Lucas Fox Andorra Director Jordi Tàpies Ibern on work, family and life on the ski slopes
CF: You were born in Andorra and brought up on the Andorran border in Spain. What was your childhood like?
JTI: It was fantastic. To grow up in peaceful surroundings is good for children. I have always liked nature and the mountains, and there was always an outdoor activity to do at the weekends. But for parents the best thing is the feeling of safety that Andorra and the Pyrenees offer. Most children go to school on their own from 5 or 6 years old without any worries and go to their after school activities without needing an adult to go with them.
CF: You have two young children yourself. How do you think they benefit from being brought up in Andorra?
JTI: I am very happy to be able to educate my children in Andorra. Andorra is one of the countries with the lowest crime rates and there are few places that enjoy the sense of security. For the majority of our clients the safety for their families is one of the main reasons they choose Andorra, along with the financial benefits. The public education system is very good, with a bilingual Catalan-French education until 7 years old when English and Spanish are introduced. There is also a French system as well as private schools. During the months from January to March, all the children go skiing one day a week with school, which is something that they love.
CF: How would you describe Andorra for those who are unfamiliar with it?
JTI: It is a welcoming country with a tourist-based economy. Although many people visit, they generally only get to know the commercial areas, which means that much of the country – in particular the mountains and the countryside – remains largely undiscovered. It is easy to adapt to life here if you like the cold. Andorran winters are pretty cold, but also bearable since the humidity is low. The dry climate is very healthy. If not, Andorra wouldn’t be fifth on the list of countries with top life expectancy!
CF: How does skiing in Andorra compare to other ski regions in Europe?
JTI: The ski resorts are making a great investment to improve the infrastructure and access each year. The ski slopes in Andorra and above all the services that they offer are comparable to any ski slope in the Alps. Perhaps the snow isn’t of the same quality all season but for many skiers almost 300 days of sun a year is a great attraction for choosing Andorra.
CF: Andorra is currently trying to attract more families to its slopes. What are the key family-friendy attractions of the principality and which of the resorts do you think are most appealing for families?
JTI: It is very difficult to say which is best as all the resorts have made large investments for younger skiers, with areas to learn to ski with themed mascots from well known animated characters, ski lifts designed for children etc. Perhaps the area of Grau Roig in Grandvalira is the best prepared.
CF: The full smoking ban only came into force in 2014. Why did it take so long and how do you think that will change its image?
JTI: Well, in the majority of public spaces you couldn’t smoke but the most well known are restaurants that have been the last places to enforce the law. Andorra has a great tobacco tradition. Due to the weather, one of the few successful things we are able to cultivate is the tobacco plant. This, combined with the families that have been traditionally involved in regional and national politics and had interest in the sector, delayed a law that was inevitable and has ended up in line with the rest of the European countries.
CF: What do you think are the common misconceptions about Andorra?
JTI: The main misconception is that it is cold all year round. Andorra has four well-defined seasons and is very hot in the summer!
CF: How has Andorra’s image changed in say, the last 10 years?
JTI: Andorra has improved a lot in the last 10 years. I don’t know all the ski resorts in Europe but I am sure that there is no other that offers an après ski like Andorra, with nearly 3km of shops and the best brands. There has also been an improvement in the entertainment facilities and there is an excellent programme of cultural events, such as concerts, themed shopping nights etcetera.
CF: For those unfamiliar with Andorra, in your opinion where are the best ski slopes for experts? For beginners? For kids? For boarders? For cross-country? For off piste?
JTI: All the resorts have areas for expert skiers but Arcalís (the smallest) in Vallnord is my favourite for off piste skiing. Pal is a good resort for beginners and also where you can enjoy the best weather. The area of Grau Roig in Grandvalira has the best services for children. For snow boarders there is a great freestyle area in Arinsal and also in Grau Roig and Soldeu. For cross-country skiing Naturlandia is without doubt the best place. For off piste skiing all the resorts have their areas although they all advise against it due to the risk of avalanches and I always recommend that you go with well equipped guides.
CF: What about the best resort for eating out? For good accommodation? And the best resort to party?
JTI: The centre of Andorra is within a few minutes of all the resorts and offers excellent gastronomy. In the area of Soldeu you will find probably the best hotel in all of the Pyrenees, the Hermitage Sport Hotel. If you are looking to party, Arinsal and el Pas de la Casa are without doubt the best places.
CF: For those thinking of buying property, what are the options available and which areas do you see as good investments?
JTI: I think the centre of Andorra is the best place for investing as prices have stayed stable. Also, all of the ski lifts are within 10 minutes. If on the other hand you really want to be within walking distance of the slopes then El Tarter is my favourite place. Ordino is also a very popular choice.
CF: Finally, can you describe Andorra in 3 words?
Tourism. Friendly. Mountainous.
For more information on investing in Andorra please go to https://www.lucasfox.com/property/andorra.html
or contact Jordi by email firstname.lastname@example.org