Here’s a tip: if you ever get chance to watch the Spanish national football team in action, grab it with both hands. At the moment La Furia Roja are rated as the best international side in the world. Throw in the electrifying atmosphere most games generate and you’re sure to have a great time.
So what are the things you need to know before you buy a scarf, cover your face in red and yellow paint and head off to a game?
#1 The Players’ Names
Firstly – for those of you who haven’t a clue about football but just want to see a match – you ought to remember that neither Messi nor Ronaldo are Spanish, so don’t go asking after them. The Spanish superstars include Andres Iniesta, Ilker Casillas, Gerard Pique and Jesús Navas. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the team before you head off, especially if you’re keen on impressing a local or two by striking up a conversation about Navas’s wide game or something. Also, many English-speaking commentators can get Spanish players’ names very wrong, so perhaps a quick check up on how to pronounce names like Iniesta, Silva and Villa might be worthwhile.
#2 Common Football Words and Phrases
Even if you think you have a decent grasp of basic Spanish, you will doubtless encounter certain words and phrases you’ll never have come across before, not to mention the brutal insults that are sometimes so lewd they’d make the likes of Roy Keane gasp with horror. On the pitch, the goalkeeper is el portero, the defense is la defensa, the midfielders are centrocampistas and the forwards are delanteros. The referee is el arbitro, the sideline is la banda and to score a goal is marcar un gol. Or there’s “La puta que te parió!” – ‘the whore of a mother that birthed you’, popular with el arbitro, strangely enough. Most of the words you learn for watching football will be of absolutely no use to you in any other context of Spanish life but you will still feel great using them.
#3 The Tiki-Taka Rules
If, for example, you have grown up watching British football, then you are probably much more used to a different style of play. The blood-and-thunder-never-say-die attitude that typifies British football is very different from the way the Spanish play it. They use their famous tiki-taka system, which values controlled possession of the ball above anything else. So anyone who just wants to see the goals might get a bit bored, but this style of play is an art form and once you come to appreciate it you will find yourself hypnotised by the incredible way in which the Spanish players retain possession.
#4 That You Should Show Your Emotions
Showing your emotions at a Spanish football game is normal. In fact, you shouldn’t be at all surprised to find grown men crying, screaming or gleefully hugging each other when something exciting happens on the pitch. They might even hug you. Games involving the national side are often highly emotionally charged but they are great fun.
#5 A Few Songs and Chants
Singing and chanting is a big part of the football experience and you will want to know what the ones you hear are about. “A Por Ellos” expresses a ”get stuck into them” spirit and is a very simple song you are almost certain to hear. “Y Viva España” is another often sung by the crowd. You might even want to join in. A quick look on YouTube will throw up a number of typical chants and songs that you could learn before watching a game.
Robert is a writer who lived in Spain while studying the language and is a huge fan of La Furia Roja. He now works as a freelance writer on sites such as Listen and Learn.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
And still the snowmakers whir away…
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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.
Hiking the ? ridge
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.
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.
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.
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
A lone, stray dog trots along an empty pavement. Burger boxes blow undisturbed across the street. Sporadic bursts of chatter can be heard each time a bar door is flung open, before the silence abruptly re-intervenes.
It’s 6pm on a Saturday; ordinarily a time when swarms of late afternoon shoppers and early evening diners clog the pavements here in Spain, but today is the day of El Clásico: Real Madrid vs Barcelona, and the only souls in sight are those rushing to their local, jam-packed watering hole before the unparalleled spectacle begins.
This is akin to tuning in for a royal wedding in the U.K. To miss it would be nonsensical, football fan or not. Ask any Spaniard which football team they support and – more often than not – you’ll get two answers: that person’s local team and either Real Madrid or Barcelona. The reasoning goes that both teams, while officially participants in La Liga, are actually in a league of their own; no other Spanish team in the top flight even comes close. Thus, one invariably chooses a favourite.
In England, this would be deemed fickle and cowardly regardless of circumstances; people may support one club team or none at all. So coming to terms with this two-timing custom was rather a longwinded process for me after I moved here. ‘What about when these two teams play each other? Who do you support then?’ I used to ask. ‘And how can somebody support a team from a city that has no geographical bearing to their own?’ But then I thought of Man Utd fans, of whom, by my own admission, I am one, but I am from Manchester.
Nevertheless, this crucial decision of which team to support – Los Galácticos or La Blaugrana – seems to takes place early on in life, often on concrete schoolyards where rights to the players’ names are squabbled over to no end. All except poor Gareth Bale’s name, that is. ‘Gareth Ba-le no es vale!’ (the derogation of which is still unclear to me) is what the eight year olds I teach are chanting at the moment. The Barcelona fans of the class were particularly unremitting on Monday following their team’s 2-1 victory over Madrid at the weekend. ‘What about Granada? How did they do?’ I quizzed them. ‘No sé’ – I don’t know – they shrugged.
But the bitter rivalry goes beyond English Language classrooms. It has done for centuries, despite the first game ever played between the two clubs only taking place in 1902, back when it was just plain Madrid FC – the ‘royal’ prefix was added in 1920.
During Franco’s longstanding dictatorship, a period in which the speaking of Catalan was only permitted in Camp Nou on a match day, Real Madrid became the embodiment of Spain’s Castile region and Franco’s favoured club. Despite this, Barcelona continued to dominate Spanish football throughout the 40s and 50s, winning far more trophies than their Madrileño adversaries. The 60s, however, proved more fruitful for Real Madrid, who became the new unstoppable force. Of the clásicos played during Franco’s rule, Madrid won the most by a narrow thirty-nine to Barca’s thirty-seven. In one match in 1970, Barcelona fans were allegedly so furious with the referee’s performance that they hurled no less than 25,000 seats from the stands on to the pitch. On another occasion, a soldier attempted to arrest one of Barcelona’s groundsmen on suspicion of being a communist (Source).
In recent years though, the most memorable incident has to be the infamous throwing of a pig’s head at an unsuspecting Luis Figo at Camp Nou as he stood by the touchline. It was the first time he had returned to the 98,000 capacity stadium after signing from Barca to Real Madrid in 2000 – an almost unspeakable act. The evening coincided with the first el clásico for English winger Steve McManaman, who had recently signed for Real Madrid from Liverpool.
“It was like nothing I had ever seen. He was abused from the moment he stepped off the plane to the moment he got back on it again. It wasn’t just the pig’s head; there were bottles, golf balls and missiles thrown at him too. It was impossible to concentrate. Eventually the referee had to order both sets of players off until things calmed down. They didn’t, and it was a terrible game of football.”
“The windows of our team coach would routinely be smashed by bricks on every trip to Barcelona. That was truly frightening. On the short trip from the hotel to Camp Nou we’d all brace ourselves and cower down on the floor as the driver put his foot down and hurtled the bus through the particular street where you knew the missiles would start raining through the windows.” (Source)
Is Steve McManaman exaggerating? Who knows. Sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to attend a match, but even the hostility exhibited in some of the bars I’ve stood in during one is unsettling enough – especially when you become familiar with the most brutal of Spanish insults.
Either way, it’s fair to say that El Clásico has always been as much a clash of political ideologies as a heated battle for three points between twenty-two ludicrously overpaid sportsmen. Even with the fall of fascism, a deep-seated rivalry still remains between the two clubs, which has only been further intensified following the recent calls for a referendum for Catalan independence. Mostly though, it’s about beating the other team on the day: feeling that sense of unmitigated satisfaction, and delighting in being able to taunt fans of the losing side.
When it comes to El Clásico, there is not a single thing that could possibly be more important. It is the ultimate showdown and the ultimate spectacle of a sport unreservedly adored by so many in Spain.
Have you ever attended el clásico or simply watched it in Spain? Or another derby match renowned for its hostile atmosphere? Who do you support??
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stuck in heavy traffic. Not looking good for getting the car back to the hire office (at Granada airport) on time.
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.
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
Total (split between four): €115
Ski pass: €41
Parking Fee (between four): €10
Ski rental (if you don’t have your own equipment): €20
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!
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! 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…
…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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
*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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…