The tiny mountain principality of Andorra sits atop the Pyrenees between France and Spain. In the last decade or so, it has become a world favourite for winter sports enthusiasts, helped along by its good snow, clear sunny weather and unreal natural beauty. Another plus is that the tiny country's mountain resorts are just a short hop away from Barcelona International Airport, and close to the French border. The pick of Andorra's ski resorts is Pas de la Casa.
Set at an altitude of 6726 feet (2050m), this lively resort town is linked to the nearby Soldeu resort and the wider Grandvalira ski area, providing miles of pistes suited to all levels of skiers and snowboarders. With its high altitude and good snow making facilities, snow conditions here are excellent and the resort rarely closes before April.
Pas de la Casa, or 'Pas' as it is fondly known by loyal regulars, can hardly be described as picturesque, consisting mainly of modern, unattractive box-like apartment blocks and hotels. But all the accommodation and facilities are conveniently situated near the slopes and provide all the trappings necessary for an entertaining winter holiday at affordable prices.
Skiing and boarding in Pas de la Casa caters for all standards. With its good ski schools and gentle slopes, the resort is particularly suited to beginners and intermediate skiers. There is some good off-piste skiing above Grau Roig, but advanced skiers will find few challenging on-piste slopes. The resort is popular with snow boarders.
Pas de la Casa, like the rest of Andorra, stands out as one of the world's best duty-free shopping enclaves, its shopping precinct a gold mine of holiday bargains. There are, of course, sports shops for snow gear, but shoppers here also stock up on electronic goods, perfumes and cosmetics, designer clothing, and car and motorbike accessories, from tyres to leathers.
With dozens of restaurants in and around Pas de la Casa, no one working up an appetite on the slopes need go hungry. Local cuisine is largely Spanish (with paella as a favourite) but there are plenty of French influences on the local menus. Most restaurants are family-run, with El Marselles being one of the favourites. There are some excellent mountain restaurants too, and many more cafes and restaurants in town offer everything from quick snacks to gourmet delights.
Pas de la Casa stands out as the liveliest ski resort in Andorra, keeping the young crowd partying throughout the night with throbbing music and cheap drinks. Local bars can often extend happy hour to extremes.
There is plenty to do when travellers need time out from the slopes, including visiting a gym, indoor and outdoor pool, watching movies, or enjoying tenpin bowling, snow-shoeing, and hiking. Nearby there is a spa offering thermal baths, and there are other facilities in nearby resorts. Alternative snow fun includes snow-mobiling and tobogganing.
The village is not much to look at and can become quite rowdy in the evenings, and at weekends it's busy with traffic and weekend crowds from France. Pas de la Casa is not the ideal destination for a family holiday with young children, and advanced skiers will find more interesting skiing in the Alpine resorts.