Sierra Nevada ski resort
About Sierra Nevada
Sierra Nevada stands alone, miles from any other ski area, high above the Mediterranean Sea. This is quite something, especially in a crowded continent like Europe where you can typically see half a dozen or more other ski centres from any given slope.
The most southerly major resort in Europe, Sierra Nevada, meaning “snow capped mountain range”, certainly lives up to this name, generally enjoying a 5m to 6m (16ft to 20ft) snow base – one of the deepest in Europe – by early spring, meaning the resort can stay open until the start of May.
The resort was created in the late 1960s at the same time as a wave of new high-altitude purpose-built resorts in the Pyrenees and the Alps. As with many of these, the original apartment complexes are now 50 years old and consequently appear dated. One key difference, however, is that Sierra Nevada has thankfully followed the Japanese and North American model of investing in chair and gondola lifts, rather than countless drags.
Although the resort facilities are largely closed down outside of the ski season, Sierra Nevada’s relative proximity to famous Andalusian beach resorts such as Málaga makes it perfect for ski and beach combined holidays.
Sierra Nevada is located within the provinces of Granada and Almería in Spain’s southernmost mainland region, Andalusia. The area is also home to the highest point of mainland Spain (Mulhacén at 3,478m/11,411ft), which has the cities of Granada and Almería on its foothills. The ski slopes are located within the Sierra Nevada National Park.
On the slopes
Sierra Nevada’s 105km (65 miles) of runs are for the most part easy to intermediate, and are wide and fast, providing excellent conditions for those who just want to zip around the mountain. Complete beginners can make the most of the dedicated area up by the Borreguiles mountain restaurants, where several different ski schools compete to provide the best service.
Despite having staged world-class alpine skiing events, the options for advanced skiers are fairly limited, with a small choice of black runs. However, many of the runs were laid out by international resort designers and include some slopes pitching at up to around 30 degrees – the Monachil sector is challenging, and a steep run down from Valeta II to Borreguiles is regarded as one of the most demanding descents in Spain.
For added variety, almost every type of snow sports facility is available on Sierra Nevada’s slopes. There is, for example, a parallel slalom course, a ski-cross course and a terrain park for snowboarders and freestyle skiers with a big range of jumps and rails. Additionally, there are 5km (3 miles) of cross-country tracks to explore.
It’s possible to be first on the slopes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings before the lifts open to the public by taking the Al-Andalus gondola with a guide. There’s a small fee for this and it must be booked in advance (tel: +34 902 708 090).