Spain and skiing might not sound like natural bedfellows, but the Cerdanya Valley really does pull off a very credible winter sports scene. Among the towering peaks, mountain lakes and lush valleys, you’ll find skiers swaying down crisp white slopes, stopping for an apres cerveza before hitting the powder once more under bright blue skies. The Catalan part of the valley is easily reached, too, sitting just a two-hour drive from Barcelona, with some parts even accessible by train. Choose between the charming Pyrenean ski resorts of La Molina or Masella, sitting amid miles of striking mountain scenery, where the apres-ski scene is low-key and authentic and the winter sports fun is first class. Both La Molina and Masella offers varied accommodation at the foot of the slopes, and for those who prefer to stay in other areas of the valley, there is also a wide range of charming hotels, rural houses and winter-conditioned campsites.
1. Skiing and snowboarding
Whether you choose to dig your heels in at Spain’s oldest ski resort, La Molina, or the neighbouring resort of Masella, you won’t be short of ski runs. The duo has a total of 133 ski slopes covering 90 miles and a good mix of green and blue trails for beginners and intermediates, as well as red and black runs for more advanced skiers. Each also has a terrain park and a snow park for boarders. Masella is particularly known for its night skiing, where you can glide downhill under the glow of its twinkly night lights.
Those looking for something a little-less adrenaline-inducing may want to explore the dramatic landscapes of the Cerdanya Valley on a snowshoeing jaunt. Both La Molina and Masella offer snowshoeing opportunities, where hikers clamber through crystalline landscapes towards the crest of mountains or through a tangle of forest. There's also the opportunity for snowshoeing families and couples to stride out into the great white expanse of the valley and search for chamois mountain goats and various species of deer. And although you can head out on your own, your best bet is to snowshoe with a guide with their inimitable knowledge of the mountains and its best trails.
3. Sledging and tubing
Families and thrill-seekers will relish testing out the sledging and tubing adventures in the Cerdanya Valley. Grit your teeth and cling on for a rosy-cheeked ride down the slopes in an inflatable donut or a classic sledge. Over in La Molina, there are two tubing runs and a dedicated sledging slope, where adventure-seekers beetle down before scrambling to the top once more. There’s also a large area for beginners with its own conveyor belt. Masella, on the other hand, is a great option for little ones with its idyllic snow garden. But if you have your own sledge, you’ll find plenty of excellent slopes outside these main resorts, too.
Enjoy a Nordic-style adventure in southern Europe by zipping through the Pyrenean landscapes on a snowmobile. All you need is a valid driving licence and once you’ve squeezed on a helmet, you can speed through the snow-covered forests under sunny blue skies. Better yet, book a moonlit tour —there’s nothing quite like whizzing over thick swathes of snow after nightfall, beneath star-strewn skies.
5. Segway on snow
For a winter sport with a bit of a difference, take a Segway right through the snow. An ecological way of travelling through the wintery snow-smothered valleys, Segways are also easier to master than skis or snowboards, meaning it won’t take you long to get out and hit the trails. The good news? Kids can join in the fun, too, cruising along mountain paths and gazing out as nature unfolds along the way, whether you book a quick 15-minute ride or delve a little deeper into the valley on two-hour trip.
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Read more about what to see and do in the Pyrenees of Catalonia.
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