Sol y Nieve Part 1
For going on 3 years, we have spent the winters looking at the beautiful white peaks of the Sierra Nevada, mainly from a distance. Once or twice, we have ventured up into the ski resort to have a look around, when snow has been lying and people have been clumping here and there, carrying skis and snowboards. Often, we have repeated the old mantra that it is quite possible to ski in the morning and then drive down to spend the afternoon in the sun on the coast. Well, it’s all very well going on about these things, but the proof is in the pudding, as the saying goes.
Last September, when the children visited for our wedding, we suggested a plan for a skiing holiday and that, if the children were keen, they ought to book flights as soon as possible to get the best fares. Sure enough, the Easyjet flights from London Gatwick straight to Granada were available at great prices, so the holiday was booked!
I have not skied since I was 28 or 29 years old; my son James was aged just 13 months, as I remember telling some Germans his age in a lift. James has not skied since he was at school, Andrew has probably not skied for around 13 years and my daughter Lucie’s one and only previous attempt at skiing, with the school, was not hugely successful.
The children were coming for a week, and we decided to spend 3 nights in Pradollano, the village at the centre of the Sierra Nevada ski resort. There is a great variety of accommodation, from pricey hotels to all types of apartment. Oddly, with the apartments, it seems that the idea is to take as small a space as possible and squeeze in as many bunk-beds as possible. So, a 2 bedroom apartment could conceivably sleep a family of around 20 people…
We planned on going in February, which is clearly peak season, so the hotels would have been just too costly for 6 of us. We plumped for an apartment (2 bedrooms, lots of bunk beds) right in the heart of the village and only a short walk from the main ski lifts. We also planned to go for a mid-week stay, as we had heard that the resort gets very busy at weekends, when all the skiing Spanish descend on the place for a couple of days’ whizzing down slopes.
The children arrived on Tuesday afternoon and were to spend the first night in our village before we drove up the mountains the following morning. Our temporary house is about as cosy and convivial as a monastery in the 11th Century with enough hot water in the tank to wash 1.5 adults, so accommodating everyone here was out of the question. We therefore rented a fabulous place in the village, the 16th Century Posito del Pan - plenty of space for entertaining 6 adults for dinners, and with masses of character and history and, quite possibly, the odd ghost. Strangely, for a large property with a huge refectory table, there was no oven - just a microwave/convection affair. Logistically, this presented one or two slight issues in that we prepared dinner in our Casa No-comfort and then bundled it into the car or walked through the village with dishes of salt-baked fish or fish pie (the girls are non-meat-eaters). Who cared; we ate well and I think everyone was so excited/anxious/petrified by the thought of skiing/ghosts that no-one bothered about where dinner originated.
Getting to the ski resort was easy. We had cogitated a fair bit about travel, as you never know what the weather might do. We don’t have snow chains for the car, so had it snowed we may not have been able to have driven up the mountain. We did think about buses, but the early morning bus from Moclín on a weekday leaves at something like 06:55 which I thought may not have been appreciated by the children. Fortunately, although we did have snow about a week before the children arrived, the roads were clear and the drive was extremely straightforward. It took about one hour from our house to the resort which, in the scheme of things, is nothing. We parked in the public car park right beneath our apartment building (€20 per day) and unpacked.
Our apartment was small. The interior designer had clearly taken inspiration from the fit-out of a caravan. Cupboards were squeezed into every corner; the spiral staircase knotted its way up to the bedroom level leaving a postage-stamp-sized landing. God help anyone who may need to go to the loo in the middle of the night, slightly the worse for wear after too much drink. Mind you, the staircase was so tight that it would have been impossible to fall all the way down. There was a lovely terrace, with great views of the slopes and the sunset, and what more could you want. The children didn’t seem to mind being in a 6’ x 6’ room filled with two sets of bunk beds.
We collected our ski equipment which had been pre-booked. We had also booked ski lessons for everyone that first afternoon, just so we could become acclimatised before we threw ourselves headlong down a mountain. Lunch was a quiet affair. Lucie had a funny turn, so merely picked at a slice of tostada con tomate. I think I feared the worst. I was nervous, too, as I am much older now than when I was when I last skied. I worry about limb breakage, and my joints creak when I get out of bed. I have had a bad back of late, and Andrew had only just about got over the worst of his flu (genuine variety, as opposed to man-flu).
Our lessons started well-ish. As we were told by many a skier-by, we had the best ski instructor in the resort who went by the name of Alfonso. Shackled to our planks of wood, we shuffled to the little conveyor belt ski lifts that straddle the nursery slopes and off we went.
After some practice under Alfonso’s watchful eye, we graduated to the chairlift to one of the longer and steeper green runs. I had an altercation with the chairlift. As we neared the end of the wretched ride, we were told how to dismount, by edging forward on our bums and then pushing forward off the seat and down the slight incline. As I was about to disembark, I was aware that my ski jacket seemed to want to stay behind. Suddenly, one arm came out of the jacket, the chair lift started to turn round for the return journey and my other arm was dragged out of the jacket. I was unceremoniously ejected onto the show and the chair lift swayed on with my jacket dangling from where it had become stuck. My wallet and other assorted accoutrements were scattered about me as I tried to get to my feet/skis with some semblance of dignity. From that moment, the chair lift and I did not get on for some time.
“Ian, Ian! Look at me!” The words of Alfonso ring in my ears. Within a short period of time, it became clear that Andrew, James and George (Lucie’s boyfriend) skied as if they had been skiing for the past 20 years non-stop. Lucie and Hannah (James’s girlfriend) decided that we three would, henceforth, be known as the One-Slope Wonders. Our lesson gave us the confidence to tackle the slopes on our own so that the next day the O-S-Ws could do their thing and the experts could go exploring.
That evening, we had cheese fondue. We love fondue and there is a restaurant in Pradollano called Fondue de Noa that served us very well. One of the reviews suggested that the place was tight on space, but that didn’t deter us one iota. Yes, it is cosy and it was also rather warm, but it had great atmosphere and delicious fondue.
We were keen to sample Pradollano’s après ski, so after dinner we did venture to the N’ice bar in the main square. Mind you, having ordered a bottle of cava with a price label of 49€, we decided that we probably wouldn’t rush back. Skiing is an expensive sport, and the prices in Pradollano for dinner and drinks reflect this, but we were on holiday so what did it matter?
The cost of Skiing in Sierra Nevada:
These are the prices we paid and I’m sure you can find discounts and bargains but this gives you an idea of what to expect:
Car Park: €20 per day
Lift pass: €40 per day
Skis, poles, boots hire for 2 people for 3 days: €91 www.enesierranevada.com