Skiing in the Andes
Skiing in the Andes
Three of the largest ski resorts in the southern hemisphere are near Santiago. But there are many other alternatives in the rest of Chile.
Saturday, August 01, 2009
La Parva (Photo:Revista Placeres)
During the winter season, between the months of June and September, the number of foreign visitors increases, including the main European competitive ski teams.
Around 20 mountain tourism centers are distributed between the Central Valley and southern Chile. The slopes of the Andes Mountains offer variety: quality hotels, a diversity of quality ski runs, equipment rental facilities, good restaurants, and warm cafeterias.
There has been an increase in the number and the size of the places for skiing. Within what is available, there are very sophisticated winter centers that offer helicopter flights to land on mountaintops so experienced skiers can descend through virgin snow. Other centers offer snowmobile rides and open air hot springs under the falling snow.
Traditional skiers and snowboarders occupy an important position in the winter activities offered. Currently almost all centers have slopes that are exclusively snowboard use, with modern snow parks where DJs play music live to a backdrop of beautiful views of faraway valleys.
Even without skis or poles, the white-capped mountains under the sun and the smiles of children playing in the snow are reason enough to visit. And every summer, mountain centers are opened for horseback riding, trekking, spelunking expeditions, or biking.
El Arpa: Located 108 km from Santiago and 43 from Los Andes, El Arpa is pure virgin snow without runs or ski lifts and two snow cats that allow you to ski with a view of Mount Aconcagua. El Arpa is the work of Toni Sponar, an octogenarian Austrian who arrived in Chile in the 1950s and fell in love with the Andes. He bought 2,000 hectares in the mountains and, with no other capital but his dream, he started building his own center, a task that he has still not finished three decades later.
La Parva: Located 42 km from Santiago, La Parva was founded by French residents in Chile. It is characterized by its family atmosphere and a mountain that allows intense and entertaining skiing. Its north-facing slopes receive sun all day long, something that is much appreciated in the winter in particular. This is a place where international ski teams train and it stands out for its gentle low ridges and wide bowls, in addition to vertical chutes. In 2009 it will host one of the events on the World Xtreme Skiing Tour.
El Colorado: This center has more than 1,000 hectares for skiing including those in Farellones, which depend on the same center. It owes its name to a conical mountain with broad hillsides and gentle slopes. The slopes Colorado Chico 1 and 2 are ideal for learning and have easy-to-use t-bar lifts. Then come the intermediate slopes, like Cóndor and León, which define the center’s agile and competitive style. La Cornisa and Cono Este require greater skill and experience and are slopes that face east and south, respectively, and have drier snow. El Colorado has comfortable hotels, cabins, shelters and apartments to stay in. The gastronomy ranges from fast food to sophisticated international cuisine.
Valle Nevado: Following Route G-21, also known as Camino a Farellones, Valle Nevado is only 60 km from the Santiago airport. It is a modern hotel complex designed by Chilean architect Eduardo Stern, who reproduced the French style of Les Arcs. Valle Nevado features three hotels and two apartment buildings, in addition to a spa & fitness center, a minimarket, boutiques, and several restaurants. Its snow is perfect and the southeastern exposure results in better preservation.
Portillo: It is one of the oldest and prestigious ski resorts of the continent. These slopes, adjacent to the beautiful Inca lagoon, was the site of a world ski championship in 1966. It has powder snow, special slopes for snowboard and the classic Grand Hotel Portillo. The center is 164 kilometers from Santiago and is accessed by Route 57.
Nevados de Chillán: At the foot of the Nevados de Chillan chain of hills, this major ski center is renowned for its extraordinary off-slope areas. In Nevados de Chillán, nine ski lifts connect 28 well-groomed ski runs with vertical drops of over 1,000 meters. At the summit, an extraordinary 360-degree view includes a privileged look at the Antuco volcano, the majestic Sierra Velluda, and the Domuyo volcano in Argentina. Las Trancas, a small Andean village with hotels and cabins tucked away among woods, waterfalls, and cliffs, is very nearby. There are multiple options: a circuit for practicing Nordic skiing and another for riding snowmobiles. In addition, there is the Termas de Chillán grand hotel, with casino included.
Antillanca: Located inside Puyehue National Park, it has imposing volcanoes and mysterious forests that look like they were taken from a storybook. The Antillanca Ski Center was founded in 1945. With time it has become one of the best equipped in the country’s south with a restaurant and cafeteria, along with a warm hotel. It has 400 hectares of skiable terrain, with the areas near the Casablanca volcano and, in particular, the imposing Cerro Hayque standing out.
Corralco: Increasingly trendy, it offers the unique chance to ski among araucarias (monkey puzzle trees). There is a lodge and a small cafeteria, in addition to a day care center, a first aid station and a ski shop. It also offers a double chair lift and nine slopes, of which Pudú and Huemul, the longest one, are for beginners. Pumpa and Cóndor are for more experienced skiers. The center only operates on weekends and from September onward, also on Fridays. A remarkable adventure is to walk up in snow shoes and to ski down from the Navidad crater.
Cerro Mirador: Only 15 minutes from the Punta Arenas Plaza de Armas. This is the southernmost center in Chile and allows you to ski with a view of the Magellan Straits and Tierra del Fuego. Administered by the Punta Arenas Club Andino, it is comprised of 18 hectares inside the Magallanes National Reserve. You can ski among trees and there is a two-person a chairlift and t-bar lift to connect its 14 slopes. There is also a cafeteria, a day-care center and a ski school for children.