Pas de la Casa ski resort in Andorra is situated right on the principality's border with France, making it Andorra's closest ski resort to this region's main international airport, Toulouse. Part of the extensive Grandvalira ski domain, Pas de la Casa offers good intermediate-standard skiing and snowboarding terrain, combined with a very lively apres-ski scene.
Pas de la Casa (commonly abbreviated to just 'Pas') was Andorra's first ski resort when it was founded in 1957; it has since grown to become the principality's largest resort and now welcomes more visitors than any other ski resort in the Pyrenees.
It abuts the French border and sits at the easternmost edge of the vast Grandvalira ski domain; the pistes sweep down to the town centre, the only resort in Andorra where this happens, and are linked via the neighbouring Grau Roig ski sector to the other major Andorran ski resorts of Soldeu and El Tarter.
As is often the case with border towns, Pas de la Casa has a ragtag collection of ugly buildings adorned with advertising billboards and packed with tax-free supermarkets, shops, restaurants, cafés and bars, and is renowned for its very lively nightlife; it is best suited to young or young-minded ski and snowboard holidaymakers, particularly beginners and intermediates, who are intent on burning the candle at both ends.
Based at an altitude of 2,100m, Pas de la Casa is the highest resort in Andorra. Its snow-sure local ski area has two distinct sectors: the Pas de la Casa sector rising from the western edge of the town, and the Grau Roig sector on the far side of the watershed Envalira ridge beyond.
The slopes closest to Pas de la Casa are busy motorway pistes which flow into the central base area in the middle of the resort, overlooked by a horseshoe-shaped sweep of hotels, apartment buildings, restaurants and bars; handy for lunch breaks and end-of-day home runs.
The principal pistes are graded red, although they are really mostly blue-equivalent in profile, with just a few steeper true red pitches spilling off the Envalira ridge. Absolute beginners are well looked after in a roped-off cluster of nursery slopes at the uppermost end of Pas da la Casa's main street, adjacent to the quieter blue pistes on that side of town; this quarter also houses a slopestyle course served by its own [slow] chairlift.
The Grau Roig sector is more extensive and offers a bit more variety in its terrain, but is also chiefly characterised by similar motorway pistes; this sector also links across to the Soldeu sector for onward routes into the heart of the Grandvalira domain.
Off the slopes and apres ski
A lot of visitors are attracted to Pas de la Casa as much for its apres ski as for its slopes, and its multitude of lively pubs and music-bars cater for the predominantly young English-speaking tourists who animate the resort from afternoon happy hours through to the early hours of the morning.
Stepping off the slopes from around four o'clock onwards you are straight away in the middle of the action, with plenty of buzzing apres-ski venues to tempt you in on the way back to your accommodation; with live music, karaoke, DJs, or big-screen sports being the typical distractions; the Marseilles and Milwalkee bars are long-established key haunts.
Later on in the evenings it's more of the same, with the volume turned up a bit. The resort doesn't really have any proper clubs as such, but it does have a number of old-school disco-style venues, such as the Underground and Billboard, offering theme nights and occasional live entertainment.
Duty-free shopping is Pas de la Casa's other big attraction. The town is filled with booze and tobacco supermarkets, but also has a good range of boutiques and department stores stocking designer fashions, eyewear, perfumes and jewellery, alongside lots of music shops, electronic goods retailers and sports equipment outlets.