Monday, July 9, 2012

Palm Trees and Ski Bags

Spain: Palm Trees and Ski Bags

To boldly go where no skier has gone before: Spain. And the really tough guys dress in ski clothes on the plane bound to Barcelona (not me).

Anyway, I ski a lot. Almost too much to keep up writing articles about my trips.

I often have a handful stories that I have not found time to write about. Like this one. In February we went to Spain and Andorra. At the time I only had time to write the all-important after-ski article. From just one of the bars that we visited. But now I have found time to describe our short visit to La Molina in northern Spain, a stop on our journey towards Andorra. 

Our trip lasted just two and half days; a weekend. We were pressed for time to visit all the places we wanted to. When we arrived at La Molina they were still open for an hour, which we figured would be enough to tour the most important parts of this medium-size area. Oddly enough, however, the ticket office refused to sell us tickets. The sales agents were still in their booths, but no, they were unable to sell us a ticket at this time. They cared about their customers not getting enough of their money's worth if a day ticket would only be usable for an hour? The "Mañana" (tomorrow) attitude or something else? We don't know.

No matter. Luckily my friend Zach was with me. In about a minute, he had talked a couple of the departing local skiers to donate their day tickets to us. So off we went to the ski lift...

Danger! Bear left!

Ski Area

Even though it was February, the snow cover in La Molina was limited. Most of the ski area is above two kilometers, at a comparable altitude to the mountains of Andorra. But there was a world of difference between the two places. Andorra looked like an entirely snow covered, remote mountain region. La Molina looked like a tiny snow cap on top of mountains rising from the desert. And in fact, that snow cap was man-made. There was no snow outside ski runs at La Molina. But the snow year had been difficult.

Not a good snow year, even in February

Nevertheless, we found some good skiing. On the map and on site, the Tosa d'Alp mountain on the right hand side from the parking lot looks more challenging. Use the Telecabina Alp 2500 to get to this area. You can get up to 2445 meters on this side. The maximum vertical difference at La Molina is 745 meters. The ski area map can be found here. 

Due to our late arrival, we only had time to try the left hand side, however. The skiing is on the Puigllancada mountain. We skied the runs from the Cap de la Comella chair lift. The red runs from the top are steep enough to be interesting, and the well-maintained slopes were a pleasure to ski.

A view from the Cap de la Comella chair lift

Ski slopes

Soon enough the lifts closed, however. We decided to hike a bit from the last lift, by walking towards the top of Puigllancada, as the upper lifts were not operational. The local ski patrol stopped us, but luckily the appearance of Zach's telemark equipment on this hill made a sufficient impression. We were allowed to continue...

Walking up, after lifts had closed


Be careful about the "rock burn" if you venture outside the ski slopes in La Molina. There's no snow.



To be honest, I do not have a full picture the after-ski possibilities in La Molina. They seemed somewhat limited, but we also did not have time to stay very late, so the situation might have been different in the night.

But right under the ski slopes, on the other side of the parking lot we found Snow Esqui, a small bar that serves food and drinks. It seemed OK. Curiously, there entire ski area was lacking the crowds, so the bars were also fairly empty. Maybe the people would have returned later in the evening, or maybe we visited the area on the wrong day.

Snow Esqui; an after-ski bar at La Molina

Getting to La Molina

La Molina is two hours from Barcelona by car. It is reachable with normally equipped cars, as the roads are very likely in good condition year around.

La Molina is this way

Leaving La Molina in the dusk

Walking up

Photo and video credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko and Zach Shelby

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