Mark Galvez Vicens
Featured Image: Roger Salanova
Somewhere in the Pyrenees, in southern Europe, exists a snow paradise that has become an essential destination for all freeride lovers. It is the ski resort Ordino Arcalís and is located in Andorra, a small country between France and Spain—only two hours from Barcelona—where there are actually more miles of ski slopes than roads.
The valley of Ordino offers such a privileged natural environment that it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 2020 and is characterized by its charming alpine villages and its incredible mountain landscapes. Freeskiers will have the honor to immerse themselves in the beauty of the local nature as they explore these preserved lands, and now as the newest addition to the Ikon Pass, it’s easier than ever for you to make the trip.
The Ordino Arcalís ski resort has more than 16 miles of trails and an altitude between 6,368 feet and 8,616 feet, equaling a vertical drop of 2,244 feet. But the most interesting thing about this resort is the 1,140 acres of terrain and a total of 75 miles of off-piste possibilities accessible via its 16 lifts. The winter resort also has two freeride areas dedicated to expert skiers that are easily accessible directly from the ski lift. In addition, due to its North orientation, Ordino Arcalís can brag about having the best quality and largest quantity of snow in the Pyrenees.
An established FREERIDE stop accessible to everyone
None of these advantages have gone unnoticed within the freeride world and proof of this is that Ordino Arcalís has been a mainstay stop on the Freeride World Tour since 2015, and will be again this coming season. The FWT 2023 will have five stops, starting in Canada and ending in Switzerland; Ordino will be the third event, and it is scheduled to take place between the 4th and 9th of February, 2023. It is of great importance since it is the last one before the Cut, where it is decided which riders go on to the final races so every season the face at Ordino becomes a stage for some of the best riders to push their talent and creativity to the limit to draw impressive and spectacular lines.
Still, within the framework of the FWT, Ordino Arcalís also hosts a Freeride Junior Tour event, for those under 18 years of age, and the Jam Extreme, a three-star event on the European circuit of the Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ). As a host to all three of these events, Ordino Arcalís is distinguished as one of the premiere locations for big-mountain skiing.
Amateur riders will find that one of the great attractions of Ordino Arcalís is that the four faces of the FWT are very easily accessible and can all be skied, in fact, in just one day. “15 meters,” for low and intermediate levels, is accessible directly from the chairlift and offers a slope of 43 degrees; the “Port del Rat” face, for intermediate users, requires a 30-minute climb and spits you out on a pitch with a 45-degree slope; “Gomez” is for advanced skiers and can be reached in just 20 minutes from the chairlift; and finally “Basser Negre,” the highest face with an altitude of 8,815 feet and a drop exceeding 1,500 vertical feet, is reserved for expert riders, and to enjoy it you will make a 45-minute ascent to reach the top.
The infinite possibilities offered by this mountain make it the ideal resort not only for experts and professionals but also for adventurous skiers who dream of starting out in this spectacular and acrobatic sport. Beginners will be able to learn the basic technique in the specific initiation area for freeride Ordino offers, and then keep improving thanks to the great diversity of its terrain and slopes.
And as if all this were not enough, Ordino Arcalís is part of Grandvalira Resorts, which brings together the three Andorran ski resorts—including Grandvalira and Pal Arinsal. In numbers, this means a skiable area of nearly 6,000 acres with more than 180 miles of trails. Better yet, this season the conglomerate of Grandvalira Resorts is now part of the prestigious Ikon Pass, making now the opportune time to discover this amazing country, Andorra.
Endless adventures for the natural-minded
Beyond the freeride experience, Ordino Arcalís is a mountain full of adventures and possibilities, including high gastronomy in spectacular locations, or incredible adventure activities like a nearly 2,000-foot long zip-line that crosses the valley, to the fun after-ski evenings in the recently renovated top designer building L’Abarset with renowned DJs.
A must-see is the Tristaina Solar Viewpoint, a spectacular ring-shaped structure almost 100 feet in diameter and located at an altitude of 8,000-plus feet that offers an unparalleled panoramic view of the Ordino valley and the Tristaina glacial cirque. In winter, it can only be accessed with snowshoes or mountaineering skiing, so it will undoubtedly be a unique experience. The excursion can also be done in partnership with Grandvalira Mountain Guides (GMG), expert guides who know the terrain like the back of their hands. Hiring these professionals will undoubtedly maximize your trip as they can prepare customized excursions based on your ability and will help you discover the most coveted, awe-inspiring zones in the area. If you’re feeling even more intrepid, you can even opt to take a snowmobile tour around the valley or go heli-skiing amongst its many peaks.
Lunchtime will also be a part of the experience of immersing into the local Andorran culture. Among its wide variety of restaurant options, in which local products are prioritized, it is worth mentioning the grilled meats of the Brasserie La Coma or the traditional food of the emblematic Regufi de les Portelles, a cozy, on-mountain restaurant that can only be accessed by skiing during the day or by a snowcat ride at night. To round off the experience, spend the night at the Refugi de Sorteny, a renovated and comfortable mountain retreat with a restaurant at 6,500 feet of altitude that offers breathtaking views.
Grandvalira Resorts is known for being the biggest resort in the Pyrenees and South of Europe with the most modern facilities, and Ordino Arcalís, in particular, will draw you for its massive freeride opportunities and unique mountain culture.
Can you imagine living this full adventure?
How to Get There
Fly directly to Barcelona. From the airport you have two ways to get to Ordino Arcalís and the greater Grandvalaria Resorts area: You can either take a bus directly to the resort (around a four-hour trip) or rent a car and make the drive yourself, cutting an hour of travel. Once in Andorra, it’s helpful to have a car and we recommend going this way to promote easier movement between the various villages, restaurants and adventures you have planned.
Where to Stay
Andorra has more than 25,000 beds available close, some of which are located near the Ordino Arcalís resort. The closest are the El Hotel Bringué and Xalet Bringué, located in El Serrat, the closest village to the resort, located about five minutes by car. In the town of Ordino, about 15 minutes from the resort, you will find more upscale hotels such as the Hotel Coma or the Hotel Babot. Beyond hotel options, in the village of Llorts, located less than 10 minutes from the resort, you will find the Apartamentos La Neu, upscale condo/apartment-style accommodations with delicious on-site dining options.
Ordino Arcalís is only a three-hour drive from Barcelona, a top destination for international travelers. In Barcelona, you can’t miss the Gaudí masterpieces such as La Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, nor getting lost in the small streets of the Gothic Quarter discovering churches built as early as the 14th century, the Roman walls or fascinating art museums such as the Picasso Museum or the MACBA. A stroll down the famous Ramblas is also a must and we suggest you grab some food to go at the Boqueria Market or some tapas at the traditional Quimet or at Kiosko Moderno.
Elevation: Base area: 6,368 feet,
Summit w/ chairlift: 8,616 feet
Summit w/ hike walking: 9,100 feet
Avg. annual snowfall: 240 inches
Vertical drop: approx. 3,200 feet
Insider Tips From the Pros
By: Eli Marina FWQ rider
As a freeride skier, I’m always looking for faces with as many features as possible. Ordino Arcalís offers just that: plenty of runs with minimal hiking required that allow you to easily play on the area’s endless big mountain lines. As Ordino is North-facing, snow quality is usually better than at nearby resorts. If it hasn’t snowed in a few days, I plan to ski later in the day to chase the sun and earn get nice slushy runs.
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