SKIING IN ANDORRA

It may not have the highest mountains in all Europe, but those who have tried it would say that skiing in Andorra has it all.
In the last ten years, over €50m has gone into staggering improvements in ski facilities and many times that into Andorra’s tourist infrastructure. When the sun shines – and it shines a lot in winter, so don’t forget the sun cream – literally thousands of the latest snow-cannons ensure that the resorts have excellent snow cover from Dec 1st to the end of April.
There are now two macro-resorts in Andorra, grouping the five original stations, both with skiing at between 2.500m and 1.750.
GrandValira (comprising Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig and Soldeu/ElTarter) has the biggest skiing area in the whole of the Pyrenees. Dedicated skiers will probably go for this option and their whole holiday will probably cost them about 70% of what it would cost in the Alps for the same quality of facilities and some pretty challenging skiing. As for après-ski fun, it might lack St Moritz chic but instead of platinum prices, read bronze.
On the other side of the country, Vallnord (comprising Pal-Arinsal and Arcalís) centres on La Massana and Arinsal and Ordino. Vallnord is a much more intimate resort and ski holiday prices are even more reasonable. Families with young children tend to prefer being in Arinsal which, despite having slightly more limited skiing, is Andorra’s premier all-year-round holiday village, partly because 90% of Andorra’s international community live within a five km radius of Pal-Arinsal and it is only 15mins by car to the capital’s outstanding tax-free shopping facilities and spa centre. The Vallnord area has recently seen vigorous growth in the summer as well, due to the growing demand for biking and hiking holidays.
In 2009, Vallnord hosts the World Mountain-Bike Championships for the second year running and the Copa Catalana 2008 was also held there.
On both sides of the country, despite a whole range of excellent hotels offering 33.000 beds (one for every 2,5 residents) there is steady demand in the high seasons, from Andorra’s 11m visitors a year, for affordable accommodation in private apartments and chalets.
Servissim, established for nearly 20 years, is the largest English-speaking services company in Andorra and via its www.andorra-holidays.com division, is the leading country-wide organisation dealing with the direct-selling private of holiday accommodation owned by its foreign-based clients.
In many years, clients have seen spectacular growth in their investments, but Andorra has always been better-known for its solid growth in the long-term. Even with the property shocks of the last year, returns (income and capital appreciation) have hardly wavered from 9% per annum, cumulative, in all of those 20 years and taxes on foreign-owned property held long-term are negligible. Because of this – and a natural flight to quality – prices are already beginning to stabilise and Andorra, with its overall lower price advantage, should do better than most other destinations in weathering the current recessionary tendency. Bookings, if anything, are slightly up over the same period last year.
However, much of the interest in having a holiday property in Andorra is not just in the investment itself, but in the owners being able to pick and choose their own dates to visit Andorra, one of the safest, most-enjoyable, places to live in the whole of Europe.
Our best recommendation is to go and see the opportunities there for yourself.

By Simon Binsted

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