WARNING: Mountains are dangerous places. Always ski within your abilities, assess slopes and conditions yourself.

Pal Beginners Ski Guide (Andorra)


Recently being in Andorra with a beginner inspired me to write this guide to pass on our learnings.

Pal and Arinsal are two ski resorts next door to each other in the tiny Pyrenees microstate of Andorra. Linked by cable car, they together form Vallnord, Andorra’s second biggest ski area. If you’ve booked a good value ski holiday here to learn, you’ve picked a great resort to make progress – the learning gradient is gentle and there’s plenty to do.

If you’re staying in La Massana down below Pal then you’ve got a ride up the gondola in town to get up to the ski area. You can buy your ski passes at the base station if you’ve not already bought one.

As the gondola pops out at the top of the steeply wooded slopes from the valley, you arrive at the sunny plateau of La Caubella. This is the main ‘service station’ for the Pal sector. You’ve got your loos, cafes and bars here. The beginner’s slope is laid out in front of you, with a ‘magic carpet’ lift (the plastic tubes) on the left a short chairlift on the right. If you have lessons, or when you first arrive, you’ll be wanting to use the magic carpets to start with.

First, if you’ve never skied before I’d highly recommend lessons. Skip this paragraph if you’ve got the very basics already. Otherwise, it’s a very worthwhile investment booking at least 1 lesson which will teach you the very basics of getting your gear on and moving around. They’ll probably have you on the Magic Carpet beginners slope – you should make sure you spend enough time here to be confident you can control your speed, turn and stop before you’re ready to venture out onto the mountain.

The start of the green Transversal slope

So once you’re ready to start doing some proper pistes, your first choice should be the green ‘Transversal’ slope. This starts from the top of the short chairlift on the beginner slope (La Caubella). Up here, head straight over and you’ll end up on the green. At first it’s a little steep, not worryingly so though and it’s nice and wide. Just break it into a bunch of shallower crossings of the slope and you won’t have to tackle the steepness head-on. It can get a little busy on here on Sundays as the folk starting their week of skiing graduate from the beginner slope. As the steeper bit levels out keep following ahead as a couple of other slopes join you from the left. Cruise gently to a hairpin bend that sends you on another easy cruise down to the lift junction. Head back up the Carbonera chairlift which drops you back at the start of the green, ready for another crack.

Once you’re confident on this green slope, it’s time to head up for an easy blue. Catch the other chairlift from the bottom of the green run, called La Serra. This whisks you up to Pla de la Cot. The snack bar here does nice chips with friendly service if you fancy a break. Head between the two chairlift stations and onto the start of the La Serra piste. The start is again the steepest part of the run, but is super wide and kept in good nick so no worries again. After the initial slope it levels out into a cute cruise through the woods, snaking down to pop out at the top of the green – slip round the corner onto this for a complete descent down the mountain and back to your Serra chairlift ride to rest your calves…

The start of the blue La Serra slope

Once you think you’ve got that little circuit running quite nicely, you might want to try a long and slightly steeper blue – try El Besurt II from Pla de la Cot, again the initial steepness is easily neutralised by the wide slope with decent snow. You might want to avoid the very last bit once you cross the green slope as it’s pretty steep and often icy in the shade – turn left onto the green and finish your descent with a cruise on the (now very easy seeming) Transversal.

Now that you’re feeling cocky and have mastered your blues, try a slightly steeper one – El Bec drops down from below the Caubella base station and is fairly steep but over a longer distance. This’ll help you build that leg stamina and take the bite out of the scariness of being on a steeper slope.

Congrats, you’re ready for a fair percentage of blue slopes! If you’re feeling well-practised and confident we can move over to the next mountain. Head up to Pla de la Cot and follow the signs for the blue El Gall slope. This is a steep blue in a couple of parts but is mostly a mid blue. Careful as it can get icy in the shade on a cold day, and is the main route to the next mountain so gets well-trafficked. Twist and wind down the slope to reach the El Cubil chairlift and hop on.

On the blue Cami Inferior slope

Up here we’re now at Pic del Cubil at 2364m – the highest point of the Pal ski area. It can be a little windy up here, be prepared for the wind to blow you clear of the chair at the top! Turn right and head down the La Tossa (hehe) blue down the shoulder of the mountain. As you approach the drag lift and short uphill in front of you, turn right onto the Cami Inferior slope and enjoy a gentle and scenic traverse along the whole front of the mountain, with stunning views over the areas you’ve so far been skiing. Eventually you end up on the opposite shoulder of the mountain blasting down towards a magic carpet, which resentfully hauls you at a pitiful pace back up to the snack bar at Pla de la Cot.

The start of the green Transversal slope

You can now handle most blue slopes! Well done. Other challenges left for you are the Coll de la Botella blue down the other shoulder of the mountain – long, windy, sometimes narrow and steep, this will be a good challenge for the upper end of blue runs. If you’re ready for reds after all this, you probably don’t need a stupid beginner’s guide anymore. You’re a natural!

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