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Ski trip: Sierra Nevada

One of Nate’s top requests for our trip was to go skiing – his favorite sport. While we’re not on a follow-the-summer itinerary like some round-the-world travelers, there won’t be many opportunities on our trip to ski. We arrived in Patagonia just after the end of the season there, and expect to be in warmer climes for much of the rest of our trip. Therefore we decided to look for someplace in Europe. Lauren found out about Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, which would be convenient to our other stops in Andalusia. I was quite skeptical at first.

“Europe’s southernmost ski area, in sight of the Mediterranean?” I thought, “No way will they have snow in early December.”

Happily I was wrong. I suppose the name “Sierra Nevada” was a clue – it translates to “snowy mountain range.”

Sure enough, there is snow in southern Spain!

The road from Granada to the ski area (and its small town) has about a million turns as it climbs to nearly 7000′ above sea level. It would have been a blast in a sports car. However our car – not the most sprightly of vehicles even at sea level – was wheezing hard in the thin air near the top. We made it though, and checked into our tiny but functional apartment. The apartment offered two bedrooms, though one was more like a walk-in closet into which someone had wedged a full bed. The kids, with their delightful attitudes toward each other, demanded (and got) the larger room + bed. 😀

We picked up rental skis at a shop that happened to be staffed by a couple from Argentina, who had also lived in New Zealand. They’re apparently enjoying the ski bum life, and we had a good chat with them about Argentina, NZ, and our trip.

On to the mountain!

Despite being early in the season, there was plenty of good snow on the mountain and we had a great time skiing. We stuck to the mid-mountain easy and intermediate trails, which were the right level of difficulty for the boys. 25 years ago I would have been desperate to ski the harder trails at the top, and to do at least one nonstop top-to-bottom run (nearly 4000′ of vertical!). Turns out I’ve mellowed out (a bit) since then, and I didn’t feel that I missed much by not skiing them.

View from halfway up the mountain
The main peak, seen from the mid-mountain (Borreguiles) station.

We had 3 days to ski, and the second day provided a bit of a surprise. During the afternoon we were literally in the clouds. Visibility was down to about 30 feet at times, and the snow was exactly the same color as the cloud. This made navigation (and staying upright) a bit challenging! Even the easy slopes felt a bit like Space Mountain, the roller coaster that’s in the dark so you can’t see where you’re going. Quite an experience, and we headed in a bit early that afternoon.

Skiing in the clouds. This was taken from roughly the same spot as the previous picture; the main peak is to the left.

The weather was nearly perfect on our third day, and we spent the whole day on the slopes. A highlight for the boys was the “Pista del Mar” – a run that was adorned with various sea creatures. Still beginners, they also appreciated the gentle, broad boulevards near the mid-mountain station.

That evening we packed up the car tired and happy, and headed back down to Granada, where we’d spend one last night in Spain before a morning flight to France.

The rare Andalusian Mountain Octopus in its natural habitat.
The IRAM 30 meter radio telescope lives on one of the peaks at Sierra Nevada. In person it’s huge, and looks like something out of Star Wars. This telescope participated in the project to produce the first direct image of a black hole.
Paleo diet? Cooking our meal on hot stones at a local restaurant. Sadly the price did not reflect the fact that the kitchen didn’t have to do any cooking.
Winter sunset in Sierra Nevada

2 replies on “Ski trip: Sierra Nevada”

Awesome idea, great description, and Oh, how envious I am! Had to stop skiing about twenty years ago, and do indeed miss the sport. Never seen the Great Andalusian Octopus, either! Hope all had a ball!

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Wow! I had no idea southern Spain could provide skiing. Or that Nevada meant “snowy.” Glad you had the chance to enjoy that together!

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