Andorran lifestyle is very tranquilo, which means relaxed. Andorra is located between Spain and France in the Pyrenees, it’s highest peaks nearly reaching 3000 m. In the whole country everybody speaks French and Spanish, and most people speak English too.
The El Dorado Freeride (www.eldoradofreeride.com) had its sixteenth edition this year and I participated the third year. Still it was the first time that I took some days to explore other skiing resorts and go snowboarding besides competing.
Andorra has two main valleys, Vallnord and Grandvalira, I was snowboarding in Vallnord only due to time reasons. This Year Andorra had huge amounts of snow, but when I came there the last big snowfall was nearly ten days ago and there had been a massive sun impact, so basically there were 10 cm of snow on an ice crust. Because of the strong winds the snow was spread unequally, and luckily there were some spots where one could enjoy powder runs.
The competition face in Andorra is located in the resort of Arcalis and has very steep sections and couloirs, but because of the strong wind the steeper parts of the face had to be closed. I never imagined that it would be as cold in Andorra, on the day of the comp we had -15 °C, and that sounds like nothing, but together with the wind chill it felt like the Arctic.
Again I didn’t manage to ride clean and had some insecurities when I came to an icy part, so no chance for a podium. In general the snowboard girls showed an impressive performance which was very good to see.
Andorra also means BBQ, and this year we enjoyed one BBQ right after the contest and the other at the party, it was the season for a Catalan specialty, calçots, which are basically grilled spring onions which taste sweet. One has to strip the outer layer and dip them in Romesco sauce while wearing a paper napkin around the neck.
Even though I had a massive hangover the next day, I went to explore the Resort of Pal. When one gets out of the gondola, which takes off directly in La Massana, one immediately experiences a different vibe. Everything is very relaxed, there are a lot of beginners, only short queues, people chatting in groups in the middle of the slope and everybody seems to have an endless amount of time. Later that day Raphael Bullet (http://www.raphaelbullet.ch/) joined as well and we found some nice treeruns and some smaller cliffs in the forest.
Next day we picked up our ski passes in the resort of Arcalis, which turned out to be a bit of challenge because of heavy snowfalls and obligatory snow chains, which we didn’t have. But we are from the Alps and figured that show chains would be a good idea, but as we didn’t have them, it should also work without. Finally up in Arcalis, 1940 m above sea level, we enjoyed steep tree runs and fresh powder.
Later that day I picked up a bocadillo con jamon (sandwich with Spanish ham) and a café solo (espresso) in a typical Andorran Diner on the way to Arinsal, the third resort in Vallnord.
Arinsal has a fun park with different kicker lines and rail lines and a freeride Area, but the face was without snow because of the wind. Nevertheless we chose to ride the face under the gondola which connects Arinsal and Pal. In Arinsal there are also good tree runs on the lower part of the resort and one could do a fair amount of rewarding hikes, if the weather is clear.
Another good thing about Andorra is that one ends up in Barcelona on the way back, which is great fun. In one day one can go snowboarding in deep pow conditions and enjoy a drink under a palm tree in one of the liveliest cities in Europe. Good tip for Barcelona (Thanks Raphi, that you convinced me:) Rent a bike! A lot of fun and adrenaline at the same time.