I had been to Andorra once before but when i was about 12 but now that I was 18 it was a whole different experience and it really is a great resort with an excellent nightlife. Andorra itself is a country but the pas de la casa allows you to access the whole of the area Andorra allows you to ski.
The resort links about 4 different areas together but the actual area we stayed in was pas de la casa, it was a medium sized area for a ski resort with one main starting area for the skiing meaning that queues in the morning often got quite large so you were best off going either quite early or missing the first half hour/ hour and coming home later. The resort is also not short on snow, i think we had about two feet just while we were there although this did ruin a day for us. The locals are friendly and helpful which you definitely don't find at Italian resorts and also being in a tax free zone you can get cigarettes and alcohol very cheaply. I saw 200 unboxed (just loose in a big case) cigarettes for just 2 euros. You could also get your proper brands like B&H gold 200 for about 17/18 euros. I can't recall the price of lift passes and ski hire but i remember it was very fair in comparison to the average you pay at most resorts which made us sway toward Andorra this year and the only fault i would find was the long transfer. You are left sitting on the coach for hours meaning by the time you get their you're already tired.
The nightlife in Andorra is excellent, their are bars/pubs everywhere that cater for everyone, you can find all your sky sports etc in a lot of the pubs and the portioning is good, if you get a vodka Red bull it is half a pint vodka, then some Red bull and some ice after. Prices aren't as cheap as expected if you go out however it is still definitely much better than if you wen out here in the UK, definitely a resort i would have returned for if i hadn't managed to ski it all within the week, although i probably will return in the future.
For those people who are totally clueless, Andorra is situated inbetween France and Spain and all the skiing is located on the Pyrenees mountains. I visited Pas over the Christmas/new year period, and this review is solely based on that!
I flew into Barcelona with my friends, our plane was 3 hours late, but that fault belong's to Easyjet. We had a private transfer booked and he was stood there waiting to take us to resort. The transfer there took 4 hours, this was part motorway driving and part mountain driving - queue travel sickness. Once we were there we got dropped off in the town centre, which is a big roundabout! We then had to locate out hotel.
We were staying in the Manzano apartments, which we hadn't paid much for considering the time of year, we paid £210 each to share between 4, the apartment itself could sleep 6, but it would have been way to cramped to sleep this many. It was quite difficult to find having just arrived there, with lots of snow on the ground, suitcases to carry and it being an uphill walk, but once we were there it was fine. We were located about 250m from the slopes and had good views of them from our window. The apartment was clean and spacious for 4 people and had a very big bathroom and adequate cooking facilities. We also had ski lockers in reception which were big enough to house 4 people's equipment and also nice and warm which was an unexpected change!
That first afternoon we took a walk round Pas, firstly, we noticed equipment prices, clothes etc weren't as cheap as we expected, in fact you'd be better off buying them in England as the difference was minimal. Occasionally you stumbled across a bargain, while I was there the cosmetic and perfume store 'Gala' had 20% off everything so about a 30% off English prices. They sold big name brands such as Dior and Chanel. The staff were exceptionally helpful, always giving free things with a purchase and going to the other stores on my behalf to pick up goods they didn't have in stock. Alcohol prices in supermarkets were about half the price you pay in the UK, we stocked up for the apartment!
First day on the slopes was excellent, we had a lot of snow previous to our arrival which made for great conditions. There is a sneaky blue on the far left of the resort which no one can be bothered to walk to, it was always empty and had some nice challenging parts as well as a snowpark at the top. The rest of the runs in Pas were quite busy as expected at that time of year. On our first 'lunch break' we realised the difference in mountain service between Andorra and France, the queues were horrific, we were waiting 30-45 minutes just to be served very average food and drink. All the mountainside restaurants we found were chains selling exactly the same, with the same service. There was the odd exception but not many. It's worth noting that even if you just want water, you have to queue in the same line, so I really would advise thinking about taking a rucksack in your group.
Second day, we decided to explore the rest of the mountain and made our way across to Grau Roig. Lovely long red down from Pas into Grau Roig and that side of the mountain was a lot quieter. The lift to take you up into the next mountain though (of which there is only one, so no other options) was very slow. Quite often we waited 30 mins to get on this lift. If you can manage to get there before 9.30am you'll be fine though. Once you were over into Soldeu though it was great! So many more runs in Soldeu, excellent skiing and a lot more variety. If you're a serious skier rather than a partier, I would recommend Soldeu over Pas any day.
On the third day I took a lesson booked in Englad with the ski school in Pas, well that requires a review in itself. Lesson was great, organisation between the English company and them was terrible. It was called Ski holiday extras. Never, ever book lessons in Pas with them. I had to walk up and down between two offices 6 times to get my lesson sorted, and even then it was booked for skiing (I snowboard) and as a result my instructor was changed to one who couldn't speak English.
If you can, just book when you get there, they didn't have any availability problems with people booking lessons.
As the week progressed, snow got worse, we hadn't had any new snow and it was too warm to put the cannons on. So I opted for a couple of days off and this is what I did.
I went to the health centre in pas, it has a lovely pool, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna etc and it only cost 5 euros for the whole day, an excellent place to chill.
I went on a husky dog sleigh ride and snowmobiling in Grau Roig. This cost 60 euros for about an hour altogether.
There is so much you can do in Andorra like helicopter rides, ice diving, archery amongst others that even if the snow is bad, you won't be left feeling bored!
Eating out and going out in Pas was great. One restaurant called La Copa was excellent for general dining they offered a fixed menu of 15 euros, for this I had a goats cheese salad started (massive and very tasty), steak and chips and catalan creme for dessert. Steaks were cooked on an open fire infront of you and portions were large and it was more than I expected! Staff were very friendly, a good laugh and helpful. Drinks here were cheap and served in 'goldfish bowl' glasses as we described them. We rarely ate anywhere else as it was so good. We also chose this restaurant for our New Year's Eve dinner, where a special menu was laid on including Fois Gras for starter and shallot pasta for main.
For night time fun, Underground was the best, and I know every review says it so I won't go into too much detail. The lads were great fun, very generous with alcohol and great music was played. Most drinks cost 5 euros, but generally you got a lot more. We ordered vodka and cokes, and then received another straight after 'on the house' and a free jager shot. Very recommended for a good night.
My week there was excellent, snow wasn't the best, but I wouldn't have skied eveyday anyway and there are lots of other activities to keep you entertained. I would recommend Pas for the skiers who like to party, and Soldeu for a more family orientated, ski hard crowd.
Any questions, just let me know and i'll answer them!
I would go back tomorrow if I had the chance!
Spent week of 17th to 24th Jan 2010 in Pas and to be honest it failed to live up to expectation, there was too much ice on some red run ridges for boarders and one day on slopes was ruined by freezing fog and snowfall simultaneously!! a first in 15 years of boarding, also any idea that Andorra is cheap can be forgotten as we were paying 2.5 euros just for a cup of tea, in a cafe called pas 83 which is rediculous! A 5 day pass was around £145 which is also expensive. Considering that Andorra is a duty free resort this is dire! Clothes shops were also no cheaper than UK i could not find a decent pair of jeans for less than 54 euros, Better to go to Livigno as better snow, better food and save some dosh!
Not ideal for families, long transfer (over 3 hours), resort one of those that's built up the side of the mountains rather than one in the valley that's all level, so lots of uphill walking to do, which is exhausting when you first arrive as you're not used to the altitude - it kills the lungs & legs, though by the end of the week it's not really a problem!! If you're a first time skier be careful which accommodation you choose as it can be a long and uncomfortable walk to the beginner slopes & ski school meeting points if you've never skied before, not too bad if you can ski as you can get on to the slope fairly easily and ski over to the meeting point. If the weather's good there's some great skiing, loads of runs, wonderful snow conditions with well kept pistes - not as bad as Italian/French ones i.e. a black in Pas would be a red in Italy - if the weather's bad it can make life miserable as it can get very windy and you end up loosing a layer of skin where the wind whips up the snow/ice and throws it in your face!! Not as cheap as it used to be (we went to Andorra 15 yrs ago), I'd say that the only less expensive thing to buy in Pas is booze (don't know about cigs as I don't smoke) & that's not much different now to UK prices due to the euro being almost 1 for 1 to the pound. A bottle of perfume was cheaper in my local Debenhams! Eating out - in the town 7 euros for a cheese & tomato pizza, in the happy hour it was 2 Magners for 6 euro's, they've got a burger king there but at 5-8 euros for a meal not cheap! - up on the slopes hot chocolate 3.5 euros, coffee 1.5 euros, chips 3.5 euros, paella/spag bol 7 euros. Ski wear is cheaper in my local ski shop (in Pas it was 150+ euros for a Roxy jacket). Unfortunately there's no ban on smoking in public places so it can get very smoky in bars/restaurants. We were very disappointed with/ashamed of the majority of brits that went there, lots of bad language, drunkeness - the stereotypical "Brit abroad", great if you're with a load of mates & that's what you want to do, but if you're a family go somewhere nicer, just watch out for brochures that say "lively resort" as it usually means loud offensive brits up til all hours - I saw on another review (after we came back) that it was the Ibiza of skiing which just about says it all!! To sum up, if you're young, with mates & like getting drunk fabulous place to go, if you're a family, especially with younger children go somewhere else (another country) as the layout of Pas and some of the "fellow" holiday makers can make it an unpleasant place to be
This was my first experience of skiing and I can safely say that I will be going again (but not back to Pas de la Casa). It has been described as the Ibiza on Snow and as a general indication of what you can expect this is not far wrong.
The facilities are fine. Plentiful chair lifts, good runs up and over the main resort into neighbouring resorts and the snow is pretty reliable. I was lucky to have gorgeous weather there in March which certianly made the experience a delight.
Lessons are widely available and all the instructors speak English. Mine (Ricard) was a true character and a joy to learn with. Others were more fierce and less understanding I hear, so this is a bit of pot luck.
Hotels here are not exactly classy. It is basic and functional. Walls are thin, doors slam loudly. But the resort is small and nowhere is out of reach, even in ski boots.
There is a distinct lack of good places to eat, which was surprising given the quality of the neighbouring country's cuisine. Even the local supermarkets didn't seem to have a stock of fresh ingredients, so you won't be much better off going self-catering. Chips is almost mandatory, though pizza or pasta are edible alternatives. Bars offer promo deals, happy hours, free shots... you get the picture?
But, as a tax free zone, there are advantages to coming here. Perfume is well priced, though not any cheaper than in the airports, booze is very cheap (I bought a litre of reasonable sherry in a plastic container in a supermarket for about 50p) and electrical products are very good value.
Accessibility to the resort was a little troublesome. We flew to Toulouse via Easyjet and got a coach transfer, which was a good 2 hours. Driving up in to the mountains in the dark in the drifting snow was on the scary side of fun, but the daytime journey back down afforded spectacular views before hitting the plains of southern France.
Quality aside, the holiday was an excellent and cheap introduction to skiing. It is not a place I would go back to given the plethora of alternatives out there. As a family option, it may be cheap, but not very family friendly overall. A place for the young, impecunious, or party types.
I'm lying back in a deckchair. Beside me is the love of my life of over 25 years. between us is a table. On the table are two glasses of beer. The deckchairs are on a sundeck facing south. from the sundeck can be seen a panorama of spectacular mountain peaks, below which are miles of perfect snow. the sun pours down on us from a startling blue cloudless sky. I am forced by the heat to strip down to my tee-shirt. And I think, "Life doesn't get much better than this!". So, where is this paradise? we are in Andorra. specifically, this suntrap is outside La Solanelles panoramic restaurant at the top of the gondola up from Encamp which lies near the end of the valley that runs all the way from Pas de la Casa, where we were staying, via Soldeu, where we stayed last year. If you have read my review of Soldeu you will understand why we came back again this year to Andorra. we love Andorra and the only reason why we didn't return to Soldeu was because we wanted to explore a bit more of the area. why didn't we do that last year? more of that later. The Resort ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Soldeu is a village. Pas de la Casa (Pas from here on) is a town. Pas is right on the border between France and Andorra. it is the first place in Andorra that you reach when you transfer from your flight from the UK into Toulouse airport. the transfer last year was a real ordeal. completed on rural roads, the transfer time to Soldeu took four hours. Since last year there have been considerable improvements. a new motorway (the A66) is now open, a branch off of the A61, that takes you half-way to Andorra. it cuts a very welcome hour off of the journey. if you are going all the way to Soldeu, a new tunnel through the mountain from Pas cuts a further 30 minutes off of the transfer. You arrive in pas at the lowest point in the town, at the coach stop opposite the church. your luggage is unloaded into a van and
taken up to your hotel whilst you make the journey on foot. In our case this was to the Himalaia Hotel, situated just about as high as you can go up through the town. On the way the first impression is of passing through the departure lounge of any large airport. Virtually every shop advertises duty free prices; Andorra, although in Europe, is not part of the European Union. Also, every other shop advertises closing down sales although I get the impression that this is just a gimmick. However, with so many booze, fags and perfume shops I can't see how they all manage to make a living. Those shops that aren't selling drink and ciggies seem to be selling electronic goods. If you need anything from a camera to a full hi-fi system, this is the place to get it. Don't bother with CDs or DVDs though. You can get them cheaper in the UK or over the Internet. Most disturbing is the ready availability of guns. In the light of the perfunctory checks carried out by the French Customs when you re-enter France, occasional cars pulled out, coaches waved through, it is little wonder that the UK police have a real problem with illegal arms being smuggled into the country! I wonder how much comes from here. The other main focus is jewellery. Now, I know nothing about jewellery. If you know a real diamond from a fake, gold from brass, then you might want to take a chance. We had chosen the Himalaia Hotel as we had stayed last year at their hotel in Soldeu and found it a good base for our holiday, not perfect but very comfortable, clean and warm and close to the pistes. The one in Pas is virtually identical in design and also within 50 metres of the pistes. As there is quite a bit to say about the hotel, I have written a separate review. The Purchase ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Monday morning opened with blue skies and bright sunshine to accompany the perfect snow conditions. 2002/3 has seen an abundance of
snow right across Europe and Andorra is no exception. But first, we had a little shopping to do. My wife and I have our own boots (Salomon - hers 53s, mine 63s) and skis (both Head Cyclone Carve). The boots we've had a long time, over 10 years. Whilst mine have always been a perfect fit, my wife has always found hers uncomfortable. They leave bruises on her legs where the back and the front of the cuff of the boot draw together. I promised her a new pair as a deferred Christmas present. The largest sports retailer in Pas is Olympic Esports. We went there to seek their advice. Now, my wife has an unusually foot shape; high arch, broad foot, large angle on the toes; a difficult shape to fit and I'm not just talking about ski boots. The assistant recommended Atomic C:9W, size 24.5. These are of the modern front-entry design as opposed to our old rear-entry boots. There are the standard two clips on the cuff and two across the foot. Three of the four clasps have micro-adjustments by screwing the clips in and out of the buckle. My wife commented that she felt that the boot was a bit too short and that the left big toe was pressing in the end of the boot. The assistant assured her that, according to the measurement, this was the right size and that they would be all right in use. On that assurance we took them. Two days later we were back. My wife had been suffering extreme pain and could tolerate them no longer. Her big toes on both feet were starting to show signs of bad bruising from the hammering that they were taking from contact with the end of her boots. The same assistant accepted our "complaint" and exchanged the boots for the next size, 25.5, even though the originals had had two days use and were starting to show signs of wear. These proved a relative though not entire success. By the end of the holiday my wife had tightened the boots until there was no more adjustment available. I a
m in correspondence with Atomic about this. Anyway, full marks to Olympic Esports for customer service even if the boots were not a complete success; hardly their fault though. The Ski Passes ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ So, to the pistes. The ski area that serves Pas is very large, around twice the area of that of Soldeu "next door". The ski area actually covers two locations, Pas de la Casa itself and the little hamlet of Grau Roig in the next valley. From there it stretches beyond to the top of the gondola system that brings skiers up from Encamp. It does NOT include the Soldeu ski area. Now, I'm sorry but this feud between Pas de la Casa and Soldeu has been going on for far too long. Despite assurances that joint lift passes are planned and will be in use "next season", nothing actually ever happens. The real loser in this petty squabble is the visitor, who has spent his hard-earned cash to get there and has every right to expect to be treated with greater respect. It wouldn't be too bad if it was possible to buy a pass for the other resort where you are staying but both refuse to sell the other's passes. As there is no way of skiing from one to the other without using the lifts, the only alternative is to take the bus to the other resort, taking all your equipment with you, and buy one there. We didn't bother, either last year or this. The amazing thing is that from both resorts you can ski to the edge of the other ski area. If neither resort will sell the other's passes, why on earth don't they set up an office at that point to sell passes? They do this in Switzerland where ski areas meet and it works there! I believe that this problem will never be resolved unless they get enough complaints from their visitors. I am encouraging an email campaign. Please support me and email the Pas de la Casa and Soldeu tourist organizations and complain. The email addre
sses are, for Pas de la Casa via their website - www.pasgrau.com - from the Info Pas/Grau link and for Soldeu - firstname.lastname@example.org. Rant over! UPDATE - The 2003/4 season marks a landmark in Andorran skiing. Finally, after years of bickering, Pas and Soldeu have agreed a common ski pass covering both resorts. This year you can, for the first time, ski the entire area on a single pass. To all of you who made your feelings known and brought about this earth-shattering change of direction, much thanks. I never thought it would happen, which is probably the reason why this year we are skiing St Sorlin! Oh, the irony! The Skiing ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From the hotels in the area where the Himalaia is situated can get to the main pistes by a short walk. Strictly speaking this isn't ski in/ski out but about as good as. From here it's a short ski down to the four main lifts. Two are high speed, a four man (Pas de la Casa) and a six man (Font Negre), which take you as high as you can go from Pas. From here you can ski down into Grau Roig. The other two lifts are older slower lifts (Solana - 4 man and Coll Blanc - 3 man) only go about half way. These are good for getting your skiing legs at the start of your holiday as they tend not to get too lengthy queues, not that queues are really a serious problem anyway. The area seems to have a strange local climate. On a couple of days it was misty or there was light snow on the Pas de la Casa slopes but, once you got to the top, the Grau Roig bowl was usually mist free and bathed in sunshine. Many people didn't realize this and stayed on the lower slopes at Pas. The next lift on from Grau Roig is also a fast 4 man (Cubil), which gives you access to the furthest pistes in the next valley, taking you via one further 4 man (Enradort) to the limits of the ski area. Throughout these areas are a good mix of piste standards, mostly Reds, so
me Blues and a few Blacks. Between these are miles of great off-piste for the more adventurous. We didn't find any pistes that we would class as impossible. Many will provide a challenge such as Jordi Angles down from the top of Font Negre, a Black that was often icy despite the abundant snow and Tamarro down towards Grau Roig from the top of the Pas de la Casa lift, which was steep for the first 500 metres but blended into the Red Pista Llarga below that. The only piste that disappointed was Cami de Pessons from the top of Cubil, which advertises itself as a Red but is really Green at best. The only lift that disappointed was Montmalus up from Grau Roig. This is a drag, one of the very few in the area, and heavily used, resulting in substantial delays. I wanted to try it as there was an interesting Black (Granola) down through the trees but in the end we only did the adjacent Red as my wife refused to do the short punt to the top of the run. We never went there again. The Refreshments ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Throughout the area are lots of snack bars and restaurants, far more than at Soldeu, where there are really only two main refreshment areas. In this respect Pas/Grau Roig is far better. We found plenty of variety. However, most have "No Picnic" signs up! I fail to see why. If their intension is to prevent people coming in and using their tables to eat their own food, preventing genuine customers from finding a seat then it was a dismal failure. We were there during what we were told was the busiest week of the season and on no occasion did we find anywhere where we could not have got a seat. By preventing us from using their facilities they lost any potential trade with us. We would have been happy to buy drinks. As a result we used only those outlets that permitted picnics and, of course, we bought all of our drinks from them. A case of cutting of your nose to spite your face! The vie
ws from the two main panoramic restaurants at El Solenelles and at the top of the Pas de la Casa lift (where picnics are allowed) are spectacular. The Coma III snack bar (picnics also allowed) half way down to Grau Roig was a favourite stop-off point for a relax in the sun. Another location we enjoyed was at Costa Rodona, at the foot of the 4 man lift of the same name. This is on the right of the piste, halfway up from Pas. Downstairs is a self-service, which we didn't try but had a look at (OK, nothing special). Upstairs is a restaurant with waiter service. This is really good. We had an excellent launch there and would have gone there far more often had we not ventured far from home most days. The other restaurant we tried which proved a success was the Husky, only about 100 metres up from the main lifts at Pas, on the right-hand side. This was so popular that it did get rather packed at lunchtime. My advice, get there early. Also good for the elevenses Vin Chaud, when it's less crowded. The Skiing Experience ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ All in all the skiing is as good as I have enjoyed anywhere. For beginners this is paradise. There are almost as many ski instructors as there are skiers and the learner slopes are almost perfect. For those who want off-piste, this is heaven. Chamonix, who needs Chamonix! The Apres-Ski ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ There are loads of bars and restaurants throughout Pas, far more than you can try out during a one-week holiday. We only indulged in one event organized by the local reps, a Mexican evening, held at the nearby Milwaukee Bar. The bar itself itself was nothing special; you can find its like in most ski resorts and its name alone gives you an idea of its "theme". The Mexican evening was held in the back room and on this night the place was full. I wasn't expecting much and my expectations were fully realized. Virtually every time we have d
one these it is clear that the cheapest possible fare is provided to maximize the profits. Wine and beer is on an "as much as you can drink" basis. The wine was undrinkable and the beer was probably Budweiser (nuff said!). Food was a Nachos starter followed by Buffalo Wings. Dessert was a tub of ice-cream. The Band ~~~~~~~~~~~ The "entertainment" during the meal was a mildly amusing compere. After the meal a band came on. Once again I wasn't expecting much. This time I was wrong. The band was a two-piece, guy (John - lead guitar)/girl (Caz - bass guitar) with computerized drum backing, who went by the name of Hooched. Now, these two were as good performers as I have ever heard. How they haven't been heard of before beats me. I'm a connoisseur of Bass players. In my opinion Andy Fraser, late of 70s supergroup Free, is the best Bass player of all time. Caz could stand her ground with anyone. There are probably two things that prevent them being famous. Firstly, they only do covers, they seem to have written nothing themselves. Secondly, I have a strong suspicion that they play simply to fund their skiing and, during the summer, surfing. Whether they pay tax anywhere is open to question! Nice work if you can get it. Their repertoire featured Oasis and Blur heavily with Nirvana and Free in reserve. Their performances were superb. I was moved to buy their CD. It was c**p, not the performance, the quality (or complete lack of it) of the recording. Sorry guys but you really need to do better than that. We came across them again the following day at El Marselles Bar just down the hill. We went in only because it was Happy Hour. Same set, same c**p joke (singular!), same brilliant performances. Pitty about the bar. This just has to have the worst loos in Pas, actually loo, yes, just one for the whole bar, for both sexes, door that doesn't lock, light that doesn' ;t wo
rk. Avoid!!!!!!!! UPDATE - I was very surprised to receive an email the other day, right out of the blue, from the guy who manages the band's website (http://www.hooched.s5.com). He'd seen my review and passed on his thanks for the compliments I had paid the band. He wanted to make it clear that this really was a job for John and Caz and not just pocket money. They spend three months in Andorra and the rest in Majorca. Any way, as I STILL say, nice work if you can get it! Apparently John was in a band back in the 90s but it broke up. He and Caz have been playing together since 97. He accepts that the CD is c**p and is trying to persuade them to do something better. Oh, and they do write their own stuff. Perhaps we'll get to hear it some time. Eating Out ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Apart from the Mexican night we ate out twice. The first time was at La Raclette Chez Gegene on Carrer Maia. It is in the traditional Savoyard style found everywhere in the Alps. If you stick to the traditional fare I'm sure that you will be very satisfied. I felt like a steak and it was a big mistake (sorry about that - couldn't resist it). This was just about the worst piece of meat it has ever been my misfortune to try to eat. Fortunately there was a lot of it so I managed to salvage at least a modicum of chewable substance. My wife had the lamb and pronounced it very satisfactory. In all cases the quantity could not be faulted, just the quality of my steak. It made it a disappointing experience from my point of view. At least the wine made up for it, a superb bottle of Muga. The other occasion we ate out was at Campistrano, right next to the Milwaukee Bar. This is a seafood restaurant with a Spanish influence. We had a very excellent Lobster Paella. It was Saturday night and the place was virtually deserted. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why. OK, perhaps it wasn't at the heart of the tow
n but it would have been well worth the effort of a little walking for anyone. The only other customers were a group of Russians (Andorra is very popular for skiers from Russia). We were amused to hear that the common language when Russians meet Andorrans (Spanish) is... English! Generally the impression I got of Pas was that the dining out experience was not as good as in Soldeu. The quality isn't as good, nor the variety. If pizza parlours and fast-food outlets are your thing, however, you,ll probably be happy. The Travel Company ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This year we travelled with First Choice. We have used them before and found them no better/no worse than most other companies. We needed little help from them and our only complaint to them (about problems with the hotel) were beyond their ability to fix. They did, however, bring the matter to the attention of the hotel management (who knew about it anyway but a few more complaints never hurt). In Summary ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Once again Andorra was everything (almost) that we could have hoped for. The skiing was just about perfect, helped, admittedly by the abundance of snow this year. The only real disappointments were the inconveniences imposed by the lift pass feud between Pas and Soldeu which, as you will have read above, has now at last been resolved. The problems with the hotel (read the review) is not down to Pas directly although, the local services probably contribute. Oh, and the steak! Nevertheless, I am now upgrading Pas from a previous 4 stars to the full 5 stars. Would we go back again? Almost certainly. All it now needs is for a connection to Arinsal to be set up and Andorra will be skiing paradise.
You know how it is at Christmas. Will we go to your parents or mine? Will we have everyone around to our house or have a nice quiet time on our own? This year we decided to give all the relatives the brush off and head for the snow. We wanted to be guaranteed a proper festive scene but where to go? At this time of year everywhere with any sort of decent snowfall and a bit of an incline becomes a ski resort. We had no real passion for the idea of sliding down a mountain with two narrow strips of mdf strapped to our feet but what the hell, we decided that we would give it a try. A quick look on the net revealed an excellent website. SkiMcNeill.com provides holidays and insurance as well as loads of info on your prospective destination. After a little look around we went for seven nights half board in Pas de la Casa, Andorra. We spoke to a very nice lady in Belfast called Susan who gave us even more information on the place and added some very useful hints, more of which later. We flew with Monarch airlines and were delayed while the plane took on water. As it turned out the water truck had frozen and we had only one toilet on the plane for all 235 people but as luck would have it there was also no water for the tea and coffee so the number of people needing the facilities was greatly reduced! The flight was smooth and took almost two hours to Toulouse airport. On leaving the plane we were bombarded with package holiday reps, they were everywhere. A number of flights had arrived at the same time and there were various companies on hand to pick up their customers and spirit them away to the waiting coaches. We were with a company called Panorama and they herded all of us onto the coaches and had us on the move within the hour. You really have to see this operation to believe it. People emerge from the baggage reclaim area dazed and confused. They are pounced upon by young reps clad in coloured ski jackets and whisked away to the coac
hes. Anyone who has ever seen “One man and his dog” will be familiar with the type of thing I am trying to describe. Once safely aboard our coaches we set off into the early French morning to head for our final destination of Pas de la Casa. The journey takes nearly three hours including one stop of around fifteen minutes. The French scenery is bland until you reach the base of the Pyrenees when everything begins to look up, in more ways than one. Pas, as the locals know it, lies just inside the border and is the first town you encounter when entering Andorra from this direction. It is a nice little place nestled into the side of the mountain with the main ski lift located right in the centre of town. The hotels are arranged around this central location making the journey to and from the piste a doddle even for those unaccustomed to the wearing of ski boots. For most of the coach journey to Pas we were reminded by our rep of the need for getting our ski gear as soon as possible. He was adamant on this and returned to the subject several times. We had not pre-booked any equipment or lessons as Susan at SkiMcNeil had told us there were better deals to be had in the resort. Being of a suspicious nature I was wary of the hard sell approach being used by the rep. As soon had we had settled in our hotel we made our way to the Panorama ski centre to enquire about the packages on offer. Now if you are a skier you may be used to paying for equipment hire and understand all of the jargon and deals available. We were new to all this and found some of the ideas a little strange. The package offered by Panorama for the beginner offered all the equipment, 15 hours of lessons and a one week lift pass for just under 250 EUR. This sounded reasonable but the only problem was that ski school began at 10 am every morning. This was not my idea of a relaxing Christmas break so we enquired as to the possibility of maybe having one or two lessons and
only skiing for a couple of days. We were told that this was impossible. It was all or nothing with Panorama and the rep informed us that there was no possibility of finding another company to supply what we were looking for. We were a little disappointed but not unduly so as we had never set out with skiing in mind. So we set out to enjoy the delights of Pas. We stayed at the Hotel Camelot, which is a pretty basic establishment. Our room was comfortable and warm and there was always hot water and clean towels available. The food was buffet style for both breakfast and dinner and we found the choice to be plain but very edible. They do very good ordinary food and you can see that they are geared to the hungry skier who has been exerting him or herself on the slopes all day. All in all we had no complaints about the hotel. If you want to have a relaxing drink there is another hotel just around the corner, which sports a lovely bar with sofas for relaxing. We spent many afternoons and evenings there and really enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. The Himalaya is the name you are looking for. Pas has the usual bars and cafes but only very basic restaurant dining. Do not go here expecting gastronomic delights, it is just not that sort of place. The shops are all duty free as is the whole of Andorra and there are bargains to be found on sportswear, electrical goods, wine and spirits. Chocolate is very expensive so bring lots of cash if you enjoy the odd KitKat with your coffee. The bus leaves from the centre of town. The stop is located just outside the church. From here you can visit the other resorts of Slodeau, Encamp and Cannillo or travel on to the capital, Andorra la vella. The capital is just a bigger version of the resorts but you will find larger stores and a wider range of goods on sale. The journey costs 4.50 EUR one-way and takes about fifty minutes. The one place you have to visit is the Caldea spa. For 23 EUR you get three hours of re
laxation. The whole place is a giant bathtub with every water based relaxation method available. There is a huge lagoon, which has an indoor and outdoor section, jacuzzi and hot tub sections. Steam bath, roman bath and sauna as well as a UV light relaxation area. The experience of lying in an outdoor lagoon with warm bubbles caressing your tired limbs while looking at the mountains is fantastic. Three hours will fly as you unwind and you will leave feeling great if a little crinkly. Anyway back to the skiing. Pas has lots of slopes catering for the beginner all the way up to the experienced skier. The snow was good the week that we were there and we heard no complaints from the various levels of skier that were in our party. As I have said the piste comes right down into the town so all of the facilities are easy to reach. Undaunted by our earlier experience and having investigated the situation we discovered that it is indeed possible to have a freelance skiing experience in Pas. At the central lift area there is an information desk, which can tailor tuition to the level and time constraints of each individual. You can hire equipment from any of the shops in town and we found one right beside the nursery slopes, which meant that we had the minimum distance to travel to get to the snow. Five to seven Euro gets you your equipment for the day while individual or group lessons are available at a similar cost. There are no charges for the nursery slopes so it is possible to enjoy a days skiing for less than 20 Euro or half the price charged by Panorama. My advice is to shop around when you get there rather than rushing into the packages offered by the holiday companies. Overall Andorra is a charming country with great snow and scenery. Food is cheap and there are lots of holiday bargains to be found. We really enjoyed our stay and would go back again if we ever fancy another turn on the piste.
I went to Pas De La Casa last week (look at the date I wrote this if you're reading this after April!)and I have to say it is a truly wicked place to go. Introduction ~~~~~~~~~~ Andorra is one of the more recent success stories of world skiing. Ultra modern Pas de la Casa, lift-linked to Grau Roig, some 9km (6 miles) away by road, is the highest and sunniest ski resort in the Pyrenees, with the best snow record. Because of it's north facing position, snow quality and quantity are virtually guaranteed from early December to mid-May. There are plenty of snow cannons about as well which means good snow, even if fake, is guaranteed. Andorra is probably best known for its duty free shopping, and that is worth going for in itself. Pas is situated right on the French border, and I mean RIGHT on the French Border. As soon as you cross the dividing line between France and Andorra, you are in Pas De La Casa. Therefore customs can be quite strict (we were told but didn't find out) so you are only allowed 300 cigarettes out the country and 1 litre of Alcohol. Getting There ~~~~~~~~~~~ I travelled with Panorama holidays, and left Britain at 9.20a.m on Sunday 11th Feb. The flight was fine, but the pilot smashed the wing of the plane into a bridge when taxing into Toulouse airport. We couldn't feel much, just felt like brakes grinding, but it was enough to unnerve anybody, because we still had to get back from France to Britain! There then had to be a full technical inspection which delayed me for 4 hours, but after that it was a reasonably short 3 hour journey to the resort of Pas. So, basically, flights are available to Toulouse from all over the UK, including Gatwick, Stanstead, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. From Toulouse it is about a 3 hour drive, but you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of France and the Pyrenee’s to while the time away. Accommodation ~~~~~~
~~~~~~~~ After getting to the almighty one-star heap of rubbish that was the Hotel Almeria, we settled in and went for dinner. The food was cold, which we didn't need after waiting 4 hours in an airport. The room was also pretty basic but all you really want is somewhere where you can sleep and dry your clothes. Oh, hang on, there was no where to dry our clothes! If you ever want to go to a seriously basic hotel, go to the Hotel Almeria. Its situated right next to a car park about 300 metres from the slopes. However, there are plenty of other hotels or forms of accommodation if you are not satisfied with where you are staying. Some of the people we met on holiday spoke highly of accommodation such as: 1. The Sandi IV apartment – situated right on the top of the resort with an overlook of the slopes. Self catering accommodation I think, but supposed to be very good. 2. Hotel Catalunya – situated right in the centre of town, just under 200 metres from the slopes. It has a lively bar downstairs, but the food was apparently a bit dodgy. Cheap though. 3. Hotel Central – not sure exactly where this is, but is apparently quite good. Baths in every room, and food is apparently quite good there aswell. They are three places that are apparently cheap, warm and a reasonable meal. There are plenty of other places to go, so do not worry if you go without nowhere to stay. Going Out ~~~~~~~~ After getting over the initial trauma of our home for the next week, we went out in Pas, which was awesome. There are 75 bars available, most notably The West End bar, The Bilbord, Milwaukee's, Mulligans and The Camelot Disco: The West End ------------------ Don’t go hoping to see a romantic musical or an Andrew Lloyd Webber production because the only music you’ll be getting is Dance and Trance. The bar with the finest bar maids in the world probably, definitely worth going for
that. It has a huge square bar in the centre of the room, but the club isn’t actually that large so it makes space a bit tight. There is actually a good atmosphere in the club and it is definitely worth a visit. The Bilbord --------------- Plenty of comfy chairs, reasonable sized dance floor, spacious and two bars makes this one of the places you will probably end up in at the end of the night. Friendly staff, and some speak English so its quite good. The bouncers are armed with Pepper Spray though so stay on the right side! Milwaukee’s --------------- This place gets very crowded, but it has a superb atmosphere and there is two bars. They do a thing where they set the bar on fire and make people drink a drink through a straw quickly. Awesome! Mulligan’s -------------- An Irish Pub situated near Burger King. Has a pool table and an electronic dart board, and with it being Irish its pretty friendly as well. Camelot Disco ------------------ Another place where I guarantee you will finish a night off. This place just oozes 80’s funk, playing things like ‘Raining Men’. The fact that it has disco in its title doesn’t help at all! It has a pool table, two large bars and a spacious dance floor so it is quite good. The dance floor has platforms as well which is about the only form of seating available. Not very good when you are drunk, I can tell you! The Underground ---------------------- A very lively place, gives away free drinks and has bar men that act like they have just come out of ‘Cocktail’ – fast as anything, and Dutch! Good dance floor, seats as well, good atmosphere, excellent! *****Special Mention***** ~~~~~~~~~~~~ But another of my favourite bars had to be The Musical Business Class Snack Bar. This was a small bar which had two very fine Bar Maids (Esther and Careen),
and it was just gaggin to give away free drinks! The first time we went in their they gave us a free pint each and on another occasion we received 10 free shots. If you ever go to Pas, go to that bar and be nice to the bar maids. And just hope the boss, Paco, isn't there because he was very drunk at about 4 in the morning and pissed in the corner of the bar! This isn't the only bar you get free drinks though - it is honestly worth just wandering around town collecting free drink flyers to take out with you in the night time. One thing I must warn though is that the 75 bars are exceedingly small. A culture shock from England I can say, but they all have good atmospheres so are all worth going to. The Pistes and Equipment ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Enough of our alcohol problems though, and onto the slopes. They are awesome! Enough to keep the learner happy and enough for the more experienced skier to do. There is not too many KM of pistes, but the pistes are long and some are quite challenging. There is about 100km (65 miles)of pistes in total, which was definitely enough to keep me and my friend happy for the week. There is also a snow park which will keep the more adventurous skier/snowboarder happy for a while. I didn’t go on the half pipe that was their though, but I did go off the jumps that were good and a challenge. For the majority of the time (about 4 days to be precise) I was on skis which I found easy to pick up after not skiing since I went to Schladming, Austria last year. However, for the last 2 days I was on snow blades. For those who have never been skiing before, or those who actually ski, go on snow blades. I found them a lot easier to manoeuvre, a lot faster and plus I could go off jumps a lot easier with them on. Ski Hire ~~~~~~~ Schuski ski hire shop is probably the best place to go, but that is if you want ski’s or ski blades. This shop is situated right opposite
Burger King. Another good shop to go to is Pas 83, which is situated right on the slopes. This is much better for snowboard hire, and the staff speak English as well. The Morning (or Day) after the Night Before! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In the mornings after the numerous heavy nights that I guarantee you will have are the bars that serve the English Breakfast that is better than the best paracetemol in the world. These are Pas 83 and The Little Rock Café, both situated right next to the Pas facing pistes. If you have decent breakfasts at the hotel, which will most often be continental style, then don’t bother because there’s no point. However, if you stay at the Hotel Almeria then you will definitely want to go for one. The breakfasts cost about £3.50 in Spanish pesetas and for that you get the full whack plus a free hot drink.. There are a few mountain chalet restaurants at the resort, but none that I could recommend as there isn’t really atmosphere at any of them and they are well expensive. Duty Free Shopping ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ You would think it wouldn't be as Andorra as a whole is very cheap to shop. However, this is only really in the supermarkets where fags are about £8 for 200 and you can get 2 litres of vodka for £3. Mad I know, but it gets worse - you can buy assault rifles, pepper spray and large knives in the supermarkets as well! The beer however in the bars is not really much cheaper than it is over here, and in some places it was more expensive. Clothes and watches or electrical goods aren’t very cheap either, which they are thought to be. Don’t be fooled by any brochures!!! I hope my guide to Pas was useful, or will prove useful if you go. Hope you enjoy it if you do! Before I leave though, I would just like to say that if you want to go to Andorra, then go with Panorama. The reps were all very entertaining, and they offered num
erous ancillary activities which involved consuming large amounts of alcohol. Fantastic! I definitely enjoyed my stay at Pas De La Casa. It was well worth the money I paid, and if there was a larger skiing area then I would definitely go again. Actually no – I’d definitely go again whatever