Although now "merged", the Vallnord ski area remains divided into two distinct sectors, Pal-Arinsal and Ordino-Arcalis (often simply called Arcalis) which are separated by the highest mountain in Andorra, Pic d'Arcalis (2,776m), and with no ski lift connection between them it's still necessary to take a free ski-bus or car to travel between them.
The skiing at Arinsal is 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 at the neighbouring hamlet at Cota. If you want to return direct to Arinsal you have to do so on the lift. The skiing above Comallempla is effectively in a single East-facing bowl above the treeline. It's best suited to beginners (Arinsal is a noted Beginners' resort with excellent ski schools) and intermediates. The top lift reaches above 2500m so its reasonably snowsure.
And once upon ta time, that was all the skiing there was at Arinsal. But Pic Negre is now linked by lift to Pic de Cubil and Pla de la Cot, the ski area above Pal (1550m) and the valley town of La Massana which has its own lift into the area. And the two sectors complement one another: the Pal sector is a bigger than Arinsal's but lower, with mostly treelined slopes. There is also more variety of skiing here - from easy blues to unofficial off-piste routes through the trees for experts.
The real draw for advanced skiers though is a 20 minute car journey (or a longer ride in a skibus) away at Ordino-Arcalis. It's the smallest ski area in Andorra but has the best black piste, freeriding and off-piste skiing. And it usually has the best snow too. But be warned: even with this offshoot at Arcalis, the whole Vallnord ski area is probably not big enough to last keen strong skiers for a whole week. At the very least, they will want to spend a day or two in Andorra's other, larger, ski area - Grandvalira - which is centered around Soldeu.
There is no accommodation near the lifts at Arcalis, so Arinsal, Pal or La Massana are the more obvious places for skiers and boarders to find hotels and apartments. And whilst La Massana has the fastest connections to the slopes at Arcalis and Grandvalira, it feels more like a town than a ski resort. Arinsal, in contrast, does feel like a ski resort and an attractive one too. It's not chocolate-box pretty and it's ongoing development has made it rather stretched-out but overall it has enough traces of the old Andorran mountain village to give it some charm and authenticity. And whilst it's more of a relaxed family-friendly type of place than an out-and-out party-resort like Pas de la Casa, it has enough lively apres-ski and nightlife for those who want to take advantage of Andorra's inexpensive bars and clubs.
Ski & Board Hire in Arinsal and Vallnord
There are equipment rental shops in all the Vallnord villages and towns. The shops tend to charge significantly more if you just walk into them when you arrive rather than book online in advance. ALPINRESORTS.com works with several shops in Arinsal and the other Vallnord villages and can secure large savings if you book in advance - check out their latest discounts in and around Arinsal here.
SKISET also have outlets in Arinsal and the other Vallnord resorts, and will give discounts if you book online here.