Given the temperate climate and famous coastline of the Catalan capital, it’s not uncommon for people to only associate Barcelona with sunbathing and water sports such as windsurfing, jet skiing and flyboarding. However, while the city may not see much of a white winter—the last significant snowfall in the metropolitan area was in 2010—the mountainous countryside in the north of Catalunya is another matter.
With the mighty Pyrenees, which dominate Spain’s border with France and Andorra, seeing heavy snowfall from January to March, there’s ample opportunity to indulge in some thrilling snow sports in Catalunya.
The Pyrenees are full of ski resorts that draw tourists and locals alike for a go on the pistes. La Molina, for example, has gentler slopes and is ideal for beginners, while Port del Comte prides itself on its adrenaline-pumping, red and black certified routes. The high altitudes and guaranteed snow in wintertime make this a wonderful spot for alpine skiing.
However, if you’re more daring at heart, you might want to try snowkiting—the logical evolution of typical skiing or snowboarding. Similar in principle to water-based kitesurfing, the sport involves a kite or sail alongside your skis or snowboard. Using the wind, you can travel great distances, zoom uphill or downhill in any direction, and push the boundaries of freestyle, big air and backcountry exploration. When the sport first started in 1972, it was called ‘parachute-skiing’ because actual parachutes were used to propel athletes forward. That is until it was discovered that foil kites allowed for more speed and control, and eventually the inflatable kite most commonly used today was developed.
As in kitesurfing, the dependence on wind and need for having strict control over the kite—some professional kites can measure from 10 to 12 metres, though it’s important to take your weight into account when choosing the size of your own kite—make snowkiting one of the more hazardous snow sports in the region. It’s strongly advised to have intimate knowledge of these two elements before trying your hand at the sport.
There are two schools where you can tackle this new skill: Global Kite and Kiteloop. Kiteloop School in Sabadell offers two courses, one in which you first learn to operate the kite, and a two-day course that prepares you to snowkite alone.
So being blown around a high-altitude slope at the mercy of a thin piece of fabric doesn’t convince you? You may want to opt for a more relaxing, traditional, and ultimately less dangerous winter pursuit.
You surely remember slegding as a child. Inching down a slope until gravity takes over. The icy wind in your face. Skidding to a halt. Well, this is slegding, but even more fun. Instead of traipsing uphill, sinking knee-deep in the snow and exhausting yourself, all for the excitement to be over 15 seconds after it began, you don’t have to work so hard to have a good time on this sledge: you have 8 to 10 speedy Siberian huskies attached to the front.
If you’ve ever watched The Chronicles of Narnia film series, or had Christmas-time dreams of riding in a sleigh, then you’ll be happy to know that Lifestyle Barcelona can make fantasy a reality during your trip to Catalunya. As part of its husky snow sleigh experience, you’ll be whisked away into the wintry wonderland of Andorra, where a professional guide will educate you in the ways of mushing huskies. Wrap up warm, hold on tight, and let the hard-working dogs hypnotise you as they sweep you through sparkling vistas, further and further into the wilderness.
While in the area and learning a skill traditionally utilised by Eskimos, why not sign up for a class on how to build your own igloo. Each class is two hours, €33/person.
If you have the need for even more speed, jump on the fastest mode of snow-friendly transportation. Even newbies can conquer a snowmobile in this snowmobile experience, complete with a safety briefing and route guidance from a qualified instructor before you begin. Driving is simple; you learn to combine gas and brake (no pedals or clutch) and steer with a handlebar. You can ride alone, or with another person, and the seats are heated for maximum comfort.
You can also drive at night, when the white of the snow increases the brilliance of the vehicle’s lights, illuminating the magical scene around you.
If you’re an experienced climber looking for your next thrill, consider ice climbing on the slippery surfaces of the Pyrenees’ most breathtaking waterfalls—when they’re frozen over and resemble oversized icicles, of course.
One of the best places for this activity is Boí Taüll. Located in Vall de Boí, which, at 2,751 metres, is the highest ski resort in the Pyrenees, the complex offers a wide range of winter sports, including snowshoe trails and ice climbing. The area boasts approximately 160 cascades, the highest number of quality routes in the mountain range, and the resort has routes for beginners as well as expert climbers, both on ice and in mixed terrain.
Pick the snow sport that’ll meet all your expectations and enjoy your visit to Catalunya this winter!