Pas De La Casa Ski Resort

Pas de la Casa is ugly to look at but convenient to stay in, and it delivers what a lot of young skiers and boarders want: high snowsure pistes, a large ski area, cheap alcohol, inexpensive slopeside accommodation and lots of places to party.

The first thing most people mention about Pas de la Casa is its duty-free status. Quite simply, it’s a good place to buy cheap alcohol – and tobacco, perfumes, electrical goods and anything else that normally has VAT or some other tax loaded onto its price. And inexpensive alcohol is a proven way to kick-start a party, and that’s the other thing Pas de la Casa is famous for. And whilst neither the resort nor its apres-ski scene are pretty, they can be fun, particularly if you like free vodka shots. And if you’re too old and sensible for that kind of holiday, try neighbouring Soldeu instead which is quieter and classier.

Then there is the skiing, and slightly to some people’s surprise, it’s quite impressive. Grandvalira is the name of the large lift-linked ski area that Pas de la Casa is just one part of, and it certainly lives up to the Grand part of its name, stretching over to Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter and finally onto the El Forn sector above Canillo. In total there are about 75 lifts (including a long one down to Encamp), 135 runs, 200 km of piste and 3 freestyle parks to choose from, which is more than enough to keep most skiers and boarders busy for a week, even if they stay sober and take advantage of uncrowded early morning slopes.

As well as being a large ski area, Grandvalira is also a high one, especially around Pas de la Casa itself, which is situated at 2050m above sea level, making it one of the highest ski resorts in Europe. The Grandvalira slopes also mostly face north and there is a lot of artificial snowmaking too, so the pistes should remain skiable into April.

Beginners and intermediates are spoilt for choice, and there are plenty of ski schools for those who want to learn or improve. Advanced skiers have a few challenges on-piste like the steep Avet run, as well as off-piste opportunities, particularly around Grau Roig and Pic d’Encampadana. The resort also organises day trips to Ordino-Arcalis which is included on the Grandvalira liftpass, and has good freeriding and ski touring, but it’s a long bus ride away.

As a resort to stay in, Pas de la Casa is charmless but convenient. Most of the accommodation is built of concrete but is situated on or near the slopes. The road running through the centre of the resort is also a busy one, but given the nightlife that surrounds it, it’s unlikely to be the main reason why visitors to Pas de la Casa seldom get a good night’s sleep.

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Pas De La Casa Ski Area

Pas de la Casa is the northeasternmost point on the Grandvalira and one of six village resorts - Pas de la Casa, Grau Roig, Soldeu, El Tarter, Canillo and Encamp – now connected by means of a common lift pass.

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 soon.

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.

Pas De La Casa Ski Lifts & Passes

Grandvalira’s main ski lifts have a numeric code as well as a name, with the numeric character denoting the number of riders per chair or car and the exception to this rule being button lift’s and T-bars which have no number code.

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.

Pas De La Casa Advanced

The Grandvalira region has a total of 22 black runs of which 5 are in the Pas de la Casa/Porte des Neiges region.

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 from Canillo.

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.

Pas De La Casa Intermediate

The Grandvalira region has a total of 38 blue runs and 32 red of which six red runs and four blue are in the Pas de la Casa/Porte des Neiges region.

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.

Pas De La Casa Beginners

The Grandvalira region has a total of 18 green runs and 38 blue.

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.

Pas De La Casa Boarding & Freestyle

There is a freestyle area at Snowpark Pas (the others are to be found at El Tarter, near Soldeu, and Grau Roig between Soldeu and Pas de la Casa.

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.

Pas De La Casa Mountain Restaurants

Grandvalira has codified its restaurants on the slopes into five categories:

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

Fun Food
Average cost 6-10 euros - burgers, salads, sandwiches

Espress'Oh! Cafeterias
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.

Pas De La Casa Village

Pas de la Casa will never win any architectural awards. It’s a functional resort built to get people on to its slopes and into its shops.

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.

Pas De La Casa Restaurants & Bars

On the whole food and drink is cheaper in Andorra so eating out won’t sting as much as it might in the UK.

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 UK.

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.

Pas De La Casa Other Activities

For something completely different ask at the tourist office about the new Grandvalira ice circuit at Pas de la Casa where you can drive a car across snow and ice on a specially designed track.

Tourist Office
Tel: 376 855 292

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