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Grandvalira (Andorra) breaks up, possibly ending the joint lift pass

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I haven't posted about these turbulent last few months until now, because it was hard to believe it would actually happen; in fact it almost seemed like an April Fool's joke. But NEVASA, the business entity which bridges SAEDTE (Pas de la Casa - Grau Roig) and ENSISA (Soldeu - El Tarter), has been formally dissolved at the behest of Joan Viladomat, primary shareholder of SAEDTE and member of one of Andorras richest and most politically important families.

http://www.nevasport.com/noticias/art/51735/Grandvalira-queda-oficialmente-disuelta/ [Spanish]

The dissolution of the company will take effect of 31 May 2019, and will take down the Grandvalira brand with it. The two ski resorts will operate as completely separate entities. No statement has been made on whether a combined ski pass (day, week, season) will be available, which also leaves the current Ski Andorra pass (5 days, season) which covers all of Andorra's resorts up in the air, although in theory nothing will change from the point of view of the skier (be they independent or package tourist) until the 2019-20 season.

As one might expect from a tiny country that quickly went from rural backwater to mini-powerhouse in the control of just a handful of powerful families, the politics of the place are labyrinthine. But as far as one can tell, the primary reason for the break-up is Viladomat's objection to a new, free-to-use underground car park that is due to be built in Soldeu as part of the preparations for the FIS World Cup in February 2019.

But first, a bit of background. Grandvalira is the brand which commercializes a joint lift pass and functions as a travel agency for the two independent societies that control Pas-Grau and Soldeu-El Tarter, similar to the Three Valleys et al but even more watertight: a skier at Grandvalira would simply never know that there were any moving parts underneath the Grandvalira umbrella. With 210 real(*) kilometers of piste, it's the 16th most visited ski resort in the world, and received in the order of 1,764,000 visitors last season. The income from the umbrella company is divided between the two societies based on the entry point of each skier; historically Pas-Grau has apparently had a greater income due to the large open-air car park in Grau Roig, on the other side of the Valira toll tunnel from Pas. However, in recent years, Soldeu-El Tarter have invested millions in upgrading pretty much every bit of infrastructure they have, including big improvements in the free open-air car park in El Tarter. Soldeu, however, despite having the best hotels, the most modern feel, and arguably the best location, has never had any free parking. Gradually, I believe, there has been a shift from people entering Grandvalira at Pas-Grau to entering at Soldeu-El Tarter.

Which brings us to the FIS World Cup of 2019. As anyone who has skied Soldeu's mythical Avet piste - host of a great many FIS races - knows, the run-out at Soldeu is very tight, with a sharp stop needed before immediately reaching the lift queue or the skiable bridge over the Valira river to Soldeu village. Grandvalira has marketed itself excellently with FIS in recent years, and was duly awarded the 2019 World Cup, but under the condition of significantly widening the skiable bridge over the river to increase the run-out space and provide room for all the bits and pieces needed at the finish line, including a media zone etc. Soldeu applied for - and was granted - government permission to implement this expansion, despite it breaching various planning regulations; the government declared it to be of national interest.

So why Viladomat's discontent? Well, Soldeu also decided it would be a good opportunity to build an underground car park underneath the bridge, and FIS were very keen on the idea. Viladomat, we presume, was not at all happy about another free car park on the Soldeu-El Tarter side, especially one that's only a stone's throw from Grau and which delivers the skier to the very centre of Grandvalira, despite the fact that the entire 24-million-Euro project would be financed solely by Soldeu-El Tarter. So, he kicked up a fuss, threatened to dissolve Grandvalira - and has now gone through with it.

http://www.nevasport.com/noticias/art/51616/Grandvalira-podria-acabar-dividida-en-dos-estaciones-de-esqui/ (Spanish)

Viladomat obviously believes that he can still make plenty of money with Pas-Grau alone. It has to be said that Pas-Grau also has options for expansion, particularly towards Porté Puymorens, a wild little resort on the French side of the border, just a valley apart. However, the plan for expanding there several years ago - and Pas even put up the first ski lift that was supposed to form part of the link - fell through due to local politics again (this time, objections from the French mayor) and it's honestly hard to see that plan being resurrected. But these days, I think a great many people think that Soldeu-El Tarter is the better side of Grandvalira (and that's certainly my opinion too), and I do wonder whether his gamble will pay off.

Strange times indeed, when one of the world's fastest growing and most successful ski resorts - and Andorra's cash cow - suddenly gets willfully ripped apart.

(*) unlike those of many big resorts of the French Alps!


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Tue 4-07-17 14:05; edited 6 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Had a fantastic Spring holiday there in April 2015.

Started and finished the day in El Tarter and loved the long distance skiing and variety of terrain on offer.

Would return and have recommended it to many people.

If the link to Pas-Grau was lost I would not return and wouldn't recommend it.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I've been there many times. I never believed the yardage but always had good fun there.

The powder from the equinox storms in March is some of the deepest I've ever ridden in and we made a point of going back for it year after year.

I can totally see the point of M Viladomat. Why would he want to run a lift company if 70% of the income went to a town that had not invested in lifts, but had merely invested in a free car park?

The problem would appear to be the method of dividing revenue.
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Well, in fact Soldeu-El Tarter have invested shed-loads of cash upgrading lifts, improving restaurants, cleaning up the mountain, etc; whereas it's Pas-Grau that had hardly spent a penny until the new (and in my opinion, rather unnecessary) beginners' gondola in Pas. But of course, money will be at the heart of the issue, without doubt. Knowing a bit about how politics works in this neck of the woods, I expect there are also other reasons that we may or may not ever hear about.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
World Cup or World Champs? Latter I suspect.

I'd bet it is traditional ski resort bargaining at its finest - being prepared to take the squabbles public and even suffer a year or two of depressed business to get all parties to a sensible negotiation. Reality is will probably be resolved before the final separation, though of course when it comes to families who are more than rich enough you can sometimes imagine that the FU factor could conceivably prevail.
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It's the Finals of the World Cup.
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it was the Feb date that threw me. You are of course right but the finals are in March
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You're right! 11-17 March to be precise.
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With modern technology the way of dividing up the income now seems archaic. You could now track exactly what lifts each skier uses each day and divide up accordingly. If I were forced to chose to ski one or other area, I would chose Soldeu/ El Tarter.
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We have surely seen such tales before, e.g. Les Houches vs La Compagnie du Mont-Blanc. And we see where that went... rolling eyes
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I've skied Soldeu on and off since 1986, lots of special memories.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
It's crap anyway ...... feels like you're traversing across the moon.

But I'm sure there will be a fudge regardless to keep it all together. Won't make it any better though ......

JMO
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There's an irony. I sort of view it as my "local", having been there four out of the last five years, always staying in ET. But as the children were young and unskilled, despite paying for the full pass we only ever really used S/ET (I think a class took me to Canillo once). It was only earlier this year, as the children grow and get better, that we made a break on the last day to try to get over to Pas. I think we made it to Grau Roig and wife started complaining so we turned back. Oh Pas, Shall I Ever See Thee?



(Hope not, it's apparently full of drunken Brits...)
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Quote:
It's crap anyway .....feels like you're traversing across the moon.
Makes me laugh when someone just writes off an entire huge ski area as 'crap'. Completely preposterous!! Laughing
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
[quote="bar shaker"]

I can totally see the point of M Viladomat. Why would he want to run a lift company if 70% of the income went to a town that had not invested in lifts, but had merely invested in a free car park?

[quote]

As Pyremaniac says, I believe that Soldeu have heavily invested in the infrastructure and that Pas-Grau were getting a bulk of income due to having better free car parking - Soldeu is merely looking to level the playing field.

I think this is a real shame - I love the Grandvalira area - great fun skiing expecially if you're with friends who are beginners or early intermediates.

Is there any scope for expansion on the Soldeu - ET side?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Not much. Off the back of the mountain down towards the line of the Funicamp lift from Encamp (which, I believe, will serve Pas-Grau rather than Soldeu-El Tarter), which is skiable from El Tarter, but much less so from Soldeu/Grau. Plus a bit of skiable area on the back side of the Encampadana mountain in El Tarter which is even supposed to already have a Ratrac providing uplift - but I've never seen it nor heard of anyone who has either.
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Cheers @Pyremaniac, it was around Emcampadana that I was wondering about. Whenever I've been on the daina lift casting my eye over it looks like a blank canvas waiting to be skied so often pondered it!
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mountainaddict wrote:
Quote:
It's crap anyway .....feels like you're traversing across the moon.
Makes me laugh when someone just writes off an entire huge ski area as 'crap'. Completely preposterous!! Laughing


Didn't make me laugh, lost eleven days of my life I'll never get back, and I'm usually grateful ........

Seriously, been around a bit, it's crap ......
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Mountains, fast lifts, nice scenery, masses of snow often and off piste that doesn't get tracked out in a couple of hours. What's not to like!?
My two best powder days season past were in Andorra. Snow always seems to land in mega dumps there.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Rock hard shiny 'snow' ..... all a bit samey ..... end to end.

Post pubescent kids chucking up everywhere in Pas, most other places a bit 'middle aged'. Lovely ......
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That does sound s h it e to be fair BCjohnny- never been my experience there tho thankfully.
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@Orange200, Pas was full of drunk Portuguese students when I was there!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Soldeu, El Tarter and Arinsal are all a lot nicer than Pas. Its a very strange place.
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Pas has never really appealed but loved Soldeu and the skiing there.
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@BCjohnny have to say I'm surprised to hear that (ok, poo-poo snow can happen anywhere). I visited for the first this spring and the skiing was much better than expected - and the backcountry/freeride potential immense.

Vallnord-Arcalís is an absolute treasure trover too, though the (refrozen) snow was pretty unpleasant on my one day there.
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clarky999, despite everything, almost went to Arcalis earlier this year, the freeride areas particularly appealing. For one reason or another it didn't happen, instead went to a different area of the (French) Pyrenees for eleven days, another eleven days of my life I won't get back ..... lol.

Maybe I'm coming over a bit harsh. I guess what I'm trying to say is there are so many other better places to go to, at a similar cost and distance, that renders the Pyrenees in general near the bottom of my own list.

[Edit] And then there's the 'myth' of how cheap it all is. Maybe if you're six students sharing a run down apartment, but you can also get that in France. Staying away from the 'poster' resorts, there's much better 'value' around the corner, in the Alps ......

But each to their own, I guess, & JMO.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@BCjohnny, are you sure-sure that your experience was representative?
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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I'd heard great things about the Grandvalira area, especially for skiers of a level we are currently at (on-piste intermediates). It's on our to do list but hoping this won't throw a spanner in the works.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
under a new name wrote:
@BCjohnny, are you sure-sure that your experience was representative?


Yep.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I'm really sad to hear this, Grandvalira has a special place in my heart as I think it's probably the ski resort my wife and I have been to the most often (my wife being a teacher, so it being the most affordable option for us when we have wanted to get away in the February half term).

I have some fantastic memories there, and without there being some workable link between Pas-Grau and Soldeu-ET, I'm sure it wouldn't attract the same levels of visitors.

That being said, if they can operate as two separate resorts, with some sort of "international pass" available, then it may actually open up more lift pass options for people (as mentioned above) with children who may only want to access part of the report, but are currently paying to access it all.
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