A few things that are important to know about Pas de la Casa – it isn’t classy, sophisticated or posh. If Courchevel 1650 is your idea of slumming it then maybe Pas is not the place for you.
There are bars and clubs galore and dining options include Burger King, McDonalds and a kebab shop.
Some people claim it is Ibiza in the snow, which put me off as Ibiza sounds like my idea of hell.
Don’t get me wrong though, I love Pas.
I’ve now been to Andorra and Pas de la Casa 3 times. The first time was on a work trip, for one night in December at the Hotel de les Pistes, during a whirlwind tour of Andorra. Second time was two years ago for Christmas at the Hotel Llac Negre with Harriet. And this was the third time – self catering in early February at the Manzano Apartments with a bunch of friends.
There are hotels in Pas de la Casa with a bit more luxury (like the hotels Himilaia and Magic). There are also some great restaurants in town. You could even avoid the more Brit-friendly bars and clubs if you wanted, but why would you want to?
Why go back?
The thing that brings me back again and again is the ski area.
There’s around 200km in the Grandvalira ski area – stretching from Pas de la Casa in the West over to Canillo in the East. On the way it passes though Grau Roig, Solanelles, Soldeu, El Tarter and the amusingly named (to us) Funicamp.
Our group of five were of mixed ability:
- Matt – me, (the best snowboarder in the world)
- Harriet – the missus (2nd week skier)
- Alan – the anally retentive one (snowboarder who has done seasons in Morzine and New Zealand)
- Loz – the wannabe ladies-man (snowboarder who has done seasons in Morzine)
- Pasta Lucasta – Lucasta eats pasta (not skied for 23 years previously)
Our day trip
I’m just going to take you on the mini-tour we did on our last day. The sky was grey at best and the wind was high. We covered quite a lot of the area and were accompanied by Jayne, a girl who was in Harriet’s ski school group.
This was the furthest and hardest skiing Harriet and Jayne had ever faced – Lucasta ran away at the top of the first lift.
Pas de la Casa
Pas de la Casa’s end of the ski area is predominantly made up of wide open pistes ranging from blue to red, with a couple of blacks (including the FIS run that was in the best shape ever while we were there).
Harriet learnt to ski here and has progressed from a complete beginner on the green bunny slopes and had covered all the reds on the Pas side.
If conditions get windy up top and any lifts close then queues in Pas can build up quickly – this is the point I would definitely recommend heading over to the next valley, Grau Roig. The top pass can be quite scary when the wind is very high so get off the top and over the other side as soon as you can.
Dropping into the Grau Roig valley you have a choice of red routes to take. There are some blue routes, but you will need to hit a bit of red or black to connect with them.
Probably the most straightforward red route down is Pala Nova, which passes by the Igloo Hotel. Just before you get to the igloos, turn down Bosc (blue) which takes you past (or through) the Xavi Snow Park. When you get to the bottom make sure you carry some speed to get you over to the next lift up.
Take the Cubil 4 man chair and then you can lap back down to Grau Roig – either through the trees if you are up for a bit of off piste (perfect on a powder day) or via blue Tortuga, red Cami de Pessons or black Mirador.
The next valley (Funicamp?) and my favourite runs
I’ve never worked out what this next valley is called, but here is where you start seeing signs for Funicamp. My recommendation here would be to follow red Serrat Pinos. Why? Because at the end of this is a lift to my favourite runs in the whole of Grandvalira.
At the bottom take the first lift you come to, it’s a six man chair that leads to the top of a group of blue runs.
Blue runs? I hear you say.
Yes, blue runs.
Here you have 4 parallel blue runs, Rui del Cubil, Solanella, Ayellen and Riu de les Solanelles. I can never remember from looking at maps which one is which, but trust me, lap this lift to try them all. Long rolling blues that novices will love – here they can pick up some serious pace but without too many scary descents. For the more experienced of you, just look to the sides – huge expanses of off-piste which on powder days are incredible and even when the snow is a little less fresh can still be useful for carving between the trees.
When you’ve had enough fun for one day or decide to move on to the next valley, take the second 6 man chair up towards Solanelles and Soldeu.
There are a few routes you can take to get down towards Soldeu.
In a whiteout with relatively new skiers I would not recommend red Obagot II or III. I can’t remember ever taking any other route from here myself, but looking at the lift map while writing this I have just spotted a blue run down, (surprisingly called) Obagot I.
Obagot II is now known in my circle of friends as the ‘Wall of Death’. It has a very tricky top section that is one of the steepest drop-ins to a red that I have experienced. The snow at the top tends to stay fairly fluffy, I think probably because other people look at this as a little suicide mission. Lower down it tends to get icier as it becomes a little more wind exposed. Conditions were pretty terrible – you could barely see the end of your skis or board when we got to the top. Harriet and Jayne both looked petrified.
Jayne went for it, turned, fell and headed downhill headfirst about 5-10 metres. Jayne got up, tried again and fell again. This happened about four more times. Harriet took her skis off and slid down on her bum. No-one was hurt, so I call that a successful run.
After “conquering” this descent we carried on down Obaga, a gentle blue roller to blue Bosc Fosc, a compact cat track (paths used by snow mobiles etc), that leads all the way down to Soldeu.
After the Wall of Death, I think we needed that.
We thought conditions were deteriorating, so we stopped off for lunch in Soldeu.
You can ski all the way back to the village here and once you are out the other side of the gondola station and the Hotel Sport Village, there are a few restaurants along the road.
I can’t remember what the name of the restaurant was, but we got a small beer, big baguette with pork fillet and chips on the side for €9.Decent. In some resorts in the Alps you’d just about get a beer for that.
Conditions on piste still looked a bit grim so we took our time over lunch – so much so that we had already decided to just take the L4 bus back over to Pas de la Casa.
When we finished lunch though the sun was shining and all the clouds had just disappeared. Typical!
Ski buses between resorts aren’t free, but then the resorts are very well linked by lift so you shouldn’t really need the buses. But just in case you don’t leave yourself enough time to get home or get a bit carried away at apres, the weather closes in or you are just tired then the €3 for a bus that takes you all the way to France and then back to Andorra (all in under 20 minutes). Well worth it.