ANDORRA is a new destination for me, offering the spectacular scenery of the Pyrenees, a great snow record and luxurious but affordable accommodation.
Skiing and pampering are not necessarily two activities you associate with each other, but as a recent empty nester, both are equally important in my book.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love the mountains and a skiing holiday is an annual pilgrimage that I will not be giving up in a hurry, but the whole thing is now a much more leisurely affair.
A morning coffee? Large hot chocolate in the afternoon? Stopping early to enjoy a skidoo or a husky ride through a forest? Yes please!
That’s why I chose a break in Andorra. I was looking for peace, relaxation, and a sumptuous hotel; plus extensive skiing, of course, but with both gentle and adventurous options. Soldeu and El Tarter are part of the Grandvalira ski area and offered all this and then some, with access to more than 200km of piste.
It’s perfect for those who like to get some miles under their belt, but there are lots of delightful mountain lunch and coffee spots, dotted at pleasant intervals for those who would rather relax and drink in the stunning surroundings.
There is excellent intermediate skiing and plenty of fun to be had for beginners. Easy access to kids’ snow gardens and the local blue and green slopes make this area great for first-timers and young families. The ski school is first class and advanced skiers are challenged as well with fabulous off-piste opportunities.
Soldeu is an attractive village with some lively evening entertainment. El Tarter is equally pretty, but quieter, with a more relaxed atmosphere and its own small selection of restaurants and bars.
The resorts are linked by the modern lift system to Pas de la Casa, the highest resort in Andorra, a livelier, high-altitude town, with a reputation for a much more vibrant nightlife.
I was not here to go clubbing though, I deliberately chose the tranquil four-star Hotel Piolets Park & Spa in Soldeu, looking for deep relaxation as well as fun on the slopes.
There is a beautiful spa area, with an indoor pool, sauna, hydrotherapy bath, steam room and a fantastic outdoor whirlpool.
That is quite enough entertainment for me for the evening. At the end of even a short day’s skiing, stepping into a steaming bubbling spa is simply bliss.
The renovated Piolets now boasts a new lobby and buffet restaurant with many of the rooms updated as well. All are cosy and attractively decorated, many enjoy superb mountain views.
Without exception, rooms have satellite TV, telephone, free Wi-Fi, hairdryer, safe, kettle, mini-fridge and a private bathroom decorated in maple wood and ceramic floors. Although peaceful, it is a stylish hotel with a convenient location in the resort centre, with all the best bars, restaurants and amenities on your doorstep.
I knew that I would enjoy the Spanish food on offer.
Tapas is a style of cuisine I find really appetizing and it made an interesting change from the usual Alpine fare you would expect on a skiing holiday.
The five-course evening buffet with impressive demonstration cooking stations more than lived up to my expectations, and I enjoyed tasting a variety of Spanish wines and beers as well.
Hospitality in Soldeu and El Tarter is of high quality and a good variety. A large proportion of the accommodation is of four or five-star status, with pools and wellness areas as standard.
Delicious meals are included, making your break luxurious but without the eye-watering Alpine price tag.
I was delighted to discover this little-known corner of the ski world and I will definitely be back.
Crystal Ski Holidays (crystalski.co.uk; 020 8610 3123) offers a week’s half-board at the Hotel Piolets Park & Spa from £562 per person including flights from Gatwick to Toulouse and transfers departing January 2018.
Departures from all major UK airports available. A one-week area ski pass costs £231.