Having moved my family from a small Canadian alpine ski community to Flatlands, Europe, it has been a challenge and a responsibility to find an appropriate mountain retreat for the clan. It had to be some place that had enough variety to challenge the new twin-tipped-donning-Kamikaze-boy, provide a nice view for the more relaxed skiers in the family and have adequate bars, green slopes, instructors and medical facilities to satisfy the needs of our newest clan member, the ski-virgin from South Africa. And, then there's the budget. No easy task.
After many hours of feeding search engines with things like "Europe ski hills beginner advanced x-ray beer inexpensive" and "green to black ski runs not in Switzerland" and "cheap flights, good skiing" and coming up with nothing, I saw Andorra sneaking into the ranks.
Now, I had heard the name Andorra before but I thought it was some made up place for a movie or something like Bregna or Dinotopia or Narnia or the name of the Agnes Moorehead character on Bewitched. No. Real location; a country, no less. It can be easily found on Google Maps if you just type in the name and then zoom and zoom and zoom in some more.
To save energy; it is a very small country in the Pyrenees wedged between France and Spain.
Fantastic place! Tax-free, friendly people, good food and wine, mild weather, ski instructors who will respond on a moment's notice and friendly doctors with X-ray machines right at the ski hill.
We stayed at a bed and breakfast in the ski town of Pas de la Casa called Hotel Les Truites; an amazing little family run place where the owner cooks fresh cut bacon and bread over the open fireplace in the lobby's corner for breakfast each morning. He also let us keep our car parked in their loading zone for days which kept us from parking where this guy did:
We will stay there again.
Prior to the ski adventure, the Offspring both taunted the Amazing Man with ski horror stories; death, dismemberment, insanity, the usual, but they also reassured him that they both went on to great skiing/snowboarding adventures despite the fact that they were each taken out by ski patrol in their early days. Just not nice and most certainly the main reason that he insisted on skiing out like a war hero holding onto his subluxed shoulder. Nothing a huge bandage, sling, Advil and red wine couldn't deal with.
Special thanks to the great Dr. Escoda from the Centre Medic Pas de la Casa. Good guy.
In other great adventures in Andorra: THE TOBOTRONC!! Imagine riding on a go-cart seat attached to rollercoaster rails flying down La Rabassa mountain side for over 5km having total control over your own destiny with a single levered hand-brake. Taryn went last of the four of us and I was becoming a bit concerned when she seemed to be taking a little longer than I expected. Her only comment to us on her arrival was that the signs at the sharper corners that said to apply brakes were NOT meant as a mere suggestion.
Me, "They were in some language that I didn't understand, obviously."
It's been a long time since I have seen my family get off a ride and run to the back of the line to do it again. Amazing.
Other great finds in Andorra: amazing stone architecture, windy roads, very long tunnels and a motorcycle museum cleverly hidden beneath a church parking lot.
What more could you want?