Andorra is a small land-locked country between France and Spain. It’s official language is Catalan, although Spanish (Castillan), French & English are widely understood.


Getting there:

Road: There are only two roads into Andorra.
From France. Enter via Pas de la Casa. Note that this road is prone to closures in theu winter after storms and the French do not always seem to bothered to clean it quickly, Chains are required in winter.

From Spain. Usually one would go via Lleida and then take the road via La Seu d’Urgell. This road is normally open and in very good condition. Up to Lleida it is mostly motorway, and from there most of the road is single lane. Try to avoid Friday afernoons coming into Andorra or Sunday afternoon leaving - a 45min drive can turn into 3h (you have been warned).

Train: There are two options both which are from the French side.
[1] The first option only option is to get a train to L’Hospitalet (France) and then take the connecting Montmatell bus which gets you to certain Grandvalira towns or the central bus station in Andorra la Vella. From the latter you need to use local transport or a taxi to get you to your final destination. This route has the advantage of getting an overnigh sleeper train from Paris, so you don;t have to waste a hole day of travelling.

[2] The opther option is to get a train to the Toulouse Matabiau station. From there you can get a connecting Andorrabus to any of the Grandvalira towns or to Andorra la Vella, or even to any other village. You might need to change in Andorra la Vella, but this should be included in your ticket. One can even travel from the UK on Eurostar to Paris and change trains to Toulouse.


Air: Fly to Barcelona, Toulouse, Girona, Lleida or Perpignan and get the bus from there. Novotel runs a service from most of these airports and you can book online. Practically the best two options are either Barcelona or Toulouse as they are derived by the larger airlines. and served by the excellent AndBus services. If you fly budget lines, Girona might be better. My preference is Barcelona as the chances of delays due to closed roads are far less than Toulouse. Transit to Andorra la Vella is 3h in most cases. (it is only 2h from Lleida, but you probably would lose time due to a transfer in Palma). The long-distance AndBus services have wi-fi onboard. Once in Andorra-la-Vella you can transfer to a connecting bus.

The resorts

There are two major areas Vallnord and Grandvalira. They have separate lift passes, although a special pass called SkiAndorra can also be used which are valid at both. Pistes are graded as green, blue, red and black. Avoid the green slopes if you are on skiboards.

Grandvalira: This is the largest connected ski area in Andorra. People usually say that one should stay in Soldeu as it is neraly ski-in and right on the lifts, but my personal perference is to rather catch the 20min gondola ride from Encamp as the top is less busy and more interesting rides. Red slopes on top can be pretty steep and narrow in places. Grandvalira is characterised by wide, open areas. THere is alot to be had by riding in between pistes.

Vallnord: This area consists of Pal, Arinsal and Arcalis. Pal & Arinsal are linked by cable car.

Vallnord resorts tend to have green pistes specifically for beginners to get around and practice on.

Pal has a variety of blue and red slopes and only one black slope, but it is possibly to do a lot of tree-riding. It is also serviced by a gondola from La Massana, which is an easy option if you don't have a car and want to stay in a town with a bit of apres.

Arcadis is my favourite by far. It is north-facing, ess touristy, has ample free-riding and is locate in areas of great beauty, both summer and winter. Try to avoid it in days of wind or low-visibility. You’ll need a car (possibly with chains) to access it, or you need to catch the Vallnord bus, that runs all the way from La Massana up through Ordino, Llorts, El Serrat etc.) The bus is easy to get from the main road.


Suitability for skiboarding

Excellent. No one is fussed. You might be overtaken by an irate Andorra or SPanish registered car on the way the resort, some Russian might ski right over the back of your beautiful skiboards, or some death-defying Polish person might fall over right in front of you, but now one will care that you are riding skiboards. No one will make derogatpry remarks (If they do, you probably won;t understand them anyway). Most lift entry points are well designed. I have only come across one which was flat with a little uphill, resulting in a lot of duck walking.

They are also very open to the use of skibikes and snow scoots. These can even be rented at some shops (Bigfoot in La Massana springs to mind) or a 1h experience with an instructor can be booked at most resorts.

Ski touring is also welcomes as long as you take care to move up the side of the piste.

Accommodation

Booking.com and airbnb.com are good bets for DIY travellers. Lots of hotel and self-catering (look for places called aparthotel).

Safety

Andorrans are very conscientious about keeping the slopes safe - after all winter sports are one of their main sources of income. You can be held criminally liable if an injury to another person on a slope is your fault.

Oh and btw crime is very low. Like most resorts in Europe you csn just leave you ski, snowboards and skiboards outside the restaurant and they will still be there when you return.

Food

Lots of good restaurants around and reasonable prices. Try to get off the mountain earlier en get into a restautant between 3pm & 5pm. Some restaurants will serve buffer or set menu during that time, which results in quite a bit of food (even by US standards). If you skiboarded in Arcalis during the day, I can particularly recommend getting off in La Cortinada or Arran and taking in a restaurant there.

Burger? Do you really want a burger? Ok then, look for an AND Burger Zero joint.

Other things to do

Andorra is steeped in history. There are 35 old Romanesque churches to see (some ~1000 A.D). It is easy to get around too by bus. Lots of places to walk. There is also a famous spa called Caldea, which is worth visiting.