Arinsal Ski Resort

Arinsal is lift-linked to Pal, forming the Vallnord ski domain. It's not a huge ski area, but it's a good value destination for beginners and less confident intermediates. And Arinsal is one of Andorra's more attractive ski resorts.

The Vallnord ski area linking Arinsal with Pal has 63km (39 miles) of pistes spread over 707 hectares (1747 acres) and 31 ski lifts, including a long one down to the nearby valley town of La Massana. That’s perfect for beginners and near novices, and probably enough also for relaxed intermediates who are happy pottering about on the slopes for an hour or two before settling down for a long lunch at duty-free prices. But experts who want to be tested, and keen piste-bashers who want to explore endless new runs, should stay in other Andorran resorts like Soldeu and Pas de la Casa, which are both part of the much larger Grandvalira ski area.

The skiing immediately above Arinsal is in a high east-facing bowl above the treeline on the Pic Negre mountain. A lift takes skiers from the village to the mid-mountain station at Comallempla at 1950m, where there is some ski-in, ski-out accommodation. There is only one run back to the valley floor which goes to the small hamlet at Cota. To return to Arinsal you either take the bus from Cota or come down in the lift from Comallempla. The top lift on Pic Negre reaches above 2500m so the area is reasonably snowsure. There are some isolated (and optional) challenges for better skiers, but most of the runs are oriented towards beginners and near novices, making Arinsal an excellent resort to learn to ski in.

Pic Negre is linked by lift to Pic de Cubil and Pla de la Cot, which are above Pal and the valley town of La Massana. This part of Vallnord is bigger than the Pic Negre sector above Arinsal but it’s also lower, with mostly tree-lined slopes. There is also some tougher skiing here, including unofficial off-piste routes through the trees for experts, although not enough to occupy them for a full week. Ordino-Arcalis, the freeride capital of Andorra with the best off-piste in the country, can also be reached by car or bus but it’s no longer included on the Vallnord pass.

Of the Vallnord bases, most people prefer to stay in Arinsal. It’s not chocolate-box pretty and it’s ongoing development has made it rather stretched-out but it has enough traces of the old Andorran mountain village to give it some charm and authenticity, and you can see why people like to come here in summer as well as winter. And whilst it’s more of a relaxed family-friendly type of place than a full-on party-resort like Pas de la Casa, it has enough apres-ski and nightlife for those who want to have fun in the evenings and take advantage of Andorra’s inexpensive food and drink.

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Arinsal Ski Area

Part of the Vallnord complex, Arinsal’s immediate ski area is to be found up a steep slope above Arinsal in one of a number of glaciated hanging valleys that feed eventually into the Valira del Norte and flow down to Andorra La Vella.

Of the two sectors in Vallnord, the Pal - Arinsal sector (just 5km from Andorra la Vella) is the larger of the two with 63km of runs among 770 hectares of skiing and around 1,000m vertical from base up to 2,560m. With 4 green, 16 blue, 16 red and 5 black runs the Pal - Arinsal ski area is best for beginners and intermediate skiers and riders and includes designated areas for freestlye, free ride, slalom and bumps.

Skiing out of Arinsal begins at the main car using the Telecabine Orriols. This quickly transfers you to the main ski base from which it's possible to take a sequence of four further lifts to the very top of Pic del Cubil for an exhilarating descent.

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At the top of this relative plateau rises the Pic del Cubil (2,358m) one of the tallest skiable mountains in Vallnord. Near its summit a 70,000 sq m artificial lake has recently been constructed to feed the snow guns on the lower slopes, with 371 artificial snow cannons in Pal-Arinsal covering around 19km of the 63km ski area.

Above Arinsal itself there are 2 green runs and a snow playground, 9 blue runs, 6 red runs and 3 black runs. On the Pal side of the Pic del Cubil (but still accessible from Arinsal) there are a further 2 green runs and a snow playground, 8 blue runs, 10 red and one black.

Arinsal is the dominant partner in the "piste marriage" with Arcalis where there's only 25 runs - 6 green, 6 blue, 11 red and 2 black runs - and just 26km of on-piste skiing among 442 hectares with 74 artificial snow cannons covering 12km out of 26km on-piste skiing. To be fair Arcalis does have the edge when it comes to off-piste skiing (around 310 hectares suitable for off-piste) but Arinsal is the best place to base yourself in Vallnord until you're ready to go off-piste.

All the pistes have a name and number making piste maps easy to follow. The lifts are also numbered and navigating the ski area is easy. Besides skiing and snowboarding Vallnord has gone out of its way to promote other winter activities including snowmobiling, mushing (dogsledding), skibikes, snowshoeing, panoramic flights by helicopter or hang-glider and horse riding.

Arinsal Ski Lifts & Passes

The ski lift infrastructure is good and Vallnord is putting a lot of money into making it work with 28 lifts carrying up to 34,100 skiers per hour in Pal – Arinsal and over in the Ordino – Arcalis sector the 13 lifts have capacity for 16,510 skiers per hour.

From the main car park in Arinsal the 4-person cable car known as Telecabine Els Orriols rises nearly 500m up into the Arinsal Valley to Comallempla where the resort's main mountain restaurants, bars, ski schools, cash point and medical centre are to be found.

From here there are chairlifts to the very top of the valley which connect by telecabine to Coll de la Botella from which it's possible to take the Chairlift La Botella, and drag lifts, to the very top of Pic del Cubil (2,358m).

The lift system is simply numbered 1-30 and the piste map makes it clear at each incline what you can expect. Terminology is given in French (as we are near the French border) and translates as follows: Telesiege (Chair Lift). Teleski (Drag Lift) and Telecabine (Cable Car)

There are also tapis roulantes (conveyor belts) one telecorde (tow rope behind a piste basher) and a telepherique (a large cable car connecting two sides of the Coll de la Botella).

Adult lift pass prices are reasonable at around 33 euros per day and around 150 euros for a 6-day pass in high season (Christmas, most of February and other public holidays) and around 15% less in low season. Children's lift passes cost around 25% less.

Arinsal Advanced

In the Pal et Arinsal sectors (immediately above Arinsal) there are 5 black runs, including La Comellada which descends rapidly from almost the top of Pic del Cubil (2,358m) to El Fontanals 350 feet below. The route takes in the highest free ride (off-piste) zone in the Arinsal area and carves a path through forest.

Some of the best freestyling in the Vallnord area is to be found above Arcalis by taking the Chairlift La Basera from the main car park up to Les Portelles skiing down the La Balma red run down as far as the draglift La Tossa. There are then 4 free ride (off-piste) zones that extent most of the way back down to Arcalis.

Arinsal Intermediate

In the Pal et Arinsal sectors (immediately above Arinsal) there are 17 blue runs and 16 red runs for intermediate skiers.

This is very much intermediate country and if you're careful you can complete a circuit across the twin peaks (Pic del Cubil and Pic D'Enclar) and get back down to Colle de la Botella primarily on advanced blues and with just a hairy moment or two on the red run La Serra that descends between Del Cubil and D'Enclar. There's a real sense of achievement as you then ski gently down to Comallempla and take the lift back to Arinsal.

Arinsal Beginners

In the Pal et Arinsal sectors (immediately above Arinsal) there are 5 green beginner runs and 2 jardines de neiges (snow parks).

The area at the bottom of the Arinsal valley (turn left when you reach Comallempla) has a sequence of short runs for novices - El Cortal, L'Escola I and L'Escola II - served by conveyor belt and chairlift that are good for building confidence. Moreover there's a children's snow park here and a handy restaurant El Refugi d'Arinsal for when it all gets too much.

There's also a good series of beginners' slopes around the restaurant La Borda at La Caubella which can be accessed directly from La Massana if you take the Bus Neu down that far.

Arinsal Boarding & Freestyle

At the moment there is only one freestyle area in Vallnord – not a good state of affairs for boarders and freestyle skiers – which is to be found at the top of the Els Planells drag lift above Comallempla.

To start take the cable car from Arinsal main car park up to Comallempla and then the Les Fonts chairlift to the Xina Igloo bar and freestyle back down to the draglift Els Planells which will take you back up to Xina Igloo which, fortuitously, serves great Chinese food.

Addicts may want to spend a day the other side of Andorra la Vella in Grandvalira where there are eight freestyle areas.

Arinsal Mountain Restaurants

Above Arinsal there are a number of eateries owned by the ski station (Tel: +376 737 020) Xina Igloo which offers Chinese food, Mexicobelix (Mexican) Panoramix (British pies and chips).

Over in the Pal sector of Arinsal just below La Caubella peak (1,950m) is Pal La Borda (Tel: +376 737 000) which specialises in Andorran cuisine (Borda is the name for a traditional Andorran mountain inn). La Borda also offers a doughnut bar known as DonkiNauta and an independently owned sandwich bar known as Frankfurt Joan's. There's also a bar, buffet and a self-service restaurant up here, a children's playground and a ski jump.

La Borda isn't easy to get to unless you take the cable car up from Massana, however it makes an ideal stopping point for lunch if you're making a day of taking in the twin peaks (Pic del Cubil and Pic D'Enclar).

El Refugi (Tel: +376 836 767) at the bottom of the green runs and next to the childrens' snowpark is the only privately owned mountain restaurant in the Arinsal valley.

Above Coll de La Botella near the husky mushing circuit Far West has an outdoor barbeque on the slopes of Pic del Cubil and if you ski down to Pla de la Cot there is Italian food at Bella Italia. Both can be contacted through the Pal Ski Station (Tel: +376 737 000).

Arinsal sector
Xina Igloo (Chinese)
Mexicobelix (Mexican food)
Panoramix (British food)
Snow Bar
Self-service Arinsal
Buffet Arinsal
Mountain Shelter of Arinsal

Pal sector
La Borda (Andorran cuisine)
Bar-Terrace-Barbecue El Planell
Cafeteria Caubella
Self-service El Planell
Open buffet La Caubella
Bella Italia (Italian food)
Itinerant points of sale

Seturia sector

Far West (with outside barbecue)

Ordino-Arcalis sector
Els Planells
La Coma
Snack bar Les Portelles

Arinsal Village

Arinsal is located at the top of a valley tributary of the Valira del Norte and still has the feel of a typical Andorran village. (If you want to see what less sympathetic development can look like go to Pas de la Casa at the northeast of Grandvalira).

The little stone church, St Andreu d'Arsinal, still dominates the village and its bell rings out the quarter hours. One of the hotels, Micolau, is an original stone borda (Pyrenean inn) dating from the 13th century. There are a few shops: Ev's Deli which is useful if you're self-catering and some snack bars like The Bull but the tone of the place is low key.

This is a good resort for families. It's away from the noise of somewhere like Pas de la Casa or Soldeu and there's a sense of staying in a real community, not a purpose-built resort.

Arinsal Restaurants & Bars

There's good tapas to be found in Arinsal at La Tasca (Tel: +376 839 630) and El Bsoc (Tel: +376 835 519) For Italian food not far from the main car park try Casa Bassi (Tel: +376 839 981) while next door the Restaurant Arinsal de l'Hotel Arinsal (Tel: +376 838 889) serves good Mediterranean fare. Surf (Tel: +376 838 069) specialises paradoxically in grilled meat.

Many hotels offer half board so there is a temptation to stay in to eat however one evening you should take a taxi down into Andorra La Vella (approx 15 euros) and sample at least one restaurant in the capital. Among those highly recommended are San Marco (chef Marco Mora), El Rusc (chef Pablo Urcelay), El Cresper (chef Michael Bayloco) [email protected] and Can Benet (chef Jospeh Maria Benet)

Disco-pub Solana (located in the Hotel Solana) likes to stay open late. El Cisco offers house and ambient music. Rocky Mountain and Bogart vie for best live music, all year round while Derby, an Irish pub, just likes to be noisy. Its big rival is Quo Vadis, a traditional English pub next to Hotel Ayma.

Arinsal Other Activities

There’s a 25 m indoor heated swimming pool, children's pool, fitness gym, aerobics hall, squash court and tanning booths at the Ordino Sports Centre (Tel +376 87 81 10) and a pitch and putt at El Torrent Camping Park (Tel +376 738613 ) in Xixerella, just outside La Massana.

Finally for something completely different, the world's largest badge museum (el Museu del pin) is housed inside Vall d'Ordino's Hotel Sant Miquel (Tel +376 749 000 / Admission is free to this display of over 42,000 different badges. Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday: (10am - 1 pm. and 4-7pm)

Tourist Office
E-mail: [email protected]
Information & Reservations
Pal Arinsal: +376 737 000
Information & Reservations
Ordino-Arcalis: +376 739 600

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