The reason why 2012 is set to be the year Chilean ski resorts came of age

As weather systems align with a boom on infrastructure spending, this winter is shaping up to be the Chile’s biggest season ever.  

They already have a reputation as being the best in Latin America, but 2012 is shaping up as the year that Chile’s ski resorts become the best in the Southern Hemisphere.

Just as years of infrastructural investments are to bear fruit, weather systems have aligned that should produce the most snow these Andean resorts have seen in seasons.

“Last week, the Meteorological Office of Chile released its latest forecasts for this winter season,” said David Owen of PowderQuest, a South American ski tourism company. “The good news is the report claimed that La Niña, responsible for lower precipitation levels over the last couple of years, is in its final stages.”

“From then on, if these models are correct, we should see completely normal levels of precipitation across the country, which would make for the best season in years,” Owen said.

Though Owen’s job is to keep abreast of developments in South American skiing, he is particularly interested in the smaller Chile ski resorts.

“These ski areas are much less known and a completely different experience, given that they are sitting on the sides of volcanoes, many of them active,” he said.

And for these developing resorts, the promised deluge of snow couldn’t have come at a better time.

Take Corralco, located on the steep slopes of the Lonquimay volcano. In addition to a new US$7 million, 66-room hotel and spa, Corralco has just become more accessible after paving more than two miles (four km) of roads.

For many skiers and snowboarders, these upgrades will diversify options in the Lakes Region, which already boasts the Villarica Volcano resort, overlooking the city of Pucón.

Chile’s established resorts are also set for significant upgrades this winter.

Valle Nevado, just outside the capital of Santiago, already boasts the largest skiable terrain in South America. In a year in which the resort will open the country’s first gondola, it will also open its new sports and entertainment center which includes a climbing wall and skate ramp, 500-car parking lot, new service point for ticket sales, equipment rentals and a restaurant.

Not to be outdone by the building boom, neighboring resorts have also announced new attractions.

La Parva, will open the first half-pipe Olympic training center in South America, a triple chairlift and five new pistes; El Colorado is developing new accommodation, 12 new runs and extensive off-piste option; and Farellones has doubled its tubing capacity and added a third access lift.