Sierra Nevada, Europe most southerly ski resort in Spain
My first ski trip to Sierra Nevada (Granada, Spain) was almost my last. It was busy, busy, busy and did I mention that it was busy? First, we had to queue to park, queue to rent ski equipment, endure long lines to get to the ticket vending machines, then more of the same at the ski lifts.
Finally, when we arrived at the crowded slopes, it was time for lunch, and yes, there were huge queues at the restaurant. Not only was the food cold and overpriced, but it was also yuck.
Cost of skiing
Within a couple of hours, I was convinced that there must be better ways to spend far too much money for not having fun. After all, a day on the slopes is not exactly cheap. A hundred fifty euros per person per day is not unheard-of: that’s the ticket (± €48 high season), lodging, renting the stuff (± €25), food and travel (petrol /public transport).
If it were up to me, I would not have gone again. However, my family decided differently. They somehow managed to enjoy themselves regardless of the crowds. This year is our ninth ski season, and over the years, I started to enjoy myself on the slopes of the Sierra Nevada.
Does this mean that things have changed since my first visit?
Not exactly. We are still stuck to the way too busy weekends and school holidays because of our children. But over the years, we have learned the best way how to enjoy a day at these sunny southern slopes.
Ten tips for skiing at the Sierra Nevada
So for what it’s worth, here is my advice for stress-free skiing in the Sierra Nevada during the high season.
Arrive on time
Ensure you arrive at the central car park before 09.00 am in Pradollano (the ski resort). Get up at 5:30 am if you have to. It is really worth it. You will be on the slopes before ten o’clock if you follow my advice. If you arrive late, you will lose a few hours waiting to enter the garage. On the other hand, there is not much point in coming earlier. The ski lifts, and rental shops will only open at 9:00 am, so arriving much earlier is unnecessary.
Buy your ski pass online. The first time, you still have to queue to pick it up from the office, but then you can recharge the pass via the Internet. That saves a lot of time waiting.
Make sure to check the weather via eltiempo.es before you go. Note the high slopes are closed when strong winds (> 40 km / h) are expected. This means significantly more people on the lower slopes. If you have some flexibility in when to go, then plan a day when the weather forecast is good.
If you are a (moderately) experienced skier, go up to the high slopes as quickly as possible. The best slopes are left from the highest peak (Veleta) and right (Laguna), as seen from the point of arrival in the gondolas. Here are the red and black runs, these are relatively quiet, and the snow is usually good.
The restaurant Alfombra (Montebajo) to the chairlift Monachill has a sun terrace and pretty good (but still expensive) food. The sandwiches, pizzas and burgers are okay. Coffee, hot chocolate and mulled wine are always tasty.
Timing is everything
Go to lunch early. The Spanish tend to have lunch after two o’clock. By going early, you will have a ‘win-win’; that is, a relatively quiet lunch and later the less crowded slopes.
Use strong sunscreen. SPF +50 is no exaggeration. The typical beautiful weather combined with the height, the southern location, and the sun’s reflection in the snow makes you burn quickly.
To get to the slopes, drive safely. Almost every time we go to the Sierra Nevada, we see an accident on the mountain roads. When there is snow, the police stop you if the car has no snow chains. That means that you are stuck on the way up, or you won’t be able to get back down to Granada.
Because of the altitude and dryness (central heating), I tend to get headaches. However, Paracetamol does wonders and drinking plenty of water will also help.
With an EHIC health insurance card, one is covered for medical emergencies. However, this does not include emergency transport (helicopter) from the slopes or rescue missions.