As the weather warms up in the Northern Hemisphere, Chile’s ski season is only getting started, offering exhilarating adventures for skiers and boarders of all levels from June through October.
The Chilean Andes are home to world-class ski resorts, many of which are only a short drive from the capital, Santiago. Whether it is for a day trip or an extended ski vacation, Chile is the place for powder lovers all season long.
The closest ski area to the city is actually comprised of three nearby valleys known as Tres Valles, which is made up of Valle Nevado, La Parva, and El Colorado. Only 90 minutes east of the bustling streets of Santiago, Valle Nevado is home to the biggest resort in the area, encompassing three hotels and twelve restaurants, not to mention the largest skiable terrain in Chile. There are also great deals that include tickets to the surrounding ski areas, so you can easily ski all three beautiful valleys in one trip. There are a great range of intermediate runs throughout the Tres Valles that are perfect for the more casual skier.
A scenic two-hour drive from the city will take you out to the Portillo resort, whose iconic yellow hotel has graced the pages of many international travel and ski magazines. The impressive building is home to various forms of entertainment for children and adults including great dining facilities, a climbing wall, and even a discotheque. The hotel also boasts an outdoor heated pool and hot tubs with beautiful views of Mount Aconcagua, the world’s tallest mountain outside of Asia.
The 35 runs offered at Ski Portillo are evenly divided between beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert, with something for everyone. The highest ski point gets you up to 10,860 feet (3,048 meters) and the longest run takes you 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers). All of the slopes share an amazing view of the Andes, and many offer a beautiful lookout over the pristine Laguna del Inca.
For those willing to travel a little farther from the city, Chillán, five hours south of Santiago, offers breathtaking runs, including slopes on the sides of active volcanoes. For those looking for an amazing ski experience, Chillán is worth the travel, frequently winning top marks for snow conditions, weather, terrain and infrastructure.
The longest run in South America, at eight miles, can be found in Chillán. Centuries of lava flow and volcanic activity have carved out impressive bowls, natural half pipes, and distinctive trails unlike any others in Chile. The runs are evenly distributed between beginner, intermediate, and expert, so everyone can enjoy the unique experience of skiing in Chillán. The area also has an added bonus: hot springs.
Off the beaten trails
Of course, for those looking for a bigger thrill, Chile also boasts great heli-skiing, and pristine cat skiing. Heli-skiing is available at Valle Nevado, La Parva and Ski Portillo. The helicopters bring skiers to impressive heights in the Andes, higher than 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) in some places, making these breathtaking views not for the faint of heart. But the fresh, untouched powder and sweeping vistas are well-worth the climb.
For skiers and boarders who crave untouched tracks but prefer to stay on the ground, Chile also offers some amazing cat skiing. Ski Arpa specializes in backcountry cat skiing and boarding and is close enough to Santiago for day trips as well as longer stays. The more than 4,000 acres (1,6187 hectares) of terrain spans Valle el Arpa and Valle la Honda with miles of pristine powder.
As the last snow melts off of the slopes in Colorado and the Alps, remember that there is plenty of beautiful and exhilarating skiing to be had in the Chilean Andes. Here, unbeatable views combine with perfect weather to make an ideal ski getaway for any level of skier or boarder.
By Charlotte Karrlsson-Willis