Europe’s Southerly Ski Resort Unveils Major Upgrades and Unique Ski-Beach Holidays

Stand at the top of Europe’s most southerly ski resort and, on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of Morocco in the distance, hundreds of miles across the Mediterranean Sea. In the foreground, the vast brown plains of Andalusia stretch like a faded jute rug as far as the eye can see – a stark juxtaposition to the crisp, white snow at the summit of Veleta, the tallest mountain in the Sierra Nevadas and third highest in Spain. While the resort of Baqueira Beret, further north in the Spanish Pyrenees, has launched into the British mainstream with package holidays from the UK’s largest operator, Crystal Ski, the ski resort of Sierra Nevada in the south has long held a place in many Britons’ hearts – particularly those with a fondness for the sun.

Revamped and Ready

With 105km of wide, mainly blue and red pistes, a decent beginner’s area, throbbing après-ski ambience and English-speaking ski schools, Sierra Nevada is a worthwhile proposition for skiers who want to enjoy a convenient and reasonably priced break. Unlike its northerly cousin, holidays here have been available with the likes of Ski Solutions, Sno and Iglu Ski for years – but it still remains under the radar of the masses. Despite its southerly location, the resort is one of Europe’s highest and the season is long. Lifts began turning on December 9 this winter and aim to run until May, thanks to its altitude and bolstered snowmaking capacity.

Investment in Infrastructure

The area is undergoing a facelift, with new hotels and hefty investment in the skiing infrastructure. Four new lifts opened this winter alone, as part of the biggest investment project in the resort’s history. This includes €6.7 million spent on the new, faster main Al Ándulus gondola, which, along with the rearrangement of the Borreguiles beginner area, hugely improves mountain traffic. There are also over 30 high-tech snow cannons now in use, replacing machines that were more than 40 years old. Last winter, the ski-in/ski-out Alpine chic four-star Maribel hotel reopened after extensive refurbishment by new owner Puente Romana Beach Resort, which also manages the neighbouring upmarket property, Le Lodge. Both offer an elevated experience from the rest of Sierra Nevada. The owner’s property in coastal Marbella – two and a half hours drive away – proves the perfect combination for the ski-beach breaks guests like Lesley seek.

A Unique Blend: Ski and Beach

The convenient schedule and short transfers are the perfect ingredients for a combined beach-ski holiday if you visit at the right time of year. This unique pairing is what sees guests returning year after year. “We’ve been coming here for 16 years,” said Lesley Park from Plymouth, who I meet drinking a coffee and people-watching in the sunshine at the side of the pistes. “We fly from Exeter or Bristol and drive from Malaga. We spend three days here and three on the beach.” It’s a tempting combination. Well above the snowline, admittedly, Sierra Nevada isn’t the most charming resort. Its barren position, along with a historic Eurotrash reputation, are likely reasons as to why it hasn’t hit the British mainstream. The modern and mainly tired accommodation is strung out along a road that winds steeply through the resort and at first glance, I admit to finding it ugly.

However, the resort’s recent transformations and investment into improving both the skiing infrastructure and accommodation options, as highlighted in references from boutique hotels in Sierra Nevada and the best Sierra Nevada hotels, suggest a bright future. With new lifts, enhanced snowmaking capabilities, and the reopening of upscale hotels like Maribel, Sierra Nevada is poised to attract more visitors seeking the unique ski-beach holiday experience it uniquely offers.

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