Snow, Sand and the Sierra Nevada; Snowboarding Spain
Words and pictures by Rob Gray
Published December 2006
Want to hit the beach after boarding? Fancy some sand with your snow? Rob Gray of Beach and Board Breaks introduces a hot new concept to a cool winter holiday - Viva Espana!
As we left the beach and walked towards the vehicle carrying our snowboards, several people sitting in the café looked over quizzically. Wearing just a t-shirt and jeans we packed the equipment into the back of the car and set off on the fairly short journey northwards. We drove past the fields of sugar cane and other fruits which grow so well in the sub-tropical climate of the area.
The road began to climb and the views of the snow covered mountains in front were nothing short of spectacular. The road widened and we made good progress. Within half an hour of leaving the beach we caught sight of a spectacular city spread out on a high plain beneath the huge snow covered mountains, which were now to our right. Continuing on the main road we passed through a tunnel cut into the mountainside after which a steep, winding, well maintained road took us past signs informing us of our ever heightening position above sea level.
Warning signs flashed pictures of tyres covered with snow chains. 1000 metres - we began to feel excitement grow at the prospect that we would shortly be strapping into our bindings. 1500 metres - we were now above the snow line and had to pull over to fit our snow chains as the signs had warned us. 2000 metres - we turned the corner and in front of us we could see a collection of gondolas and chairlifts which were carrying people high up the snow-covered slopes.
We parked up, quickly changed, grabbed our snowboards and made our way to the vertical drop of snow below us. Just one hour ago we had been sitting on the beach …
Talk of southern Spain, and images of the beaches, blue skies and lots of sunshine are normally what comes to mind. Talk of huge mountain ranges with high alpine snow resorts providing a massive choice of snow covered slopes, catering for all abilities, and Spain is way down on most peoples' list. Indeed the southern reaches of España do have beaches, blue skies and sunshine in abundance, but what often surprises most people is that you can actually snowboard and ski in southern Spain for around five months of the year.
From December through to April, the slopes of the Sierra Nevada cater for an ever growing number of snow sport enthusiasts. The Sierra Nevada resort is above the historic city of Granada and is a developed area on parallel with many of the better known resorts around Europe. The area has over 84 km of piste, 79 slopes, a snowboard park and boasts more sunshine than any other ski resort in Europe. There are more plans afoot to extend on this area and also install a gondola to link the city centre of Granada to the resort. The top station sits at 3300 metres and these mountains give you a vertical drop of over 1200 metres (almost 4000 ft) to the base of the resort which sits at over 2000 metres in height.
The slopes cater for all abilities with plenty of off-piste opportunities for the adventurous, a massive choice of slopes for beginners, intermediates and advanced, and even a magic carpet for the kids learning to ride. A half pipe and full range of jumps and rails are located in the fun park which is serviced by its own lift. The resort village, Pradellano, has a huge variety of cafés, restaurants, bars and nightclubs. It also has everything else required to ensure you enjoy your time on and off the slopes, including crèche facilities for children, an ice rink, a cinema and a choice of shops selling and hiring snowboard and ski equipment.
It's an incredible and unique place, so high up, yet so close to the shores of the Costa Tropical below. Sunshine Breaks, a company based in Las Alpujarras, (the foothills of the Sierra Nevada), decided to take full advantage of the area and its uniqueness. They are a Scottish couple, and this coming winter they are starting their Beach & Board break holidays. Customers will be able to stay in their accommodation in the beach town of Salobrena on the Coasta Tropical, yet ski the slopes of the Sierra Nevada by day.
They have a wonderful two bedroom home located in the narrow streets of the old town and this provides a base for a truly different holiday; a snowboarding trip where you sleep in a beach resort at night. Incidentally, Salobrena is the warmest place in Europe through the winter months. Sunshine Breaks also run Board, Bike & Beach winter fun breaks from their B&B, Casa Escocia, in Las Alpujarras. This is an all inclusive week where customers can snowboard or ski, go dog sledding, horse riding, mountain biking, walking and go to the beach!
The dog sledding and horse riding takes place at the wonderful Puerto de la Ragua, a small local resort with limited facilities, but a real throw back to a bygone era. Located on a high mountain pass at 2000 metres, this resort also offers cross-country skiing, tobogganing and winter walking Heading out on your horse through the snow is a wonderful experience that will not be forgotten for a long time.
Especially adventurous skiers and snowboarders can use this as a base to head out on back country adventures on the high Sierra Nevada, far away from any resort or other people.
We peeled off another layer of clothing as we sat on the beach front, drinking a cool beer and discussing who got the biggest air off the large kicker built in the fun park. It was me of course, but I have the feeling the discussion will continue for some time.
To get some sun with your snow, and a little beach with your boarding, check out sunshinebreaks.com
We are pleased to announce that we'll be featuring regular reports from the Sierra Nevada as Rob Gray takes us through a Spanish season.