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Vallfosca Mountain Resort, Catalonia, Spain


The unfinished resort in the Vall Fosca (western Catalan Pyrenees), is a development project stopped since 2008 when the firm that was in charge went bankrupt, at the time that major consequences of the financial crisis affecting Europe, particularly the south, started to appear.

The Vall Fosca Mountain Resort was a construction project (1,085 new apartments) connected to the development of a tourism resort that included a new ski station (that in a second phase would link itself to another ski resort, Boí Taüll), a 9-hole golf course and other establishments devoted to services (catering and commercial, sport facilities, conference room, spa) designed to increase the frequency and length of visitors beyond the winter months.

The initial public announcement of the project in 2001 by local authorities provoked controversy. From the beginning, Vallfosca Mountain Resort project was supported by a part of the local residents, the town council of la Torre de Cabdella, the county council and the head of the Department of Trade, Consumer Affairs and Tourism. Arguments in favour defended that it was the best economic alternative possible for a highly depopulated territory where most of the stock-breeding and related activities had already disappeared. On the other hand, some local residents together with regional EJOs opposed the project. Their reasons were based on the speculative and highly agressive character of the development as well as its affectations to the local environment including sites of acknowledged value.

With respect to the groups against, the Vall Fosca Activa platform was set up by local residents. The platform was backed by different environmental groups, like DEPANA, IPCENA, Mountain Wilderness, Rururbans-Pallars or Salvem Pedra. They adopted a skeptical attitude towards the project’s potential for generating local resources and dealing with depopulation. For them, the result would be an unbalanced situation motivated by an excessive growth of urban centres (Espui would multiply its population by 100), the reduction of agrarian land, an increase in land prices, the growth of empty second residences, etc. The speculative character of the whole operation focused on "macro-tourism" at the expense of enriching the local agrarian livelihoods had been denounced by these groups insistently (Barrachina 2007).

Despite the opposition, the regional government gave the green light to the project. However, environmental associations appealed the project approval by the Catalan Department for Environment on the basis that the development was going to affect the mountain of Filia, an area of conservation interest. The appeal was nevertheless rejected in 2005 by the Catalan High Court.

The project was divided into three basic actions: the ski resort in the mountain of Filià, the residential and hotel development in the town of Espui and the golf course. After its approval, construction progressed starting in 2004. With regard to the resort, infrastructure related to the power supply and the water catchment for the possible manufacture of artificial snow was built and additionally the track for the cable car that will eventually get there from Espui was completed. Besides, the golf course was finished in 2005, while apartment construction went on.

Also in 2005, the FADESA group bought the company that was developing the project (Vall Fosca Interllacs). As a result of the housing crisis that started in 2008 the company declared bankruptcy stopping the works and leaving the project half finished. So far, no company has taken over and the damaged inflicted in the Filia Mountain (a protected area under the Pla d'Espais d'Interes Natural figure, Plan for Spaces of Natural Interest in English) has not been restored. The opposition believes that the local authorities should have forced the company to pay a deposit that could have been used to restore the damage caused.

Basic Data

NameVallfosca Mountain Resort, Catalonia, Spain
SiteLa Torre de Cabdella
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Tourism Recreation
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Tourism facilities (ski resorts, hotels, marinas)
Specific CommoditiesTourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project Details9-hole golf course (extendable to 18).

Ski facilities covering 3,400 hectares with capacity for 3,500 skiers.

7,400 additional beds distributed between hotel places (65%) and second residences (35%).

Other facilities: catering and commercial, sport facilities, conference room, wellness center.

2,200 underground parking spaces
Project Area (in hectares)3,414
Level of Investment (in USD)667,843,055
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population700
Start Date25/11/2003
Company Names or State EnterprisesMartinsa-Fadesa S.A. from Spain
Vallfosca Interllacs from Spain - Company leading the development until 2007
Relevant government actorsRegional Government: Generalitat de Catalunya.

Local Government: Ajuntament de la Torre de Cabdella.

Province Authority: Diputacio de Lleida.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersVall Fosca Activa



Mountain Wilderness

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCourt decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Withdrawal of company/investment
Project temporarily suspended
The construction company went bankrupt, leaving the project half-finished being its final completion uncertain.
Development of AlternativesAdvocate for a different type of development not based on speculation and big resorts. Diversification of activities and support for farmers dedicated to extensive livestock.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The courts fail to stop the project and the opposition was not strong enough. Damaged to the environment was caused and there was no compensation after works were abandoned.

Sources and Materials


Llei 12/2006, de 27 de juliol, de mesures en matèria de medi ambient

Decret 328/1992 pel qual s'aprova el Pla d'espais d'interès natural

Llei 12/1985 d'espais naturals


Barrachina, M. (2007). The effects of land use change on landscape: the case of Vall Fosca (Catalan Pyrenees). MAN IN THE LANDSCAPE ACROSS FRONTIERS – IGU-LUCC CENTRAL EUROPE CONFERENCE.

Ismael Vaccaro et Oriol Beltran, « The mountainous space as a commodity: the Pyrenees at the age of globalization », Revue de Géographie Alpine | Journal of Alpine Research [on-line], 97-3 | 2009.

Velasco, M. J. P. (Ed.). (2008). Naturbanization: new identities and processes for rural-natural areas. CRC Press.


Article in Spanish describing ski resort failed projects in the Pyrenees during the last years.

Contextualization of the development of the project in 2008 before its interruption (in Catalan). More descriptions from other years available in the same website.

Media Links

Documentary in Catalan about the village of Espui done by a woman who was born there and comes back to look for her roots and observe the state of the village after the resort project was abandoned.

Website with picture and descriptions in Spanish about the unfinished works of the resort project.

Meta Information

ContributorAlfred Burballa-Noria
Last update27/08/2014