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Pas de la Casa pros and cons?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Due to the demise of BMI, our regular group weekend trip from Bristol will not be able to head to Austria next year as originally planned.
We have done Chamonix and Morzine from GVA several times and are looking for a change.

We had previously stayed away from Andorra due to long transfers from Barcelona or Toulouse but it looks like these might be as short as 2.5 hours, which we could just about cope with. especially as flight times are favourable. Can anyone confirm that 2.5 hours is a realistic time on a private mini bus + recommend a reliable company to do this please?


From the research I've done on Snowheads, Pas de la Casa looks like the best fit for us, as we want plentiful skiing but good nightlife as well. From recent postings the place seems to divide opinions, but if the skiing will keep a dozen or so good skiers busy for 3 days and there are few lively venues which stay open into the night, we will be happy. If anyone has a better suggestion for a resort to be accessed from Barcelona or Toulouse, please speak up! Any hotel recommendations would also be most welcome.

Thank you in advance.
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@EdYarker, Pas was where I learned to ski about 15 years ago.

On the plus side, it is cheap, a lot of the accommodation is beside the main slope, and snow conditions can be very good especially later in the season.

On the minus side, it was a dump then and probably hasn't improved in the meantime. The centre of the village is about 100 metres inside the border, so you'll see very little of Andorra, the presence of a Burger King and a KFC then said everything about the level of the clientele while much of the rest of town was duty-free shopping of one sort or another, and we didn't really see the attraction of the Crystal-organised bar crawls down streets painted in vomit and graffitti and filled with discarded takeaway wrappers which was the only evening entertainment on offer.

Having said that, we found a couple of reasonable restaurants and the skiing itself was OK, and is now more extensive than when we visited as it is linked to the other areas. There are no trees and it can be a bit exposed, and the 3.5 hour transfer from Toulouse was overly long on a coach, but a private transfer might make it in under 3 hours. My memories of the place might be coloured by our French Canadian instructor who resented having to teach beginners, resented it even more that he had to do it in English, and every member of our party getting norovirus plus having to evacuate our wooden chalet for 2 hours when the restaurant downstairs set fire to their kitchen hood, but we've not been back. Take that as you will...
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Sounds like a good fit to me. There'll be plenty of younger people about, but I don't see why that should be a problem.

2.5h in a private transfer seems reasonable from Barcelona.
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2.5hr is ambitious although the Barca side is less likely to close due to snow. We had a great 10hr detour one year en route from Toulouse to Arinsal due to too much snow
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This weekend I drove up there from Barcelona in 2 hours 20 min, not sure if there is a direct bus to Pas though

There is a couple of small areas with trees actually , and there is enough terrain for 3 days .

The town is a dump , it has loads of cheap accommodation though and a few good restaurants, in general it’s pretty low rent though ...
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We've done it from Barcelona (at night with little traffic) in a car in about 2.5 hours. The 3.5 hour coach transfer from Tolouse could have been done much quicker and without a stop but I doubt you'd get this to 2.5 hours.

I would recommend using Andorra Travel Services for the transfers, I have also used them for ski packs and accommodation too and found them very good as well as competitive.

The resort probably has what you are looking for, certainly the nightlife. There's some decent places to stay and some reasonable places to eat (also some awful ones too mind).

Importantly the skiing should be enough to keep you occupied for 3 days, it's a lot bigger than I expected on my first visit.
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I went there many years ago on a University trip by coach. Doesn't sound like it has changed much.

Pros: cheap, plenty of places to eat and drink, should be a fairly extensive ski area.

Cons: ugly with a lot of traffic, irritating street sellers, poor snow when I was there (early March sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, ski area was less than 60% open), very little tree cover for bad weather, lots of young pissed people (of which I was one at the time!).
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ousekjarr wrote:
@EdYarker, Pas was where I learned to ski about 15 years ago.

[...]

didn't really see the attraction of the Crystal-organised bar crawls down streets painted in vomit and graffitti and filled with discarded takeaway wrappers which was the only evening entertainment on offer.


Although I doubt the architecture has seen much improvement in those 15 years, the level of cleanliness certainly has. I've done one or two Saturday-night stopovers in Pas during the last few years and I'm happy to report that I didn't see anything like that!

The traffic is also much better organized these days, with some roads having restricted circulation and most having very restricted parking.

In short, Pas is what it is (which is a cultural step down from Chamonix, certainly), but it's not particularly meaningful to hark back decades. And the ski area which it gives access to is popular enough; it was ranked 16th in the world in terms of number of lift passes sold last season, I believe.
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I went to Soldeu in Grandvalira two years ago in January (bear with me) and had such a nice week, ended up going back for a few days in September that year.

First time, went with Neilson who flew into Lleida (Spain) and so the transfer arrived in Soldeu before it would arrive in Pas de la Casa. Think it was about 2.5 - 3 hours there, so 3 - 3.5 hours to Pas seems about right.

We got a great deal last minute and it seems like they always have availability in Andorra and so I'd highly recommend it for people looking for a decent cheap week-long holiday. Doesn't quite fit what you're looking for though.

In September, we flew Ryanair from Brum to Perpignan and drove from there, meaning we arrived in Pas first upon crossing the border. I drive Miss Daisy somewhat, especially up, down and around the mountains and it took about 3 hours, but you or a transfer company might be a bit quicker even in Winter.

The only downside with staying in Pas skiing-wise for me is that you're at one end of the massive resort and you'd probably end up starting and finishing with exactly the same routes every day, with a bottle-neck in each direction at one pinch point.

I don't think it would be my choice for a weekend trip, but Grandvalira can be a great week if the conditions are right.

As you mentioned flying into Geneva, have you considered Verbier? Transfers can be under 100 minutes and the train to Le Chable took me 2 hrs 15 (but then you'd probably need to get bubble up into the town, so it quickly creeps up towards 3 hours with waiting times etc)

Friends of friends recently went to Innsbruck for a weekend but I think they were focused much more on the drinking than the boarding.
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I don't know what the nightlife is like in Soldeu, but it's centrally located in the GV area so you can go left or right at the top of the hill, twice as much variety. In fact if you can handle a short taxi ride, I believe there are 2-3 clubs in El Tarter nearby, so you could have Soldeu for skiing and ET for nightlife.
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I don't think there was an awful lot but then I wasn't really looking.

Pretty sure there's an Irish pub and a bar which stays open late and maybe a couple more places.

Might suffice, might not, but for weekends, I'd look elsewhere personally.
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@Pyremaniac, it will certainly have changed in the last 15 years, but Google Maps suggests that the problems were still present in 2014 -


Seems cleaner than I remember though this is from October before the guests arrive, but still the same ambience... NehNeh If you look on the live version, you can compare it to 2011 where the graffiti on the left remains unchanged for 3 years - https://goo.gl/maps/ebEJjrh4K1E2

If you want a cheap skiing holiday with lots of cheap alcohol, it is one of the front runners. If you can pay 25% more, go to Austria and have a much better experience. Or pay 50% more if you prefer to speak French.

@jebroni3_16, the OP doesn't say it has to be cheap (Morzine & Chamonix on previous trips), but recommending Verbier when they've asked about Pas de la Casa is a little odd. If I asked for recommendations on a cheap runabout to carry 4 people and two dogs, would you recommend a Ferrari?
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@EdYarker, how about flights from Birmingham? I'm not sure whether you are west of Bristol or east/north... You can depart Birmingham at 0605 on a Friday on Lufthansa to Munich and be on the slopes in the Skiwelt by noon after a 2 hour transfer (though might be 3 on a busy day), with a return flight at 2215 on Sunday which arrives in Birmingham at 2320, for £150 per person.
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@ousekjarr

He's welcome to ignore the Verbier comment. Only added it as an addendum and as I had actual recent experience of traveling to GV as opposed to just basing my opinion on Google Maps images from 5 years ago wink

Seeing as he was asking about a weekend trip though, as much as I loved Soldeu, I wouldn't Pas de la Casa when there are numerous easier transfer alternatives. Just my opinion though.
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Thank you all for your advice and observations:
Just to answer a few questions: we used to do Austria a lot and love it (Saalbach, Flachau, Mayrhofen etc) but flights from Bristol no longer work. @ousekjarr, I have thought of flights to or from a different UK destination but it's not too popular with the group, especially if there's a decent sized transfer the other side as well.
@jebroni3_16, we have actually done Verbier a long time back and even then the prices crippled us a bit, but you weren't to know that, so a good shout.

Looking at the rest of the advice I'm still a little torn. We are happy to try a new experience and 'slum it' to some extend- made better if we are saving £s at the same time, but we are not as young as we were so it may be a bit too rough and ready. The long transfers won't help either..

@Orange200, mentions Soldeu and El Tartar. I know they are on the same ski range but I discounted them for lack of night life. I haven't really checked this theory out. Does anyone else know about the bars and clubs in either of these places?
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

I don't think there was an awful lot but then I wasn't really looking.



Pretty sure there's an Irish pub and a bar which stays open late and maybe a couple more places.



Might suffice, might not, but for weekends, I'd look elsewhere personally.

Sorry I think this is referring to Soldeu. I misunderstood at first.
Sounds like it might not be enough for us.
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A few places in Soldeu for lively night out -
https://www.soldeu.com/bars/

Fat Albert's a particular favourite - Good Ribs there too.
http://www.fat-albertssoldeu.com

Most have Apres and stay open late.
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'tis true about Soldeu... But to be honest I've tried to find the buzz there on various occasions but have always failed to find much.
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@EdYarker - how long a weekend do you normally go out for?

I shared a chalet in Portes du Soleil last month with a couple who took the first easyjet flight out of Brizzle to Geneva on Saturday at 06:00 and got the last one back on Monday at 21:05 and with a short transfer, managed two and a half days on the slopes.

There's also an early-ish morning flight at 07:05 on Friday and last flight back on Sunday is also 21:05, so there's a little wiggle-room there.

And yes, I was trying to clarify that Soldeu's nightlife seemed pretty limited as @Pyremaniac seemed to confirm.

Any decent options on flights to Innsbruck?
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@EdYarker, Are there any flights from Bristol to Munich, you could transfer to Kitzbhuel or Mayrhofen in about 2/2.5 hrs according to AA Route Planner.
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Flights from Bristol to Munich or Innsbruck or Salzburg are very limited or long and/or not at convenient times for short breaks, e.g. Munich is with KLM with a change in Amsterdam (actually that looks fairly attractive as long as you don't need to get from one end of the airport to the other in 10 minutes), Innsbruck is with Easyjet and a return flight at 11am, and Salzburg is Saturday only. https://www.skyscanner.net/ should always be your first stop
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@EdYarker, I would have thought Pas would be a good option for you. I've been there 3 or 4 times and have always enjoyed it. As some point out the town itself lacks some of the charm of the alpine resorts but it's really not the slum that some make it out to be. They have some very decent shopping facilities and lots of lively bars and restaurants. Of course, you'll find better restaurants in Courchevel but the ones in Pas are perfectly fine. One thing you'll notice (unless they changed the law since I was last there) is that you can smoke indoors so that will bring back memories of what we all put up with before the smoking ban. My memory of the bars is a bit hazy but I do remember we all enjoyed ourselves.

The skiing is good in my view (better than many give it credit for) and the infrastructure is modern. There is much more than enough to keep you all busy for a long weekend. Pas is at one end of the Grandvalira system so there is a bit of a bottleneck getting across the resort as there aren't multiple routes across valleys. That condenses the queues a bit, but having said that, we never struggled greatly with queues on our trips. If you get the snow, there are some very nice lift served off piste sections.

We did the drive in usually about 2 1/2 hours in a rental so that is probably a fair estimate of transfer time. If you do rent, watch the weather as rentals from Barcelona won't be equipped for winter driving conditions.

The next valley over, Soldeu is a bit more attractive, but a fair bit quieter in terms of Apres.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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@jebroni3_16, We normally do 3 nights and went to Morzine this year, which as you point out, offers great value for time on the piste. But we have been there a lot and want a change.
@RedorDead, we used to use BMI to Munich one way (for a mid week flight) and Innsbruck or Salzburg the other and it worked fine but alas, that option is no longer there. I actually did Innsbruck Friday-Sunday this year with my wife, as we only had very limited time. We enjoyed it but it wouldn't work for this trip as the return flight on Sunday is at 11am as @ousekjarr, says, so it's really only 1.5 days skiing.

We are fine with the idea of trying Andorra, especially as it should save some cash at a time when the £ is fairing so badly. The transfer was my chief concern, but it seems like 2.5 hours is a fair estimate- which is just within our remit, especially as flights go early and late. As there are 10+ of us we will probably book a transfer company so they can deal with tyre hassles etc.

Thanks to @monkey, for allaying some of my fears. I was starting to envisage Pas as something out of a Mad Max film. It sounds like it is still a better fit for us than Soldeu. And thanks to everyone for your contributions. If we go for it, I will come back on to let you know what we thought.
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@EdYarker, I've been to Soldeu a few times and it depends on what you need from your nightlife.

There are a few good bars on the mountain, both at Espiolets (top of Soldeu gondola) and top of the El-Tarter gondola that have DJ's playing from about 2pm onwards. Focussing on Soldeu, there is also a few apres bars such as Barcode which have a terrace with DJ playing from about 5pm.

For later on, the Aspen is normally a busy bar - and for late night drinking and dancing then Fat Alberts and Pussycat disco are open to 3am ish. IIRC Fat Alberts have the ski instructor band playing on the Thursday night from about 6pm, and is usually very busy and a lot of fun.

You're right that it's not the best nightlife in the world, and we've had bigger and better nights in resorts in the Alps, and it depends on how busy the resort is when you go - but it kept a group of 30-somethings entertained for a week with beers, dancing, and the odd 3am finish (with the resulting hangover).
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@Handy Turnip, thanks for the info. It sounds like Soldeu would do a job. A few of the group are keen on big evenings so they may edge towards Pas, but at least we know we won't go thirsty if we plump for Soldeu.
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Only been to Grandvalira once, a couple of yrs ago. Stayed in Soldeu.
The lifties are the best this side of the pond. One set take your skis off you at the bottom of the gondola, the others unload yer skis and hand them to you at the top as the doors open.
The mountain food is mostly mostly mediocre and overpriced (think: pick your sauce, pick your pasta, get it in a box). Little slope side choice other than at tops of gondolas etc.
The whammy for me was the wind, when it blows it gets bitingly cold, and there are no covered or heated chairs.
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If you can convince the party-goers that a taxi home from Pas to Soldeu is a goer (or even a €15-per-night bed in Pas as the occasion demands!) then I too would suggest Soldeu from a skiing perspective.
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dode wrote:

The mountain food is mostly mostly mediocre and overpriced (think: pick your sauce, pick your pasta, get it in a box). Little slope side choice other than at tops of gondolas etc

Indeed. Tragically, the food in ski resort--specific restaurants is typically bad in the Spanish and Andorran Pyrenees, although there are usually one or two notable exceptions. In the case of Grandvalira they would be the Andburger place at the exit of the Funicamp between Soldeu and Grau Roig, and the Pessons restaurant on the Camí de Pessons red piste in Grau Roig (Soldeu side of the sector).

dode wrote:
The whammy for me was the wind, when it blows it gets bitingly cold, and there are no covered or heated chairs.

Well yeah - but how many European resorts have those? Basically nowhere outside of Austria, if what I read here on sH is anything to go by. Certainly, in the Pyrenees you're well adrift from such gentrification (for good or for bad - and it's mostly for good, to my mind. One look at the photos of the crowds in the famous Alpine resorts is enough to put me off my powder turn... Little Angel )
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Well we have gone ahead and booked our flights and provisionally booked Hotel Magic in Pas, so no turning back now. Although we do have an option to cancel the hotel, so I suppose Soldeu is still on the table.

Thanks again for all the advice, even if I may have gone against some of it! At least we won't be expecting a 5 star experience. But so long as the skiing is decent and the beers are flowing, I'm sure we will have a great time.

No doubt I will be back on these pages in a few month's time asking for local tips. @Pyremaniac, on piste restaurant recommendations already noted thank you.
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Just back from a last blast couple of days staying in Soldeu.

Bad news the Pussycat Club is no more.
Good news it's been replaced by an excellent Asian fusion restaurant - https://www.facebook.com/Eradelacort/
Sorry no website just a facebook page.

Well worth a visit if you're in Soldeu in the evening as some of the best food I've eaten in the area.

Also mentioning lunch we had brilliant pizzas below the Gondola in Soldeu in Sol I Neu.
Excellent food & fast service so in and out in no time.
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