Sierra Nevada defies many concepts associated with skiing. Located barely a stone's throw from the Mediterranean coast, it has practically guaranteed sunshine, the best Spring snow conditions in Europe, and is still reasonably priced compared to many of its European counterparts.
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As one of Europe's highest resorts it is very snowsure and typically has a long season. Traditionally the season starts around the end of November running through to the first week of May. The longest season on record was the winter of 2008/9 which ran from the 15th November 2008 until the 17th May 2009.
Sierra Nevada literally means "Snowy Mountain Range" and it includes some of the highest peaks in Europe, not to mention the highest concentration of peaks over 3,000m in the country. The Mulhacen at 3,482m is the Iberian Peninsula's highest.
The ski terrain is majestically overlooked by the jagged glacier-formed Veleta peak at 3,398m, Spain's third highest after Aneto (3,404m) in the Pyrenees. Due to the altitude, the ski slopes are above the tree line and generally take the form of ski fields rather than narrow prepared tracks - something that favours the more nervous skier in particular as well as generally giving a sense of confidence all round, especially for off piste fanatics!
The Sierra Nevada ski resort offers its visitors a wide and ever expanding range of facilities as well as a ski terrain to suit skiers and boarders of all standards.
Families will enjoy quality hotel accommodation and children's facilities such as the Mirlo Blanco recreation zone, with activities including Ski Bike, Inner Tubing, Ice Skating and a "Roller-Sled" (a cross between a roller-coaster and bob-sled).
The ski terrain has "Family" zones designated which are not only patrolled from time to time to ensure better ski sense but the development of the "Pista del Mar" offers a novel themed slopeline whereby from the chairlift up to the ski slope down, numerous objects and animal figurines related to the Sea are located to give kids a fun experience in their skiing. At weekends, obstacle courses are created to enhance even further your child's experience.
The Crèche and Dreamland Snow Garden are well-run establishments with fully trained staff to look after children up to six years old. Pre-booking is recommended and can be arranged with Sierra Essence!
Getting kitted out and ready for the slopes is made easy at Rio Sport Intersport equipment-hire shop, where you will find quality rental equipment and a knowledgeable team of English speaking staff to sort you out with the right equipment according to your standard.
Beware of street sellers offering too low priced equipment hire - the equipment can be poorly maintained and the sellers are rarely knowledgeable.
The British Ski Center is also based at Rio Sport, for any tuition or guiding requirements you may have. Ask directly for the British Ski Center to avoid confusion with the shop's own Spanish Ski School.
An important factor, which very few resorts can boast, is that you are practically guaranteed sunshine throughout your stay! Being so far south, the climate is superb for brushing-up on the deepest ski tan you are likely to get anywhere! Visitors are consistently stunned at how the snow lasts during the typically deep-blue-skied, sun-blazoned days.
Much of this is due to the resort organisers working extremely hard at preparing the runs each and every night.
By packing the snow down, even the shallowest of snow bases may be maintained for several weeks even if it does not snow for prolonged periods.
In addition to this, the resort is equipped with one of the most advanced snow making systems in existence. So that even in the theoretical situation that not so much as a single flake of snow has fallen (which has never happened) the resort organisers still guarantee skiing! This has been proven over the winters of 2005/6, 2006/7 and 2007/8, three seasons where early snowfall was especially limited.
The winter of 2014/15 was in general Europe's worst start for between 25-40 yrs depending on the resort. Indeed a high percentage of resorts were unfortunate enough to be unable to open until well into January. Sierra Nevada was fortunate enough to have recieved some good snow in early November before the drought hit. As a result of our altitude and dry climate, temperatures and humidity levels were such that an impressive snow making campaign was put into action from the first day of the season, 29th November 2014, and throughout the month of December, the Christmas festivities and even into January before the next significant snowfalls came. The result of this was not only were we skiing from the end of November but we had all ski areas open too and hence catered for all skiers/boarders and avoided significant queues at busy times. The altitude and climate is something quite unique to Sierra Nevada compared to lower lying and more humid European resorts.
Sierra Nevada proved its worth in this manner also in 2006/7 and was officially the first resort to open in Europe (except for the Alpine glacier resorts).
In spite of the sunshine, bad weather is to be expected of course so be sure to pack sensible clothing and be prepared. The ski terrain in Sierra Nevada is open and very exposed should conditions change, and they can change extremely quickly!
When the snow and weather are favourable however, the openness of the ski terrain provides some of the most exhilarating free skiing/riding to be found anywhere.
Off-piste skiing in Sierra Nevada has made a great name for itself. The open expanses lend themselves to finding easily accessible areas all over the terrain with very little avalanche risk by European comparisons.
It is also something that inexperienced "off-piste skiers" love for the simple fact of minimum risk by not having to take a hike to find good sections for learning on!
NOTE: Injuries occurring while skiing off piste are not covered by the lift pass insurance cover.