Off-piste

Unique skiing experiences in Chile

Backcountry skiing, exploring Patagonia and wine tasting, some of the best ways to do something a little different this year.

Monday, July 22, 2013 Category: Tourism
Backcountry skiing is one of the many options for a unique adventure in the Chilean wilderness. Phot Backcountry skiing is one of the many options for a unique adventure in the Chilean wilderness. Photo by José Ignacio Morales/ Flickr

 

The secret is out. Chile’s vast, stunning famous landscapes and developed resorts mean that it is one the best ski destinations around. Period. Add to that the chance to enjoy fresh powder between June-October, the months usually reserved for sunburn and barbeques in the northern hemisphere, and you have a perfect opportunity for all your off-season snow needs.

With numerous resorts spread over hundreds of miles of dramatic mountains, though, how can you find a unique and interesting ski holiday experience? A recent CNN travel article recently highlighted some of the best options for those heading south and examined the many ways the Chilean experience offers something totally different from the standard ski holiday.

Skiing and touring Patagonia

With vast, pristine areas of natural wilderness at your fingertips it makes sense to explore some of the landscapes beyond the ski resort. A popular option is to combine slaloming and sightseeing by adding a trip to Chilean Patagonia to the itinerary.

Chilean tour operator Cascada Travel offers organized six-day tours — only available in September when both the ski season and national parks’ “glampsites” are open —  that combine skiing with a trip to some of the most spectacular parts of Patagonia. Beginning in the Valle Nevado resort near Santiago the trip continues to the south to take in the world-famous Torres del Paine national park.

Wine and snow

Bringing together two of Chile’s best-known attributes, great wine and stunning natural landscapes, wine festivals and tasting sessions are a  growing trend in the Andean nation’s ski resorts.

In August, Portillo ski resort, located near the Argentine border and a few hours from the Chilean capital, will host the XII Wine Week. Over seven days, several renowned vineyards from across the country will offer tastings of their world-famous Chilean wines. Each day a different vineyard will take center-stage and enologists will give talks on the grape’s qualities and history.

Cat skiing

Other options for an alternative experience include the booming snowcat skiing industry which offers a unique chance to explore backcountry slopes without the cost of a heli-skiing trip. Only about 70 miles from Santiago near San Estean, Ski Arpa was the first outfit in South America to offer cat skiing, providing trips in the pristine wilderness of the Andes in the shadow of the tallest peak in the continent, the mighty Aconcagua mountain.

Kristina Schreck, Chile expert and guidebook writer, was unequivocal about the area’s potential as a ski destination. “This is some of the best untracked powder in the world,” she said.

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