News from the snow
One of Spain's larger and well-established ski areas, Formigal was purpose built in the 1950s and opened its first lift in 1964. The resort is located in the centre of the Pyrenean Aragonese region, to the north of the province of Huesca and in the Valley of Tena, close to the French border. It is quite an attractive resort, with most lodges five or six storeys high, and generally designed with a local stone facade and slanting roofs, to give a vaguely chalet-like appearance. It is also relatively compact so that most buildings are within an easy walk of services, although the lifts themselves are on the edge of the resort. They are still within walking distance (the furthest is 800m from the village) but there is a ski bus. In recent seasons the resort has been working hard to transform itself in to a state of the art ski destination. Each individual trail and lift is considered to ensure that it works to the optimum requirement, and measures are taken to eliminate problems such as bottle necks or piste cross-overs; even slowing lifts down in beginner areas for ease of use. This 'plan of excellence' also encourages businesses to guarantee high service standards as well as environmental measures, including the planting of 75,000 pine trees in the Valley. There was a vast expansion and upgrading of the area for the 2004-5 season when 7 new lifts were installed including five hoigh capacity chairlifts - one of them the first eight seater in Spain and two magic carpet lifts. Even the lift operators reportedly break the European norm and are friendly to visiting skiers. Formigal's ski area continues to grow, as do some of the other major Pyrenean resorts. There are long term plans to complete a lift link to other major resorts in the region, Astún and Candanchu.
In the central Aragon Pyrenees Formigal offers skiers four different valleys and Spain's largest ski area. For a complete experience on and off the slopes, the ultra-modern ski station and stylish purpose-built resort of Formigal has replaced many lifts with smooth, modern detachable chairlifts and the introduction of Spain’s first ever eight-seater chairlift. Ideal for the beginner and the expert skier alike, the modern ski facilities provide some of the best skiing in the Pyrenees. The immaculately groomed pistes are equipped with a high-capacity lift system and the comfortable hands-free lift passes incorporate a system which prevents inadvertent access to slopes beyond the abilities of the skier.
Almost all of the runs are wide cruising trails, with most of those directly above the resort categorised red. However, the ski area extends eastwards to a snowbowl which incorporates the main nursery area of 500m long blues. This area can be reached by ski bus to the altitude car park at the base of these drags, or from above by skiing down from the gondola top station.
Experts will prefer to go higher up from the top of the eight seater chair then take one of the three kilometre long blacks that run above the beginner area. Above the bowl the Lanuza drag has been extended higher up the mountain to access new terrain. Across the bowl a high speed detachable quad chair accesses the Anayet valley, a new extension to the ski area. Wonderful long (2 - 3km) blues, reds and blacks run down parallel in to this valley and there are extensive off-piste opportunities with a guide. At the base there's another high altitude car parking area and a couple of short drags serving another beginners' area with very easy short runs. Experts may also be able to try snowcat and heli-skiing; check with the ski school.
Night skiing is offered on Friday and Saturday evenings. You can test yourself on a timed slalom track which not only gives you a speed read-out but also video records your descent, so that you can analyse your performance at home on the television for the next eleven and a half months and, of course, repeatedly impress your neighbours!
Formigal's friendly atmosphere and high value by international standards are its two other big assets for visiting families.
More advanced 'boarders will find wide open powder fields after the snow falls although there are few natural terrain features on these sunny meadows above the tree line. TheAnayet detachable quad accesses blue, red and black runs. The budget prices in resort help make the place still more appealing.