First trip to the snow! Vall de Nuria
Updated: Jan 6, 2019
Being Irish, we have rarely experienced snow. I often laugh, as it took us to emigrate in 2017 for Ireland to get one of the snowiest Winters, followed by one of its best summers, in 2018.
When we arrived in Spain in 2017, life was pretty busy adapting to a new country, so we decided to delay our first snow trip to this Winter (after emigrating with 2 small kids, I didn't have the brain capacity remaining to figure out the clothes needed for a snow trip!). And thus, after gathering what we needed between Lidl & Decathlon in recent weeks, off we went last weekend for our first trip to the snow taking advantage of the December 6th-8th holiday weekend in Spain.
Being a working mom, I missed my running training earlier the previous day, so we delayed departure until the afternoon so I could get a run done in the morning. The run in itself was fun: a 12km which included a stop in Decathlon for snow gloves as with all the purchases, I missed one pair of adult gloves! So I was running, in the sunshine, on the prom in Barcelona with snow gloves hanging off my running belt!
Thinking this delayed departure could be disastrous, preparing the kids for the boredom of heavy traffic, it was neither. We left Barcelona at 2pm on a Public Holiday afternoon, and literally had the road to ourselves. We passed the single toll (€1.63) with no traffic queues, and followed the road for Ribes de Freser.
It took us around 2 hours to get there with no stops, but I figure the GPS sent us on one of the longer routes (as google maps will tell you its a 1.5 hr direct drive - I haven't updated my GPS maps in many years, but it is surviving!). When we arrived, it took a few loops of the town (it is small!) to figure out the parking, and realise the best location to park is exactly as you arrive in the town to your right hand side over the bridge. From what we could see, all public parking was free.
Our accomodation was very impressive and quaint. We settled in and welcomed friends who were joining us for the first night, and had an enjoyable evening cooking dinner and sharing a meal together.
The next morning, we walked circa 10 minutes to the Ribes Enllaç station to catch the Cremallera to Vall de Nuria.
Tip: Get the Cremallera from Ribes Enllaç rather than Centre to assure a seat.
The station was equi-distance from our accomodation as the Ribes Centre station, but we decided to assure a seat and get on at the first stop. A wise move, because even though we were at the station at 10:45am for an 11:10am departure, there were large queues and just a handful of seats remaining as the train left the station.
Tip: take the kids jackets and scarves off at this point, as the Cremallera journey is circa 30 minutes. Our guys started to overheat near the end.
Costs: We purchased the Cremallera tickets (€25.50 per adult, €3 for our 5 year old, and free for our 2 year old) and added in the Teleferic ticket (@€3 each). Total cost €63. We did not purchase the Ludoteca tickets for Vall de Nuria with the train tickets, as doing some quick math, I realised it was cheaper to purchase the Ludoteca tickets in Vall de Nuria (tickets decrease the more you purchase, so with 4 people, it would be €10 each onsite). In fact, we had so much fun in Vall de Nuria we didn't go into the Ludoteca for sledging etc, so we saved €40. But the Ludoteca looked super safe and enjoyable, with all children wearing helmets as they sledged.
Tip: we later discovered the SKI TRAIN from RENFE would bring you from Barcelona to Ribes, includes the Cremallera to Vall de Nuria and a day ski pass for €37.60 per adult and €31.40 for Infantil (2018 prices). This is a superbly good price point when you see the costs of the Cremallera alone from Ribes, with no ski pass.
The Cremallera journey in itself is beautiful, and we really enjoyed it. There was minimal snow, but as the train climbed uphill, we started to see the snow and the kids got super excited. When we arrived, they immediately started to make their first ever snowballs and the fun began!
After an hour or so, we were deciding: teleferic or lunch, and opted for lunch. We first thought our only option was an overly priced hotdog/pizza option, but then looked further to find the buffet restaurant of the Vall de Nuria hotel. We enjoyed a buffet lunch, @ €22 per adult, €12 for our son (5 years old so children's meal) and €6 for our daughter (who at 2, was considered by the waiter for the baby meal).
Then after the usual bathroom stops and more bathroom stops with the kids, we popped into the church on site, and had fun ringing the bell which you could do for a small donation.
Next up, the teleferic. It was around 2:30pm as we were climbing up the mountain. While there wasn't much snow in the general area, the ski slopes were open as there was sufficient snow at that level. And what an amazing view at the top! Just divine! We had a lot of fun as we walked across part of the mountain, and found a spot to build snowmen. After an hour or so, we headed back down the teleferic, and managed to catch the 3:50pm Cremallera back to Ribes. We were last on, so just managed to get 1 seat, but then someone kindly put their child on their lap so my son could also sit down.
We decided to get off at the Ribes Centre train station, and what a great idea that was. There is a lovely little train museum at the station and the kids loved going into each of the old trains.
Afterwards, we past the Gegants museum of Ribes and the children had great fun trying on some of the models.
The walk back to our holiday apartment was beautiful with Ribes decorated for Christmas, to where we finally rested our heads after a very enjoyable first encounter with snow for the kids. Read my next blog on our Day 2 in La Molina.