Category Archives: winter sports

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Horse trekking in Parque las Ubiñas

The Parque Natural de las Ubiñas, which straddles Quirós and our neighbouring counties of Teverga and Lena, is the youngest of all the Asturian natural parks. It’s a stunning mountainous landscape with spectacular high peaks, glaciated valleys and ancient woodlands and is criss-crossed with an extensive network of trails that makes exploring it relatively simple and infinitely appealing, be it on foot, bike or horse back. If you’re lucky enough to get the right conditions in winter you could even pull on your  snowshoes or cross-country skis out on the tops.

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Perhaps the best-known of these trails is the Camin Real de la Mesa which follows the old Roman road that crosses the mountain tops linking the provinces of Asturias and León. It forms part of the Via de La Plata, an ancient trade and pilgrimage route that ran all the way along the west side of Spain from south to north. Linking up to it at various points are a seeming infinity of other local paths.

Last September I had the good fortune to explore 60kms of this network of trails on a two-day circular horse ride in a group accompanied by a super-knowledgeable local guide, Paco from Cuadra Sobia stables. On the Saturday we climbed up through dramatic limestone gorges, enjoyed the dappled shade of extensive beech and chestnut forests and clip-clopped past waterfalls, stopping to picnic at a braña (an ancient settlement of the native nomadic cowherds, vaqueiros de alzada) from where we continued up to the roof of Asturias at Puerto Ventana.

From here we pitched over and down into León where we overnighted in an albergue.  The next day we looped back down to our starting point at Cuadra Sobia, via the extensive and spectacular plateau where Somiedo, Teverga and León meet. In the whole weekend we didn’t repeat a single section of trail and barely set hoof on tarmac. Apart from a few walkers by Xiblu waterfall the only company we encountered on the trails were wild horses and a few cows.

All in all an amazing experience that has whetted my appetite for continued exploration of these majestic mountains. Although from now on I shall be mainly staying on foot – two days in the saddle after 20 years without mounting a horse rather took its toll!

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Let it snow

Early signs are that this year is going to be a good one for winter sports enthusiasts here in Asturias. Last week we had an early dump of snow up in the mountains and on the weekend we headed up to the mountain pass of Puerto Ventana to check it out.

Separating Teverga from León, Ventana has stunning views any day of the year but clothed in dazzling snow and clear blue skies it’s more spectacularly beautiful than ever. The road that winds up there is like a passage through Narnia, lined by snow-laden trees and white-carpeted fields.

The well-marked walking tracks that set off from Ventana to Quirós and León lend themselves brilliantly to snow-shoeing or cross-country skiing at this time of year and for the littler folk the slopes in the immediate surrounds of the parking are perfect for a little tobogganing.

At 1587 metres above sea level Puerto Ventana sits well above the snow line for most of the winter. The snow rarely dips much below the 1,000 metre mark in Asturias but access up to the high passes is quick and easy with good roads that are kept clear by efficient snow-ploughing.

Casa Quiros is at about 600m so you can often choose between sports climbing on sunny limestone or you can be at Alto La Cobertoria at over 1,000m in 20 minutes drive – another great spot for sledging, snow shoeing and cross country skiing. If you are more of a piste demon you also have 3 ski stations within one and a half hour’s drive of the house – Valgrande-Pajares, Fuentes de Invierno and San Isidro.

Whatever your winter bag and whatever the weather Asturias will have something to keep you active and entertained!

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