One of only a handful of places on Earth where sunbathing on the beach and skiing on the snow filled slopes in the same day is a very real reality, Europe’s southernmost ski village of Pradollano, nestled amid the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada Natural Park is a mere two hours’ drive from the Costa del Sol.
Pradollano is an international winter sports resort offering a whole host of adventure activities both on- and off-piste. Declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1986, the Park is home not only to a fascinating range of alpine flora and fauna, but also boasts mainland Spain’s highest peak, the Mulhacén (3,481 metres / 11,487 feet above sea level). The spectacular mountain range, often clearly visible from the Costa del Sol, offers world-class skiing in exceptionally beautiful surroundings, while both the facilities and fees charged compare very favourably with those of more traditional European winter sports resorts.
Pradollano is an attractive, lively alpine village offering everything visitors could possibly need: a wide range of accommodation options from modern hotels to self-catering apartments (with various rural pensiones on the outskirts of town); a choice of fastfood eateries, tapas and international cuisine in the numerous restaurants, plus two cafeterias on the slopes themselves where hungry skiers can replenish their well- spent calories; plenty of good shops including many offering ski equipment hire; and for those with energy still in reserve after a hard day’s skiing, the thriving nightlife, with various bars and nightclubs to choose from, ensures plenty of opportunities for fun apres-ski. Parking is easy, too, with space for 2,644 vehicles undercover and a further 1,000 outside. Alternatively, if you’d rather round off your day with a taste of culture and a dash of vibrant city life, historic Granada – with its magnificent Alhambra Palace, beautiful Albaicin quarter, intriguing Sacromonte cave area, superb shopping and nightlife – is but a few minutes’ drive away.
One of Spain’s top ski resorts and also one of the most popular, Pradollano hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 1996 and on occasion has been known to host World Cup races such as the women’s technical races in 2007. In recent years World Slope and Freestyle events have made a very successful appearance here. It was also host to last year’s the world university games in 2015. The region provides more than 105 kilometres of runs, from easy confidence-building nursery slopes to the dizzy heights of the Olympic Black Run rising up to 3,300 metres and from where you can marvel at the breathtaking views of the Mediterranean stretching all the way to the Rif mountains of Morocco. The resort’s longest run takes in a challenging six kilometres of piste, while ski and snowboard classes for all abilities and ages are given by fully-qualified instructors (several of whom are multilingual) and are available on a daily, weekend or weekly basis.
Sierra Nevada is at the forefront of snowboarding resorts in Spain investing heavily in Europe’s longest slope style line. At over 2.5km the run features jumps, Spain’s largest halfpipe and over 70 freestyle obstacles with the possibility of linking 46 of them in one continuous line. Increasingly popular and attracting some of the biggest names in the international snowboarding community, the freestyle snow park was recently moved to separate the hardcore snowboarders from normal skiers. There is also a beginners freestyle zone aimed at younger and less experienced snowboarders.
The resort’s extensive network of snow-making machines, plus an abundance of the real thing, means skiing is guaranteed from December to April and if the snow clouds are generous, sometimes lasting even until May. Ski lift day passes cost around 45€ for an adult with discounts available in the low season and for longer periods of time. As well as fabulous skiing and snowboarding, the Sierra Nevada also offers numerous other winter sports including an ice rink, toboggans, ski-bikes, mini-skis and cross-country skiing. After a strenuous day in the peaks, you can chill out in the resort’s state-of-the-art Montebajo Sports Club, and pamper your tired body with a comprehensive choice of relaxation, anti-stress, slimming, detox and beauty treatments.
Not surprisingly, snow sports are very popular with residents of the Costa del Sol. Larger sports shops and top department store, El Corte Ingles, stock an enormous choice of designer clothing, boots, skis and accessories, while snow chains and roof-racks to carry your skis or boards are all widely available locally. If you’re planning a day trip from the Coast, check the weather reports first – ski lifts are occasionally closed if high winds or snow set in. And, if your diary permits, visit the Sierra Nevada during mid week, when the resort is usually quieter and queues shorter. But the Sierra Nevada isn’t just about winter sports, because the captivating resort and its surrounding slopes are every bit as popular in the summer when the average daily temperature of 20°C (refreshingly cool when the rest of southern Spain is basking in the heat), makes it the perfect environment for horse-riding, hiking and mountain biking keeping three of its 22 lifts open and offering 30km of biking trails.