My nephew Charlie has just returned from a week sliding down an Alp. His school, before letting loose two coach loads of kids on Italy, quite correctly inquired of each one if they had any skiing experience. “Sure” said Charlie brightly, “ I learnt in Spain”. I am told that the teacher patted him sympathetically on the head, told him to fetch an atlas and to stop drinking cider during school hours.
You (and he) might not have realized it, but Spain is really lumpy. In fact it is the second most mountainous country in Europe and for those of you who haven’t visited our fair continent, believe me that is up against some pretty stiff opposition.
So whilst the concept of dropping in over here to catch some rays, cool modernism architecture or three star cooking is pretty well accepted by the travelling public, strapping on a couple of planks, donning an outrageous bobble hat or heading downhill whilst balancing on an ironing board, is not something the visitor will naturally contemplate on landing at Barcelona airport.
Yet dear reader, in just two hours driving from the Catalan capital, there are some fabulous spots to hit the piste. You could try out La Molina, the oldest ski resort in Spain and host to various World Cup events, Masella, a tree-lined resort with a top station at 2600 metres or catch the funicular railway in Ribes and enjoy the beautiful Val de Nuria. Empty runs during the week, Spanish sunshine and you won´t need to have any limbs amputated before paying for your lift pass and a cup of coffee.
But a word of warning. Last year Barcelona announced it will be bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics in an attempt to be the first city on the planet to host both the Summer and Winter games and if recent history is anything to go by, what Barcelona wants, Barcelona gets. The prices will rise and the runs will get busy.
So if you fancy a sneaky couple of days skiing on un-crowded pistes, either to get back in the habit or to pick up a new one, then at the moment Catalonia is the place, get it while it’s cold!
Oh and welcome home Charlie, hope you had fun in the mountains mate.