Guide to Skiing in the Sierra Nevada (Granada, Spain)

chair lift safety

Europe’s most southerly ski resort and my local ski station! Sierra Nevada is a great ski resort (124 ski runs) set on the slopes of Spain’s Highest mountain range, looking out over the historic city of Granada and the world-famous Alhambra fort.

Where is Sierra Nevada in Spain?📍 

Sierra Nevada is in the state [autonomous region] of Andalucia in Southern Spain. A 35-minute drive to Granada, the capital of the province of Granada and just a 55-minute drive to the beaches of the Meditteranean along the Costa Tropical (Motril, Almuñécar & La Herradura).

How long is the ski season?

Being high up and north facing, the resort season is typically 5 months from late November to early May.

What type of resort is the Sierra Nevada? 

Sierra Nevada is a small to medium sized resort with a small town (called Pradollano) nestled into the valley with views out over the plains of Granada. Pradollano has plenty of restaurants, bars, ski shops, hotels, and apartments and the station has been open for skiers since 1964. More recently, In 2007 there was a massive refurbishment and installation of brand new state of the art ski lifts.

Sierra Nevada regularly holds international competitions like the Freestyle Ski and Snowboarding World Championships that took place in 2017.

Sierra Nevada, video oficial 2018/19, "Sube al cielo"

What are the ski runs like? 

Two modern & fast gondolas take skiers from the town up to the ski run base called Borreguiles where there are the ski school meeting points, lockers, cafes, restaurants, and access to the baby slopes and the start of more chairlifts that spread out like a fan across the slopes of Valeta (Spain’s 3rd Highest Peak)

sierra nevada ski map
Click to view high-resolution version (2.6MB) or interactive map.

Sierra Nevada has a good mix of runs over 106km of groomed pistes but little off-piste or backcountry skiing.

sierra nevada piste guide
19 Green Runs, 41 Blue Runs, 50 Red Runs,8 Black Runs

Borreguellias

There are 19 green runs for new skiers to learn on shallow gradients with beginner (slower) chairlifts and magic carpets (flat moving lifts you stand on) to take you up on your first few days learning to ski.

For early intermediate skiers for more terrain, that are 41 blue runs within easy reach of Borreguellias. Two lifts to the left of the baby slopes take you to the top of the blue runs in 10 minutes and then join up to meet the start of the green runs.

 
 
 
 
 
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Valeta

For intermediate skiers, there is a mix of 50 red runs. Many of the red runs are narrow and long, while the most popular red run takes you almost to the top of Valeta on a t-bar lift. This is a beautiful wide run with brief views out over to the Mediterranean sea (on a clear day) and the valley below.

From Valeta you can ski back down to Borreguellias or continue on down the famous Río (River run) which snakes back down to the ski town.

 
 
 
 
 
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Río ⚠️

Although the Río is marked as a blue run on the Sierra Nevada piste maps, it should be avoided by new skiers. The top of the run is marked with large signs that advise ‘Experts Only’ and I find skiing Valeta (the longest red run) easier than the Río at the end of the day when it’s covered in moguls.

The chairlifts close at 4:45 pm and the Gondola back to town stops at 5 pm. Many skiers descend on the Río run en masse (including many first day skiers not realizing what they’re letting themselves in for). On a busy day, I would avoid skiing the Río unless you like the challenge of avoiding 3,000 other skiers.

Loma de Dílar

 sierra-nevada ski satellite charlift
Riding the chairlift upto the satellite dish.

This area of the resort is found on the slopes beneath the large Satellite Dish and rolls higher up but alongside the Rio back down to Pradollano.

You can access this area in two ways, either from Pradollano (the ski town) a chairlift below the lowest gondola takes you up to the ski park. From here you can ski back down to Pradollano or take another lift higher up to the Satellite dish and ski down.

The other way to access this area is to take a green or blue chair lift from Borreguilles and then traverse as far left as you can to reach the lift that takes you up to the Satellite dish.

A perfect ski day (Sierra Nevada 2018)

At the start of the season, before snow canons are moved to this area or turned on, it can be quite icy. On other days it’s a great series of blue and red runs with unique views over the mountain range and access to the terrain park.

Terrain Parks

The terrain parks are typically the last part of the mountain to open as they need more time to prepare.

There is a 165 metre-long half pipe (the biggest in Spain) for advanced skiers and snowboards to get some big air.

There are also some massive jumps for professional competitions and a terrain park with little jumps for skiers wanting to get in on the action – with its own dedicated lift. You’ll find the ski jumps on the Loma de Dílar part of the mountain.

What is the snow quality like?🌨

Like every resort, Sierra Nevada has a real mix of snow quality depending on the temperatures and snowfall.

The resort has invested heavily in snow cannons and now has over 200 cannons that produce 2,000 cubic meters of snow per hour on 14 runs when at full capacity, (source).

Even if there is no or little snowfall, the resort can still open.

Each year is different, but there is usually heavy dumping of snow at the start of the season in November or December followed by weeks of clear sunny days.

Before the snow cannons come into full effect, early season skiing can either be incredible (no queues, cheaper ski passes and fresh powder) or icy!

New snowfall is common through January-April.

Check the latest snow conditions on the Sierra Nevada Snow Report.

smiling skier

How busy is the resort?👪

Once peak season hits (around 21st December) the resort becomes much more lively and the queues for some lifts can be large (usually 10-15 minutes wait time but occasionally 20+ minutes wait time).

The best advice I can give (this applies to most ski resorts as well) is to queue for lifts in the single file line on the left-hand side. This line moves a lot faster and you can meet up with your ski group at the top of the lifts instead.

If you want to avoid the queues, ski mid-week and not on holiday days. Skiing on busy days is still fun and makes for a lively festive atmosphere.

Ski schools and ski lesson? 🎓

There are a great mix of ski schools at the resort from private 1-1 to group lessons. Here are just some of the 15 ski schools to choose from:

English Ski School– Private lessons €40 per hour or €200 per day.

Swedish Ski School – Private lessons €45 per hour or €250 per day.

British Ski Center – Private lessons from €47 or €334 per day.

The costs are for guidance only, check each schools website for the latest price and deals on group or family lessons.

Booking online is usually cheaper than turning up at the resort and I would recommend booking a minimum of 2 hours sessions (the more the better) as you won’t get much from 1 hour when you minus queuing for lifts.

snow blasted building
When you point the snow cannon in the wrong direction.

When do the lifts open and close? 🕒

The gondola and chairlifts open at 9:00 am

Chairlifts close at 4:45 pm and the Gondola back to town stops running at 5 pm.

How much to rent ski equipment? 🎿

There are at least 30 different ski shops where you can buy or rent all the ski and snowboard equipment that you’ll need for you trip.

Adult Skis, Ski Poles & Boots = €34
Adult Snowboard & Boots = €24
Ski / Snowboards Trousers = €10
Ski / Snowboards Jacket = €10
Gloves = €3 + Goggles = €6

View up to date prices at eissierranevada.com

If you want to save money and you have a car that will fit all your equipment then you can save a few euros on each item by hiring your gear from ski rental shops in Granada rather than at the resort. One shop 5 minutes off the motorway before you go under the tunnel is called Granada Esquia.

How much is a ski pass? 💸

Sierra Nevada ski pass is €46 in low season and €48 during high season. Extra insurance cover for emergency’s can be bought for €2.50 each.

For young people (age 13-16) passes are €42 and then €43.50 in high season.

For children, (under 13) passes are €32 and €35 in high season.

The resort also offers family passes and multi-day passes for discounts. A 10 day adult pass is €410 and a 25 day adult pass is €955.

A winter season ticket for an adult is €1,1128

You can full the full most recent prices here.

What are the accommodation options?

The ski town has a range of options from hostels to 5 star hotels. Some skiers may enjoy spending a few days of their trip down in the bustling city of Granada and commuting up to the slopes (45minute drive) where there are more options.

The towns architecture has historically been pretty drab with 60’s style rectangular blocks. Over the years some improvements have been made and new interesting architecture is emerging as well some boutique hotels and lodges.

The village has a range of hotels and apartments offering, saunas, indoor swimming pools, saunas and gyms.

Things to do off the slopes? ⛸

There is plenty to do off the slopes:

1.You can ice skate (a small rink in Pradollano from €7.50 per hour) and two large ice rinks in Granada city called Igloo and Don Patin.

2. For kids there is an area reserved for sledding and a toboggan run (€18 per hour)

3. Take a day trip to the world UNESCO heritage site of Alhambra. A medieval Moorish fort with world famous architecture. This is very popular so book tickets ahead to avoid disappointment.

4. Swim in the beautiful steam rooms and Andalusian Arab baths at Hammam Al Andalus (€35 per person) in Granada city centre.

5. Day trip to the coast for a dip in the Mediterranean (1hr drive) or explore the Nerja caves (1hr 30min) – €10 euros.

cactus granada alhambra
Looking towards the Alhambra from Sacramento

How to get there? 

✈️ The nearest three airports (all fly international) are:

Granada (GRX) airport60km or 1hr drive;
Malaga (AGP) airport177km or 2hr 4minute drive;
Seville (SVQ) airport 295km or 3hrs 11minute drive.

You can catch a bus from the Granada bus station to the resort, 3-4 times daily and it costs €5 one way & €9 return. Buses are operated by Tocina and take 45 minutes each way.

🚌The bus company Alsa.es run buses to Granada from all over Spain.

You can easily drive to the resort by heading to Granada and then taking the A-395 and winding up 31km of good tarmac. Check the weather before hand as occasionally if the roads are icy you may need to buy chains for your car tyres en route. Police have been known to fine motorists not using chains if the road is icy or snowy.

More info on how to get to Sierra Nevada here.

Apres ski scen? 🍹

Sierra Nevada has lots of restaurants and a few late night bars and pubs with cosy fireplaces.

The younger crowd gathers in places like Nevada 53, La Chimenea and La Chicle or Mango. The adult party goers tend more to spots like Sala Muley or Cresscendo.

Sierra Nevada: Nightlife and Snow

Sierra Nevada: Nightlife and Snow

The Spanish crowd tend to start late and the party doesn’t really begin until 1-2am in some spots.

Does Sierra Nevada have night skiing? 🌙 

Yes, the resort opens up night skiing later on in the season – depending on conditions it may be restricted to weekend only. Night skiing is usually open Thursday and Saturday nights.

For night skiing the Rio is illuminated by 52 large spotlights dotted along the 5.8km route.

As of 2019, a single adult night ski pass is €18 and a combined day and night pass is a few extra euros: €47.20 in total.

You can view the latest information on night-skiing here.

sierra nevada night skiing
Illuminated rio ready for night skiing. Photo © Sierra Nevada.

How much is parking? 🚗

There are a few options when it comes to parking at Sierra Nevada.

Parking Plaza de Andalucía

The most convenient but the most expensive is to park in the large multi-story carpark (2,880 parking spaces over 4 stories)- this is where the road guides you and where most people end up and from here your just an elevator ride to the ticket machines and a few minutes walk from the gondola. Parking cost around €16 (8hrs) to 25 per day (24hrs).

Outdoor Parking

There are three other areas for outdoor parking which are a 10-25 minute walk away to the ticket offices. They’re cheaper and cost between €5-10 euros per day.

On-street parking

If you’re lucky you may find some free on-street parking in the town. Bear in mind you’ll need to walk a bit further down and uphill at the end of your ski day. Some carparks also have a free shuttle bus that can drop you off near the gondola.

View more details about parking in Sierra Nevada.

What’s the transport situation in town?

There is a chair lift in town that connects the top and bottom of Pradollano, but you’ll need a separate lift pass which costs €6 return. It will save you about 15-25 minutes of walking each way.

If there is enough snow then you can ski from the top of town to the gondolas on steep narrow red runs.

There is a local town bus that travels about the town and costs €1.90 per journey, €5 for 5 journeys or €100 for the season. View latest bus info.

For local taxis in Pradollano ring Pepe: 646 090 000 or Daniel: 627 287 222

Does Sierra Nevada have webcams? 

You can view a live feed of all the webcams on the mountain. Check the road condition on the way up to the resort, the snow condition in town and how busy the slopes are from the base of Valeta.

borreguiles sierra nevada webcam
View live webcam feed here.

Final thoughts

Skiing at Sierra Nevada is fun. It’s a relatively small resort and doesn’t offer much options for off-piste or expert skiing, but it makes up for it with a great mix of green, blue and red runs, it’s proximity to Granada and great warm weather blue sky skiing.

Author: Simon Naylor

Hi – I’m Simon, I started NewToSki.com to write about everything I wish someone had told me when I started learning to ski.