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Pas de la Casa – Grau Roig

Even before the link with Soldeu, Pas de la Casa had the biggest ski area and highest lift-served terrain in Andorra. Now the two resorts have a combined 186km of pistes – that’s about the same as some big-name Alpine resorts such as Kitzbühel, Wengen-Grindelwald and Les Deux Alpes.

Sited right on the border between Andorra and France, Pas de la Casa is a size-able collection of concrete-box style apartment blocks and hotels, indicative of the rapid development Andorra saw in the late 60s and early 70s. At least some thought has gone into its development, with most accommodation conveniently placed near the main slopes.

The lift system spreads from Pas over three adjacent valleys. The furthest from Pas has nothing but a lift station, but in the attractively wooded middle one is Grau Roig. This is a mini resort that acts as the access point for day visitors arriving by road from central Andorra and Spain but it also makes a good base.

The Font Negre surface lift above Pas de la Casa was replaced by a six pack – the new lift now extends up towards the top of the Pic Blanc ridge. Two of the three Llac del Cubill surface lifts to the Grau Roig area from the Encamp side have also been upgraded to s six pack. This season’s developments also include the expansion of the Pas de la Casa beginner area, extra snowmaking and improvements to the terrain-park and boarder-cross.
The local slopes are on a high, treeless, north/south ridge, with Pas de la Casa on the east side, Grau Roig on the west. To the south of Grau Roig, towards the head of the valley, is Mont Malus, a small wooded area served by a drag with a couple of pretty reds and a black run through the trees. To the west of Grau Roig, a quad chair goes up to a ridge from which pistes lead into the next valley and lifts from there up to the Colada d’Enradort (2447m) and the Funicamp top station – connected to the village of Encamp by a 6km gondola. 6km of new off-piste runs (not trailed or marked), down to the gondola mid-station are now in place. The link with Soldeu also starts here, although two separate ski passes are needed.

Heavy investment in artificial snowmaking equipment, coupled with the area’s height, has meant a very good snow reliability record and a season that often stretches into late April. Piste marking seems to have improved slightly, although some of the reds and blacks are overrated.

Experts will find little to challenge them, but the black runs heading back to the resort, including the Slalom, are of a steep pitch and can be bumpy, though they are groomed before the bumps grow very large. The black run down from the top of the Mont Malus drag is a good one.

The slopes cater for aspiring intermediates far better, with plenty of top-to-bottom reds and blues on the main ridge, though the criticism that they are a little bland, being of consistent gradient most of the way down, is not wholly unjustified.

There are two areas for beginners and there are plenty of gentle slopes in the main area to progress to.

Snowboarding is popular with the young crowd that Pas de la Casa attracts, and there is a small, lift-served board-park and half-pipe on the Grau Roig side of the mountain.

Liftlines occasionally build up, mainly at the resort base in the mornings, where a high-speed quad gets through them reasonably efficiently. Over the other side, in the Grau Roig sector, high-speed chairs have eliminated most problems.

The ski school has an excellent reputation, with good English spoken.

There’s floodlit skiing every Wednesday night on the Font Negre.

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