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Pal – Arinsal, Andorra

Pal has escaped much of the development that other resorts in Andorra have succumbed to. Pal is a quiet and picturesque mountain village over the ridge from Arinsal (about 5km by road), with a small, reasonably varied, wooded ski area a couple of kilometers further up the hill. It is remarkably different from its nearby neighbor, and the link between the ski areas is a great enhancement for both resorts.

Arinsal is a little village of Catalan slate and gray stone, near the head of a narrow valley north of Andorra La Vella. It has seen rapid development in recent years, giving the place a building-site appearance.

The gondola, from the village center to the mid-station, installed in 1999 put an end to the trek to the inconveniently situated chair-lift and the new link via a 50 person tram from Coll de la Botella in Pal’s Seturia sector to Port Negre at the top of the Arinsal slopes finally linked the separate resorts of Pal and Arinsal in 2000. The new link has increased the area’s appeal hugely. Snow making was also extended and now covers 17km/11miles of slopes.

Pal has a small area of local slopes which are the most wooded of the Andorran resorts, and the ample car parking space makes it popular with the locals at the weekend. It is surprisingly different from Arinsal, which is tall and narrow with no trees; Pal is short and wide, and covered with greenery.

The only thing to attract experts will be fresh snowfall, when access to off-piste through well-spaced trees is best. Tree cover is so sparse in other Andorran resorts that Pal is the only option for this. Intermediates should go high, where well-bashed reds come down from the summit to the mid-station area. There are a couple of quite steep reds leading off to the Col de la Botella, one of which can grow moguls. Beginners start off on the very gentle slopes just in front of the base lodge, and progress to the short blues that are accessed by longer lifts starting from the same spot.

Liftlines are not generally a problem, and mid-week the slopes are often deserted. By midseason, the weekenders really do make their presence. By the end of the season the Spanish are already making for the seaside!

Arinsal’s small local area is a narrow, east-facing bowl of mainly open slopes, suitable for beginners, children and unadventurous intermediates. Almost all the runs lead straight back towards the mid-station area, ideal for parents to keep a watchful eye on children.

With most runs above 1950m and a fair number of guns, snow reliability is relatively assured. Most lifts above the mid-station are drags, keeping the mountain open when it’s windy. Although it claims to have the steepest black runs in Andorra, experts won’t find much of interest. But some runs are not entirely easy and are suitable for intermediates who don’t mind a limited area. Piste maintenance is good.

Arinsal is well-suited to near-beginners or early intermediates. The beginner slopes are gentle, away from the main area and well covered by snow-guns. But they can get very crowded at peak times.

Arinsal’s ski school is its pride and joy. It offers good technical tuition and patient instruction. English is widely spoken; prices are low; and lessons are fun. Class sizes can, however, be large in peak season. There is a ski kindergarten and a non-skiing crèche for younger children.

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