to the sound of rain battering our bedroom windows. Not a good sign. We geared up, called a cab and raced down to the bus station with half an hour to spare– we didn’t want to be left ticketless with so much to lose. There was nobody there. This was also not a good sign, though the bus was still running, and after a spot of good foresight to call the resort’s automated phone line there was no indication that the resort remained closed. Still, anxiety overwhelmed us. Before long though, other similarly dubious-looking skiers and snowboarders slowly began to trickle in, and we were soon crammed into the back of a distinctly upbeat bus. Things were suddenly looking up. We arrived to most welcoming news– the mountain was indeed… open! Albeit not until 10am and half of the pistes were closed. This was a setback, but an understandable and ungrudgingly acceptable one considering the turn of the previous day’s events.

img 0283 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

Good morning!

As we waited inside a ski-hire shop, the sun abruptly broke through the dense clouds, and within minutes, we were staring at the powder-drenched mountain beneath a bold, blue sky. My weather update had proven its worth. The epicness of what lay in wait suddenly dawned on us. This was going to be something pretty special. After a warm-up run spent gliding down the Borreguiles and another all the way back to the underbelly, our exploratory spirits were spiraling out of control. We simply didn’t know where to look during our second ascent aboard la Telecabína; sheer, snow-caked cliff faces to our right, which under normal circumstances wouldn’t so much as draw a glance, were suddenly conceivable, and boulders smothered in untouched, icing-thick layers of snow seduced us to our left. We were basically looking at a new mountain, and anything seemed possible. img 0284 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW! I could regale you with the fine details of every run but that would be ever so self-indulgent of me, and committing to an awful lot more words. One run will suffice. It came after we had hiked tirelessly up and across the Villén ridge– we had seen various skiers and snowboarders hurtling themselves down the off-piste powder fields that lay yonder all afternoon, and had been feverishly trying to figure out the route up. Eventually we had it, and wasted no time as the looming clouds threatened to spoil proceedings. We picked our spot, and dropped, from an almost vertical starting block, into a barely tracked bowl big enough to weave out seven or maybe eight giant carves. I flew over one of those seductive boulders and met an acrobatic end as I performed two textbook cartwheels on my wild landing. But I was fine. I could have cartwheeled all the way to the bottom and come out unscathed; there was simply so much snow that injuring myself, had I wanted to, was a genuinely difficult thing to do.

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Hiking the Villén ridge

And so it went on. We hiked, carved, hopped, popped and wobbled for the rest of the afternoon, lost in the zone and at the mercy of our most harebrained reveries. And it was incredible. I kid you not, there might actually be a smile permanently stretched across my face.

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Picture perfect

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Standard chairlift posing

img 0309 Day Two at The Sierra Nevada: KaPOW!

WE LOVE POWDER!

*I’ve an idea that according to folkloric rules vampires shouldn’t be able to live longer than a couple of weeks without feeding but for the sake of an analogy…) Who else has been up to the Sierra Nevada recently? Or any other ski resort? Have you had your powder fill yet? Do tell!

sierra nevada, spain, españa

Day One at The Sierra Nevada

It’s amazing how much covert energy suddenly manifests itself in the face of doing something that you love for an entire day. I’d barely slept a wink all night, yet at the first shrill beeping sound of my alarm had leaped out of bed and pretty much landed in my snowboarding boots in about 10 seconds flat. The day I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about had finally come, and being tired was simply not allowed. My brain full on rejected it.

It had rained the previous day (there I go about weather again…), though on this occasion I had been grateful, as normally rain in Granada = snow in Sierra Nevada, AND it was all supposed to have cleared up by Saturday, leaving nothing but bright blue skies. In other words, this would make for perfect conditions. Yes, you could say I was ever so slightly excited for this one.

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Yo (© Tony Lee Bruce)

We set off late, unsurprisingly, and for this we paid the price. Of course we’d expected it to be busy; it was Puente weekend, and this all but guaranteed that there would be crowds, but none of us had quite anticipated throngs of this magnitude. Finding a parking space took what seemed like an eternity and queuing to buy our passes, and subsequently board the gondola/chairlift added another maddening forty-five minutes to our waiting time. In fact, it wasn’t until 10.50am- two hours after we had left Granada- that we actually found ourselves looking down the mountain, as opposed to up the damn thing.

It also hadn’t gone unnoticed that conditions weren’t perfect. Actually, they were pretty far from it. Apparently, it hadn’t snowed the day before- it had rained! This meant only one thing: ice. Our hopes dashed, we pushed off down the slope for our first run, determined not be deterred and to make up for lost time.

sn5 Day One at The Sierra Nevada

Icy Slopes (© Tony Lee Bruce)

Minutes later, it was over, and we were right back where we started- the tail end of the now even longer queue. Though to our pleasant surprise, the snow wasn’t all that bad, thanks to the whirring snowmakers on either side of the groomed pistes. Any off-piste exploits, however, were well out of the question- the immediate juddering brought on by the scores of frozen snowballs littering the off-piste track were a sure indication of that.

Eventually, the swarms scattered and the slopes opened up a bit, allowing us to really brush the cobwebs away. Predictably, I let myself become a little overzealous, and in an attempt to cut across a slope in order to reach the start of a run yet to be explored, I collided with a skier. A very, very, pissed off skier, might I add. Speed had been key, or else I risked slipping too far down the slope and overshooting my exit. I didn’t stick around to explain myself, preferring instead to hold up both my hands and yell ‘lo siento!’ at the top of my lungs, as I trundled away (he had ended up skis akimbo on the ground). I couldn’t quite hear his response, but as I watched his lips move I highly doubted that they were imparting words of forgiveness. Oops.

The best snow of the day was found along el zorro and el rebeco, beneath the stadium chairlift (click here for piste map), owing to a greater concentration of snowmakers sporadically showering the runs in artificial powder throughout the day. The loma dilar on the far right ridge, which leads to the resort’s presently substandard super park (1 jump and 4 boxes), also offered up some rare carving opportunities. Elsewhere, it was pretty underwhelming, but at this stage of the season you can’t expect the whole enchilada I suppose. Several chairlifts and the whole Laguna de las Yeguas section remain unopened, so there is plenty more to look forward to.

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(© Tony Lee Bruce)

By 4.30 the tiredness had definitely caught up with us; our group had shrunk from seven to two, and we were no longer in the least bit bothered about sticking together. I managed to catch the last lift of the day, and I mean THE LAST lift- not a single person was left in the queue behind me (which left me feeling rather smug), meaning that I could mosey down the mountain at my own pace, without any clumsy skiiers getting in the way…

Back in the much-welcomed warmth of the car, we gorged ourselves on mandarins and mini-donuts before committing the cardinal sin of falling asleep, leaving the equally as deadbeat driver to battle it out against his eyelids for the drive, or rather queue, home. Ordinarily I wouldn’t commit such atrocities but keeping my eyes open was futile. My body had countered, and my brain simply gave up. The countdown to day two has begun.

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(© Tony Lee Bruce)

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Sunset over the Sierra (© Tony Lee Bruce)

Anyone else been up to the Sierra Nevada yet? What did you think? Or are you planning to go? I’d gladly answer any questions…

Skier, jump, sierra nevada

Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

 Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

And so it begins. Ski-bums from all over Spain will flock to Europe’s southernmost ski-resort in huge numbers this weekend, after seven long, snow-deprived months. And if all of this recent rain is anything to go by, then by eck are we in for a treat.

At least 11.5kms of untouched slopes will be open in the Nursery, Borreguiles and Veleta areas, and the RIO will be open by Saturday, allowing for skiing all the way down to Pradollano village. It’s an encouraging start, if we look back on last season’s woeful offerings.

The average snowfall peaked at just over 80cm in February- three times less than the year before and still well off the mark in comparison with other recent years gone by. Couple that with the fact that there still remained hordes of skiers and zigzagging ski-schools clogging up the slopes, plus gallingly time-consuming queues for chairlifts to boot, and we were left with a very bothersome case on our hands indeed.

 Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

Hiking to find the freshest lines last Spring

I suppose I hadn’t really considered the fact that here I would be but a sprat amongst the jostling crowd at the weekends and puentes, as opposed to a happy-go-lucky ski-bum tied only to a 3-shift-a-week bar job, like I was during my time in Canada three years ago.

In fact, if conditions had been just half as good as they were in Canada, then perhaps the hard-shell feelings of frustration and disappointment wouldn’t have been so overwhelming. Unfortunately, things never really improved. Instead, skiers and snowboarders alike had to rely solely on the resort’s droning piste-side snow-makers, which were constantly pumping artificial deluges of the white stuff onto its otherwise ice-swathed slopes, in order to find anything even remotely approaching ‘powder’.

However, with an unshakable snowboarding addiction like mine, it’s difficult not to have a good time, even if the conditions are as dire as they were. I only managed six or seven visits during the 11/12 season but at the end of each day I always left with a smile on my face.

Now I’m all giddy and restless, because this year I know things can only get better. My board is waxed and my iPod playlist is complete. Ready, shreddy, go…

Click here for information on ski-hire, ski-schools and all the latest news on the Sierra Nevada.

 Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

The resort’s half-pipe on one of last season’s better days

 Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

Line hunting

 Sierra Nevada opens for 2012/13

The Sierra Nevada