Spain's Reasonable Prices, Relaxed Atmosphere Lure Skiers

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Reed Travel Features

Sierra Nevadas, Spain-- When contemplating a winter vacation in Spain, most clients think of the sunny Costa del Sol for a round of golf or a walk on the beach.

What rarely comes to mind -- and agents often neglect to mention -- is skiing, and world-class skiing at that.

"Most people don't know it is even possible to ski in Spain," said Bob McErlean, president of Holidaze Ski Tours here.

But although the Alps get most of the attention, there are more than 25 ski resorts located in Spain, predominantly in the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada mountains plus a few north of Madrid and in the Cantabrian mountains.

The two best-known ski areas -- the Pyrenees and the Sierra Nevada -- are located at opposite ends of the country.

"I think what you have in Spain is a completely different experience than in Switzerland, France or Austria," McErlean said.

Holidaze books customized group ski vacations to Sierra Nevada and Baqueira-Beret, which is located in the Pyrenees.

"The atmosphere is more mellow and not as crowded, and both resorts offer ski-in/ski-out accommodations at a more reasonable price than you would find in the Alps," he said.

The Sierra Nevada garnered some international notice recently by hosting the 1996 Alpine Ski Championships.

McErlean touted the improvements in facilities and accommodations brought about because of the championships.

Located in southern Spain, the Sierra Nevada ski area is known for its sunny climate.

The resort comprises slopes that reach more than 11,000 feet on the Pico de Veleta.

The terrain includes 34 skiable mountains, 19 lifts and five quad lifts.

In addition, high-powered snowmaking systems ensure consistently good conditions.

Perhaps best of all is that the area offers an entire vacation experience that goes beyond a day on the slopes.

Visitors easily can take in such noted attractions as the Alhambra in Granada or the Costa del Sol for beach, tennis or golf, all located nearby.

At the opposite end of the country, in the northern valley of the Catalan Pyrenees, is Baqueira-Beret in the Valle de Aran.

Skiers will appreciate the 50-plus miles of trails and a vertical drop of more than 3,000 feet.

Holidaze ski vacations typically include flights to Barcelona, transfers to the resort, seven nights' accommodations and return flights to the U.S.

The price, which is usually about $1,100 to $1,200 at either resort, includes ski lift tickets.

Groups must comprise 20 or more people, although smaller groups can be accommodated at an additional cost using rental cars rather than motorcoach transportation.

Once at the resort, McErlean stressed that skiers will find challenging runs, modern facilities and comfortable accommodations.

And judging from the size of one of Holidaze's upcoming groups -- 1,200 members of a U.S. ski club -- the secret about skiing in Spain might be out.

For information about Holidaze, call (800) 526-2827 or (908) 280-1120.

For additional information about ski resorts, call the Tourist Office of Spain in New York at (212) 265-8822; in California at (213) 658-7188; in Chicago at (312) 642-1992, and in Miami at (305) 358-1992.

There also is a Web site at http://www.here-i.com/spain.

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