With heavy snows, Chile’s Andean ski resorts about to open

Early snow, new infrastructure and attractions have skiers and boarders excited for what promises to be one of the best seasons in years. 

It’s been cold, grey and rainy in Santiago these last few days, but when the sun has broken through it has revealed a sight that has ski bunnies hopping with anticipation: the Andes mountains, bathed in the first layer of winter powder.
With the early snow, Chilean resorts are on the brink of welcoming guests – and the promising weather just so happens to coincide with the unveiling of a swathe of new infrastructure and attractions.
So here’s our guide to the latest on the four ski centers that overlook Santiago:
Valle Nevado:
One of the closest of the four ski centers, Valle Nevado is a resort with big ambitions.
It is currently in the midst of a long term process to become “the first mountain town in the Southern Hemisphere,” with its eyes set on 2022.
While we won’t start picking favorites, we can say that this year Valle Nevado may well be the first Chilean resort to open, starting their season this Friday, June 22.
“The latest snows have dumped close to 80 centimeters (31 in.) of powder, which will not only allow us to begin the 2012 season, but also to anticipate what is going to be a great winter,” said a resort spokesperson.
This year Valle Nevado expects 200,000 visitors, as it launches the first gondola in Chile, as well as a new skate park and climbing wall.
La Parva
La Parva’s season will start sometime between this Friday, June 22 and the following Friday, depending on weather conditions.
One of the more prestigious resorts, La Parva is expecting to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a bumper season, predicting 156,000 visitors, or 20 percent more than in 2011.
It has a range of new attractions, including a new line of La Parva beers and a professional photography and documentary competition, “The Eye of the Condor 2” that will run from July 27 to August 3.
“The competition portrays all the action and essence of the Andean Cordilleras in a graphic material of the first level,” Thomas Grob, La Parva chief executive, told Estrategia, “and the result is a great work of art.»
El Colorado
Depending on weather conditions, El Colorado may well beat Valle Nevado to be to the first resort open in 2012, with a possibility that runs may open from Thursday, June 21.
At just an hour drive from the capital, El Colorado is a family favorite day trip, and with 15 percent more skiable terrain in 2012 and new a doubling of its tube runs, the resort is hoping for 230,000 visitors this season, which would be a 15 percent increase.
At some 99 miles (160 km) Portillo is the furthest of Santiago’s nearby resorts, and is more suited to weekend (or weeklong) trips.
It will open its runs this Saturday for guests at the hotel, who will have access to over US$1 million dollars in new ski equipment and snow machines that the resort has invested in over the summer.
The resort only has one hotel, and skiers should get in quick as reservations are quickly filling up.
“The projections for this season are high. We have an increase in sales of 15 percent from last season. In fact, we are now close to 75 percent capacity of the hotel,” Ski Portillo chief executive, Miguel Purcell told El Mercurio.