A family queues at a ski lift. Two children, about 10 years old, are excited and holding their ski poles tightly as they wait for the magic tow to come. Their father looks discouraged and exhausteed. The reason: he doesn’t like skiing. Obviously, he is there for the little ones. But he man has to admit one thing: the landscape is breathtaking. What if he could enjoy the charms of the ski resorts and winter landscapes without skiing?
It goes without saying that the village of Astún exists for a single purpose: to keep its ski resort of the same name alive. However, although this is its vital function, Astún can also be used in other ways. At an altitude of 1,730 meters and located in the Pyrenees, this resort is set in spectacular scenery. Great peaks such as Arnousse, the peak of the Monks, the Malacara and the Raca surround the enclave in a scenario that could perfectly be that of a film. From the resort itself, without entering the ski slopes, you can enjoy the views simply by walking, sledding or doing a snowball fight.
Another of the plans that can be made in Astún without the need to enter its slopes is hiking, as there are many routes that start from here. The most common are those that lead to some of the lakes of glacial origin that make up the landscape. The Truchas chairlift allows the ascent in a faster and more comfortable way until leaving the traveler very close to the lake of the same name. From there you can start a hike to the Astún pass or to the Ibón de Escalar. Another option may be to start from the parking lot of the station and make one of the many routes that start from there. Of course, always bearing in mind that this is mountain hiking and you have to plan everything well, be minimally fit and, above all, go well prepared.
This place can also be visited, by the way, in other seasons. For example, in summer, ski lifts such as Los Lagos are still open and other activities such as climbing, rafting or canyoning can be done. Not to mention the fauna, especially the numerous birds that populate the area. Also, just 30 kilometers away, Jaca offers a cultural visit.
Who says you can’t ski in Valencia? Well. Actually it’s true. You can’t. But very close to the Levantine capital. Less than two hours from Valencia and Castellón is the Aramón Valdelinares ski resort, although this resort actually belongs to the province of Teruel, from whose capital it is barely an hour away. But who cares about skiing? In Valdelinares you can do many other things. For starters, it is a park whose artificial snow keeps the landscape white even when it is not snow season, so almost any time of the year is good to build a snowman.
The Aramón Valdelinares resort is located in the municipality of the same name, specifically in the beautiful Sierra de Gúdar. There the plans can range from hiking a trail through the black pine forests, characteristic in areas between 1,900 and 2,000 meters above sea level, or a visit to one of the beautiful villages that stretch along the mountain range. Villages, some of them declared Historic-Artistic Site, such as Rubielos de Mora or Alcalá de la Selva. The ski resort itself offers many services for those who prefer not to ski, such as an outdoor ice rink, an area for sledging or a snow garden for the little ones.
Those who live in the vicinity of the Cantabrian Mountains also have their own ski resort, of course. The Valgrande-Pajares Winter and Mountain Resort, located in the municipality of Lena, in Asturias, is one of the oldest in Spain. This station is the border between the provinces of León and Asturias and most of its visitors come, therefore, from both population centers. Its location is privileged: at the foot of the mythical Pajares pass and in the shadow of peaks such as Cueto Negro, El Cellón and Las Tres Marías, at an altitude of 2,000 meters.
Those who do not want to participate in winter sports in this enclave will not be bored either, because, as usual, the station has an area for those who prefer to go sledding. Likewise, the surroundings of the resort are full of paths built in Roman times and used to go from one village to another. Therefore, organizing a route along these trails will bring the traveler spectacular views. Finally, being the area with the highest concentration of mountain ranges in the peninsula, cycling is also very common.
The southernmost ski resort in Europe is located in Granada and is of considerable size. More than 100 meters of skiable slopes are those that run through the Sierra Nevada, an enclave that has hosted world ski championships and has even been presented as a candidate for the Winter Olympics. But what can you do here if you don’t like skiing or snowboarding?
Well, the options in the Sierra Nevada National Park are infinite. Besides being able to do thousands of hiking trails or the typical alternative plans to skiing (sledding, snow angels or similar) there is also the option of taking a walk through the villages of the region as Cenes de la Vega or Pinos Genil. The Mirlo Blanco amusement park also offers a different alternative for the whole family, with sliding slides, sleds, skating rinks or a roller coaster on the snow, among other things. And, if not, there is always the possibility of going to Granada, less than an hour away from Sierra Nevada.
Another resort that acts as a natural border between two provinces is Valdesquí. In this case between the provinces of Segovia and Madrid. Valdesquí is the biggest station of Madrid and the only one if the closing of the Navacerrada station is completed. It belongs to the municipality of Rascafría, but, however, the road that connects it with Navacerrada runs through Segovia.
Valdesquí was inaugurated in 1972 and has about 22 skiable kilometers. To get there you have to go through the port of Cotos, next to the Natural Park of Peñalara. This is, therefore, one of the non-skiing plans that can be done in the area. In Peñalara the easiest and shortest route is the one that goes up to the Laguna Grande. Another longer and also beautiful is the one that reaches the Laguna de los Pájaros. Or you can also take the option of ascending to the peak. In winter, of course, you have to go with your head. Plan ahead, be prepared and take into account the weather forecast. After the route, there is nothing better than to recharge your batteries in the village of Rascafría. And, by the way, if Valdesquí is full, there is always the option, if you have a car, to try your luck in Navacerrada, where there is also a great variety of trails. The Bola del Mundo is the best known.
Valdezcaray is the only ski resort in La Rioja and one of the most – if not the most – accessible on the list. This is because it can be reached through different roads and a bus service democratizes its entrance. It is not necessary to have a car to get to Valdezcaray. This resort, which has 26 slopes arranged along 20 kilometers, is located in the Sierra de la Demanda and takes advantage of the slopes of the peak of San Lorenzo, the highest in La Rioja.
But Valdezcaray offers other attractions apart from winter sports. As always, you can go up here just to enjoy the breathtaking views and take advantage of the day to play with the snow. You can also take a chairlift without the intention of going down the slope, but just to enjoy the scenery. Then, to complete the day, the traveler can take the opportunity to visit the monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla or go to the beautiful village of Ezcaray.
The ski resort of Port Ainé is located in the municipality of Rialp, in the Catalan Pyrenees. The most outstanding feature of this resort is its family character and its focus on a novice public. Port Ainé has 30 kilometers of slopes in a privileged landscape, integrated in the Pyrenean mountains.
The best thing about it is that, even if you don’t like skiing, the recreational character of the resort extends beyond skiing. The Port Ainé Adventure and Leisure Park is focused on children, although adults can also enjoy it. One of its attractions is, for example, a toboggan ride, but there are many more. The resort also has a multi-adventure park among the trees for adults and another for children. Another alternative is to take one of the routes offered with snowshoes. In short, the traveler will not get bored even if he tries.
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