An introduction to skiing in Chile, as well as some key information on the country's ski resorts.
Skiers in the northern hemisphere are spoilt for choice during the winter months. They can go skiing in the Dolomites, skiing in Kitzbuhel, skiing in Scotland, skiing in Japan, skiing in Canada, and skiing in the good old fashioned US of A (other destinations are available). But what about during the hot summer months? What are skiers north of the equator supposed to do when the snow is all but melted, and the hills are filled with hikers and mountain bikers? Answer: go skiing in Chile, of course.
People in the know will tell you that Chile, the extremely long and narrow country that runs down the west side of South America, is one of the world’s ultimate destinations for skiing and adventure. The best time to ski chile, or go snowboarding there – if that’s your bag, is between mid July and early September. For people who live to slide down snowy mountains, the Chilean Andes are where it’s at.
Ski Resorts In Chile
Located just two hours from Santiago, Chile’s capital, Portillo is well-suited to advanced skiers with 55% of the 35 pistes here suitable for advanced skiers and above. While it’s a ski area aimed primarily at people looking for epic steeps and accessible backcountry, this resort does also offer wide-open slopes for beginners and intermediates.
Portillo is a ski-in/ski-out resort, perched over the breathtaking Lake Inca. Capable of accommodating no more than 450 people at any one time, visitors to Portillo will be pleased to discover that crowded chairlifts and slopes are basically a non-issue. For more information, check out the Ski Portillo website.
Situated just 90 minutes from Santiago, Valle Nevado is part of the Tres Vallees (which also includes El Colorado and La Parva). It is, arguably, Chile’s best developed resort. There are all the facilities you would expect from a modern ski resort, and a wide variety of runs. The off-piste terrain is second-to-none, and the heli-skiing is the finest in all of South America.
Valle Nevado is home to 17 lifts, 12 of which are buttons, and 44 ski runs. 10% of the runs are suitable for beginners, 36% for intermediate skiers, 33% for advanced skiers, and 21% for experts. Because the resort is better built-up than some of the others in Chile, it does tend to draw bigger crowds and is therefore one of the country’s busier ski spots. Further information can be found at the Valle Nevado website.
La Parva is the smallest of the Three Valleys (Tres Vallees) resorts. But what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in other areas. La Parva, for example, has incredible access to some of South America’s best backcountry. Unlike some of the ski resorts in Chile, La Parva also offers its visitors the chance to go night skiing. This resort is one of the best worst-kept secrets amongst elite snow sport athletes, with many of the world’s best professional plank-sliders and board-riders paying a visit to it every year. Santiago’s wealthiest residents have made it the destination of choice for the country’s VIPs.
Due to being just a 45 minute transfer time from Santiago, La Parva is an excellent place to visit for a solitary day’s skiing (although, you’re obviously welcome to stay longer). This ski area is perfect for intermediates, although confident off-piste skiers should make it their mission to experience the legendary La Chimenea; a claustrophobic couloir with an incredibly steep entrance.
Nevados de Chillan
If you like your South American ski resorts to have underfloor heating, Nevados De Chillan is a ski resort that sits at the base of an active volcano (Volcano Chillan). Powder hounds should love what Nevados De Chillan has to offer, with an average annual snowfall of more than 10 metres. Accommodation-wise the resort is home to some great ski-in/ski out hotels: including the Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan, and Hotel Alto Nevados.
The backcountry stuff here is insanely good, with incredible off-piste options for those who want to tour remote volcanoes and epic off-the-grid terrain. If you’re an expert skier who’s middle name is ‘Adventure’, you’ll love the seemingly endless selection of challenging lines laid out for you to take on. If you want to stay on piste, there’s 32 ski runs for you to tackle. Rookies should note that the beginners’ ski area is small and often extremely crowded.
Arpa sits in the shadow of Aconcagua, which is the tallest mountain in the Americas (South America and North America, combined). Lifts? Forget about them. Accommodation? You’ll be lucky. Pistes? Nope, not here. Just a shabby lodge, some snowcat vehicles to get you high, and acres upon acres upon acres of awesome freeriding terrain. Adventurous skiers, step right this way. To find out more, head to the Ski Arpa website.
Scott Dunn specialise in organising first-class trips to practically any destination on Earth. Whether it’s accommodation you’re after, a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary, or just some advice on how to organise your ski trip to Chile; this lot will sort you out.
The flight time from London to Santiago, with one stop, is just over 16 hours. A great way of finding the cheapest flights to Chile, or any other city in the world for that matter, is through the Skyscanner website.
For more information on travelling to Chile, travelling round Chile, or just general things you should see and do while in Chile; check out the Chile Tourism website.
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