Already the chairlift TSD6 Estanay heads east out of Pas
de la Casa into France and the addition of Porte des Neiges across
the French border into this 193 km sequence of runs is anticipated
Skiing in Pas de la Casa begins at TSF4 Solana from the top of which it is possible to get to all the other runs in the Grandvalira. If you get to the end and don't want to ski back, there's a free ski bus from any point on the Grandvalira all the way back to Pas de la Casa - the bus displays the word "Grandvalira" so you don't mistake it for the local village transport.
All ski lifts have both a numeric code and a name noted in upper case on the ski map while the ski pistes themselves just have names some of which sound curious to Anglophones "clot", "muflo". "llop", "cucut", "fagina" and "tubs") but you quickly get used to them.
From Pas de la Casa you can ski over the Coll Blanc (2,528m) into Grau Roig and back again. Grau Roig is not the most exciting place in the world - it's basically one hotel and a car park - but you can eat there and if you plan your route cleverly you can take in the two freestyle areas known as "portella" at the top of the button lift Coma Bianca III.
The four-person TSF4 Solana chairlift runs from the ski
school meeting place opposite the Olympia shopping centre in Pas de
la Casa, and from the top you can then ski down and ride the
six-person TSD6 Font Negre cable car to the top of Coll Blanc. From
Coll Blanc you can ski down to Coma Blanca III which has no number
code, which means that it's either a button lift or T-bar.
Cortals (2,502m) and Tossal de la Llosada (2,560m) are the two peaks to aim for. From these you can get to most parts of Grandvalira. Cortals is served by two lifts and Tossal de la Llosada by three.
Ski passes in Pas de la Casa are as for the rest of Grandvalira, ranging from 28.50 (one day) to 187.50 (6 days) in High season (26.50 to 182.50 in low) Beginner rates for Pas de la Casa are 22 euros in all categories, regardless of season or age and restrict you to just the immediate area.
The cartel which runs Grandvalira is putting a lot of money into developing the lift system (spurred on by its rivalry with the people running Vallnord in the southwest of the country) so things are only likely to get better. There is a lot of money in Andorra and ski tourism is a major priority for the locals.
Lifts open at 9am in the morning and officially close at 5pm although some start closing from 4:15pm onwards so check last lift time to avoid being caught out when skiing late in the day.
There's good off-piste skiing from Pic D'Encampadana but
getting there is a challenge. From Tossal de la Lossada take the
blue run Llosada to where the pistebasher will tow you across the
saddle to the Pic D'Encampadana. Alternatively, take three lifts up
The off-piste runs converge at Riba Escorxada from which there is a snowshoe route down to El Forn where you can take the TSD4 Portella ski lift back up to Portella and ski down the blue run "daina" to start again.
If you fancy clocking up as much as 193km in a single day there's the new Grandvalira tour itinerary which gives you the option to cover the whole resort from Pas de la Casa to El Forn and pretty much traverse Andorra from its north east border to the very middle of the principality, but the route needs improvement.
At the moment you can get on a cable car at Encamp at the southern end of Grandvalira right up to Collada D'Enradort (2,447m) but can't then ski back to Encamp - you have to ski down to El Tarter and get the Grandvalira bus back. The whole sequence is oriented towards Pas de la Casa and Soldeu.
The Grandvalira route is new central government initiative that gives skiers the option to pretty much traverse Andorra on a combination of red and blue runs from its north east border to the very middle of the principality. The route needs improvement. At the moment you can get on a cable car at Encamp at the southern end of Grandvalira but you can't ski back to it. The whole sequence is oriented towards Pas de la Casa and Soldeu with Pas being particularly good for intermediates.
There are three gentle "beginner zones" just outside Pas
de la Casa making it perhaps the most beginner-friendly of all the
villages. Taking the TSD 6 Estanay into France brings you to
Abellettes where there are two beginner zones. There's a small
beginners' area with a button lift just across the L'Ariege stream,
which officially divides Andorra and France.
Getting across the Coll Blanc and down into Grau Roig is possible for adventurous beginners if you take the TSF4 Solana lift followed by the TSF4 Costa Rodona and then take the "pastora" blue run down to Grau. There's a great sense of achievement for beginners in having made it into the next valley. Unfortunately there is no blue run back, but the Granvalira bus will return you or free on production of your ski pass.
At the top of the Coma Blanca II button lift there is a
freestyle area round the "portatella" blue run and further down
next to the blue "clot" run.
The "tubs" slope which runs back down into Pas de la Casa is also designated a freestyle area though this can lead to some congestion on one of the busiest slopes in Andorra. Across the border into France take the TSD6 Estanay up to Abelletes and descend the "amateur" blue run for the only freestyle zone in the French part of Grandvalira.
Restaurants with charm
Average cost 36 euro, top menu (international choices) and with good views
Self Service Restaurants
Average cost 10 euros- salads, pizzas, basic fish and meat dishes
Average cost 6-10 euros - burgers, salads, sandwiches
No price indication. Coffee outlet offering breakfast in the mornings
No price indication - usually a small stone or wooden hut which you can ski up to and refuel without even taking your skis off.
Costa Rodona (376 800 870) definitely comes into the Charm category and can be found at the base of the TSF4 Costa Rodona chairlift (the second leg of the ascent from Pas de la Casa). Built in the style of a mountain refuge it has fireplaces to warm up by and offers chargrilled meat dishes, escudells (ham, chicken and pork hot pot) and rice dishes.
There is also a Self Service outlet on the ground floor (average meal price of 27 euros) an Espress'oh! and a Xirixuca in this popular complex owned by th eGrandvalira organisation.
There are also Xirixucas at Coll Blanc, Park Pas (at the start of the Snowpark) and Font Negre.
Built on lower slopes of the Costa Rodona the centre is
dominated by a car park and the four-storey Olympic shopping
centre. The rest is hotels, shops, eateries and cars.
About the only thing Pas de la Casa has done to improve the look of the place is to ban coaches from its relatively narrow streets, but this is a mixed blessing as it means that new arrivals now have to walk up to their hotels from the coach park while their luggage is transferred.
If you want a taste of real Andorra go to the capital or a resort like Arinsal which was a thriving farmers' village before skiing became its major money spinner. Meanwhile enjoy Pas de la Casa for what it is - a place to drink, dance, eat and shell out a small fortune on the latest gadgets that haven't reached Dixon's yet at a fraction of the price you'll pay in the UK. Across the border the French have excellent ski slopes, but come to Pas de la Casa just for the shopping.
With only a 4% tax on spirits, ordering a beer or glass of
wine with your meal will cost considerably less than it does in the
Pas de la Casa is full of places to eat. At the bottom of the "tubs" run are a few privately owned eateries - Olympiades Inn, Pas 83 and L'Husky bar creperia which serves a mean couscous on Wednesday evenings.
Once off the slopes there is no shortage of eateries. Asterix Bar Restaurant, Llac Negre, Restaurant Envalira and McDonalds are all good for snack food. A bit more upmarket is KSB (376 856 453) which does chargrilled meat dishes, then at midnight if not sooner is usually taken over by people bevvying up for a night on the town.
Although looking like a typical Andorran mountain lodge, El Raco d'en Sorolla (376 855 199) is the best restaurant in Pas de la Casa for middle Eastern and Morroccan food and on alternative Fridays provides live music.
Cusine du Perigord (376 856 887) is probably the best tapas bar with excellent French and Spanish dishes to tempt you: oysters, charcuterie, carpacccio and black leg country ham, and good value set meals.
It seems Pas de la Casa has an infinite number of bars so you'll definitely not go short of a drink.
For those who would rather work out than get plastered the Sports & Socio-Cultural Complex of Pas de la Casa (376 856 830) is open till 9pm every night.
Tel: 376 855 292