On the 8th of February 1964, exactly 60 years ago today, the ski resort of Soldeu, managed by the company Deportes de Nieve Soldeu Incles SA (ENSISA - Soldeu Incles Snow Sports S.A.), opened its doors. It did so by premiering the first ski lift in the country, a two-seater ski lift in the Pla d'Espiolets with 10 kilometres of pistes spread over three slopes. The driving forces of the initiative were three ski enthusiasts from Escaldes-Engordany, Miquel Baró, Martí Salvans and Josep Torrallardona. They did this with the support of Crèdit Andorrà, who were given the authority to use the land by the local Canillo town hall in 1959.
Lluís Viu, who was director of the station between 1969 and 1972, points out that the three driving the project were "very optimistic and very daring, and they risked everything to create the station." He also highlights the significant growth that ENSISA has experienced over the years: “At that time, the slopes that would open later were mapped out, but we never thought that we would become as large as we are and have the number of skiers that there are currently.”
Among the key moments in ENSISA’s history it’s worth highlighting the acquisition of the first snow grooming machine in Andorra in 1971, and 1981, the year in which the ski station extended its skiable terrain into El Tarter. In 1987, the first snow cannons were installed, and in 1993 the Municipality of Canillo and Creand Crèdit Andorrà became the majority shareholders of the company, which represented an important investment to improve the station’s infrastructure.
The director of this new stage, Conrad Blanch, who was in charge of the ski station from 1993 to 2017, recalls the turning point that it signified: “Historically the ski station had been very focused on the technical side of things, and at that time we changed our mindset to focus on customer needs, becoming pioneers in quality and innovation.”
From that moment onwards, the modernisation of the ski area has been unstoppable in becoming a world-class ski resort. In 1996, the access to Soldeu was redesigned with the commissioning of the first eight-seater gondola in the Pyrenees. In 1999, the ski area was extended to include the Pla de les Pedres area and in 2000 the Canillo sector was inaugurated.
The recent history of the resort has been marked by the creation of Grandvalira in 2003. This meant that Soldeu El Tarter became part of the largest ski area in southern Europe, as well as committing whole-heartedly to becoming a World Cup resort. Since 2012, the year in which the first competition on the circuit was hosted, the international projection of the ski station has been unstoppable, which has allowed it to open up to new markets. There has also been a steady improvement in services and infrastructure, including the complete remodelling of the foot of the slopes in Soldeu with the construction of a large platform in 2019. Over the last 30 years, ENSISA has invested around 224 million euros, half of this amount being invested in the last 10 years.
Aside from the competitive side of things, David Hidalgo, CEO since 2017, also highlights the creation of SETAP, the holding company that brings together ENSISA and EMAP, as a major milestone in recent years “which has helped to create a single lift pass for the whole country, a long-awaited objective.” For Hidalgo, the 60th anniversary of ENSISA "is a demonstration of the strength of the snow sector and the fact that it has continued to grow, especially in terms of quality."
The commemoration of this 60th anniversary will coincide, as could not have been more appropriate, with the Women’s Alpine Ski World Cup hosted by Soldeu this weekend. This Saturday, the 10th of February, between the first and second run of the Giant Slalom, a celebratory ceremony will be held at the World Cup Village, on the Soldeu platform. The commemoration will see people who have had a prominent role in the history of the ski station in attendance. The event will include a huge cake and a toast will be given.