With the long hot summer days merely a distant memory, winter has arrived in Andalucía, Spain. Yet the tourists keep coming and the picturesque towns of Pinos Genil, Monachil and Güéjar Sierra – all only 20 minutes from the city of Granada – are full of life as stopping off points on route to the Sierra Nevada ski resort.
Granada … where else can you spend the morning skiing, the afternoon lounging on a beach and the evening dining in one of Spain’s most beautiful cities?
Sitting at 37-degrees north latitude (the same latitude as Cyprus), the Sierra Nevada is Europe’s most southerly skiing area.
Ski into spring
Boasting a season that’s longer than most Alpine resorts, starting in mid-to-late November, skiing continues well into April and beyond. This year the season closes 7 May.
As you would imagine, any self-respecting ski resort should play host to more ski runs, restaurants, bars and hotels than you could possibly shake a stick at. Sierra Nevada won’t disappoint even the most ardent of winter sports enthusiasts with in excess of 110 kilometers of marked pistes, more than 130 ski runs catering for all levels of experience and more than 100 restaurants and hotels.
However, if – like us – you also have children and skiing is not necessarily your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that the Sierra Nevada has so much more to offer in terms of activities. Within the ski resort itself there’s a huge children’s play area where they can take to the toboggan runs, maybe try their luck on the Russian bobs, sit-ski, bobski, mini ski, skate ski, snowboard and even take a dip in the heated outdoor pool
They can all this to their hearts content, or as is more likely, until mum and dad decide that their pockets have taken enough of a hammering … because yes, it can be expensive. Children’s activities costing around 10 euros for 30 minutes.
Yet, as is often the case, the locals do know best. One of the first and most enduring lessons that I learned on my arrival in Spain is that very best tapas bars, the ones that attract the locals tend to have copious amount of napkins littering the floor.
So with that in mind, on arriving in Granada, we sought to discover the locals’ Sierra Nevada snow hang out.
Hoya de la Mora for free
At 2,500-meters altitude, Hoya de la Mora is just a short drive from the Sierra Nevada. Here you and your children can enjoy a day in the snow completely free (equipment aside). The immediate area is populated almost entirely by bars and equipment hire shops of the wooden hut variety most associated with Christmas markets.
Food and drink here is basic but reasonably priced; however we
found it preferable to go fully equipped with flasks and food.
If you – like us – live within driving distance and you intend to be a regular or more than occasional visitor to the slopes (and why not … the snow’s free) then you could be tempted to buy a sledge from one of the many independent roadside sellers you’ll pass on your journey. They have seemingly deserted the beaches of Malaga and Torremolinos – their traditional summer haunts – for the much cooler climes of the Sierra Nevada.
I should add that Decathlon in Granada also does a great business in toboggans and snowboards at very good prices.
Parking on the roadside is free for all so you’ll need to arrive early. Unlike the ski resort itself, which is insured for accidents, Hoya De La Mora is not; never the less the area is highly recommended for both children and adults alike.
If the thought of all this fun in the snow is not tempting enough, then the Sierra Nevada’s close proximity to both the spectacular Moorish influenced city of Granada – home to some of the finest, most varied and plentiful tapas in Spain – and the beaches of the semi-tropical coast will clinch the deal.
Further information relating to the Sierra Nevada resort including lift passes, activities, restaurants and accommodation can be found on the sierranevada.es website.
After the slopes, get set to make your way down from the mountains to Granada and you can enjoy some Spanish winter sun together and some of the finest tapas Spain has to offer.
Drive a little further south you can even make your way to the beaches of Almunecar and Herradura (a particular favourite of the Spanish)
About the author:
Irina Greensitt is from the far eastern town of Khabarovsk in Russia, but has previously been living in the United Kingdom for seven years before moving to Spain in 2014 together with her husband and two young children.
Irina now runs an internet business and lists walking, travel and sailing (passing her skippers exam in 2016) amongst her hobbies.
See more from Dispatches’ Spanish archive here.