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Seeking Info on South American Skiing

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  • Seeking Info on South American Skiing

    So this missus and I are considering a 1-2 week trip to Chile or Argentina this (North American) Summer and we solicit your advice on where to go. We are looking for good snow (quantity, aka, pow, and quality and aspect, which influences the latter), intermediate/advanced/expert terrain, lifts that run consistently (high-speed are not essential, surface lifts are OK), size of lift-served in-bounds, out-of-bounds and side-country area, lower skier traffic, grooming, good weather (that which allows skiing), proximity of lodging (we would rather not have to drive), views/vistas, accessibility, nearby scenic side trips and small town preferred over big party scenes. Scare-your-parts-off steeps are not an attraction. We are not seeking to go as cheaply as possible, but cost is always a consideration. Nevados de Chillan (Termos de Chillan) has caught our eye but we are wondering if we might be better served by the Valle Nevado/Tres Valles, Portillo, Cerro Catedral, Las Lenas or <insert suggestion here>.

    So is Nevados de Chillan a really good/bad idea? I would appreciate any info, suggestions, recommendations, information resources, etc. the community might share.

    It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!

  • #2
    I'll post some more detailed thoughts later. But here are a few things based on a half dozen trips we've made to Chile/Argentina over the years. First, spring (mid-Sept-early Oct) has best chance of great snow. S.American storms tend to be big and infrequent. If one hits while you are there might shut down areas for a week. Otherwise you might be high and dry for several weeks. Also, spring is much cheaper for lodging near areas. You'll likely be skiing corn snow rather powder but much more predictably great snow. Also, like most areas, they have big years and lean years. By August you'll know if it is a good year. Wouldn't want to spend that much money during a boney season.

    Termas is a really fun area w/ sidecountry options. My favorite is Portillo. A bit pricy but lodge is one of most pleasant places to spend a week, especially w/ missus. Incredible side county options during spring corn season. Lake must be frozen to get access to the best terrain.

    Las Lenas is just incredible. Vast areas of stuff far steeper than what we have in Colo. Plus wide range of mellow sidecounty. 4000' runs from top on Marte lift to valley floor. Hard to get to Las Lenas. Best trip we had was fly to B.A. Hang a day and wait for luggage. Friday charter flight to airstrip near LL. Spend a week there then 6 hour bus to Mendoza. Hang out for day or two. Then 5 hour bus to Portillo. Fly home from Santiago. Don't bother with Valle Nevado. La Parva is ok but if you are short on time I'd focus on Portillo/Termas in Chile.


    • #3
      Originally posted by paul
      I'll post some more detailed thoughts later.
      Like this wasn't more detailed than 95% of the posts on any forum.

      Great info.


      • #4
        Great info - thanks paul. Any other thoughts from anyone would be greatly appreciated.
        It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!


        • #5
          I went to Chile - it has been a long time - problem with being on parole.

          First do a bit of googling.

          There are some guide services, and reading the descriptions of their guided trips help to get a sense of what can and cannot
          be done. There was one that had really good trip descriptions, but I cannot recall the name.

          Welcome to CASA Tours, the first ski Chile & snowboard Argentina tour operators in South America. Come with us and ski & snowboard in South America & Japan.

          You can day trip up from Santiago to Valle Nevado (and the 2 others) and even Portillo - when you fly in/out get
          a hotel by the subway and it was like some amount for a ski shuttle (hotel - subway - shuttle). Some folks
          actually would ski the day they fly out.

          I used for that part of the trip.

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          Be prepared for lots of Americans - actually expect to make friends :wink:

          The patio at Valleo Nevado on a weekday, was just a bunch of Americas - but a great source of information.

          A little Spanish it will be a snap - but don't expect Vail, or Copper, more like Eldora/Loveland/A-Basin.

          (At least it was that way.)

          In term of an adventure, a 1 out of 10, and if you fluent in Spanish, a 0 out of 10.

          I was never on a weekend, my sense, you do not want to go to Valle Navado on a weekend, but the drive
          up is not to be missed! Plan your trip that way. The local Santiago resorts are ... are just that.

          As to the rest of the country ... that is another story.

          Don't miss the other "tourist stuff" - Chile has "public transportation", so a day trip to the coast is not a problem.

          Chile I think now wants about $130 cash as an entry fee ... google says it is $160.00! Ouch!

          Cash only when I was there or they confiscate your skis! Ha! Ha!

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          Learn to like mayonnaise.

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          Food is good (even the Miami International Airport has better food than 95% of America.)

          Dead-heading back yesterday.

          New Zealand is even easier ... and won't have to dig for you ski bag through the piles of ski bags ...
          remember Chile is nearly no jet lag.

          Last edited by !ski; 1 January 2014, 02:32 PM.


          • #6
            I went to Portillo last summer, late July. The base wasn't at its highest that early and the lake wasn't frozen to access a lot of the sidecountry, but we got a big storm while we were there and pretty much skied powder all week out it. We were there during Brazil's holiday weeks so it was mostly beginner families meaning the advanced terrain was getting skied by not many people, and side country that was available (areas above the lifts) had only a few of us hiking to it meaning fresh tracks all week. I guess August is Norte Americano month and while the base is better and better chance of frozen lake for vastly expanded sidecountry everyone there is skiing the goods. September does maybe sound like the best of both worlds- even better snowpack and just a lot of racers training there etc.Click image for larger version

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            Reluctant enthusiast, part-time crusader, half-hearted fanatic


            • #7
              September does maybe sound like the best of both worlds- even better snowpack and just a lot of racers training there etc.
              The racers are fun to watch and rode a lift with Bode and Daron once. But biggest bummer ever was when they closed off the high traverse to El Estadio for "the bug." This swiss dude with a parachute on his back spent all week trying to break world speed record. Temps were too warm so he failed. While the rest of us only drooled and cursed at the vast area off untouched corn that remained out of reach until after we had to go home.

              Another great thing about S.America is the locales stay up late and get up late. Only time I've been down there during depth of winter was June 15 for opening day. Huge floods in Santiago were on the nightly news. We got cheap last minute tickets and arrived night before lifts opened for the season. Hotel was freezing since evidentially it takes a while for boilers to kick in. Hadn't snowed in a couple days but there'd been almost 200 inches in previous few weeks. So we figured we should be in line at least 15 minutes early. Turns out we skied a couple hours before seeing anyone else even riding lifts. This isn't to say that lift lines don't get long or powder lines don't get skied out. That is true everywhere in world. But unlike most places in N.America you don't need to freeze in line for an hour plus in order to be in the first wave on a powder day.


              • #8
                We went for the month of August and were pleased. Bony to begin with and fat, but still pow, at the end. Portillo was great... we stayed at the "hostel" just up the pass right at the border - mostly military but a few skiers but screaming deal with giant stocked kitchen. Touring across the border in the Christo Redentor area was a highlight. Really enjoyed the smaller ski area "Penitentes" down the canyon from Portillo on the Argentina side -grab the bus to Mendoza. More of a locals than international scene but plenty of lodging and very fun skiing - although not as dramatic as Portillo or Las Lenas. I would really recommend a layover, or even base-camp at Upsallata - very cool mellow town at the base of the mountains.

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                Las Lenas was of course incredible. We stayed at a little guest house in Las Molles and caught the bus to the resort or toured in the back yard.

                Las Molles touring...
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                Have fun! No matter what its a great experience. Love the Latin ski vibe!
                Last edited by the mighty elbo; 2 January 2014, 06:54 PM.


                • #9
                  Thanks to all of you for great input! And great pix, expecially elbo. More would be welcomed if anyone else has info to share.
                  It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!


                  • #10
                    To the top for the back-to-work-after-the-holidays gang. Anybody else with info to share? TIA
                    It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!


                    • #11

                      Because I was prodded to reply:

                      You've pretty much left everything open for possibility so it's a little difficult to pinpoint the perfect location. 1 to 2 weeks will go fast, the more traveling you do the faster it will go. Both Chillan and Bariloche are a day's-ish journey from Santiago and B.A. respectively.

                      There is great skiing at Chillan but you are also more prone to spells of crappy weather and snow conditions, especially above tree line where it can be wind whipped and glazed ice. Accommodations at the resort are kind of limited, too, and fairly pricey. Like Bariloche, Chillan attracts wealthy Brazilians who travel in large groups, can't ski, and cause for inflated prices. Otherwise look for places down the valley in Las Trancas. Note, too, that after big storms the road from Las Trancas to the resort can be a mess.

                      Bariloche is its own kind of mess, a mess that only the Argentinians could produce. Bariloche (obviously) also has potential for great skiing subject also to weather and hordes of Brazilians. The base area is an embarrassment of faux ski village atmosphere—people are generally there to party, not ski.

                      Portillo is nice if you want an all-inclusive kind of thing. Kinda pricey but not too bad compared to N. American resorts. The food they serve is killer. Not a huge in-bounds resort—you could easily ski the whole thing in a day. Plenty of options for exploring, though, especially if the lake is frozen. Especially, too, if you have a car and want to break up the week by skiing in one of the parallel canyons and/or head up toward the AR/CH border.

                      You could easily bookend your trip by skiing the Tres Valles before and after a week at Portillo, as many people do. La Parva and El Colorado offer the best skiing up there; Valle Nevado is big but fairly flat. Again, unless you’re staying at one of the pricier hotels then accommodations can be hard to find. Excellent touring options from the top of Valle Nevado and La Parva. You could also tie in a day or two of cat skiing at El Arpa which is sorta between Santiago and Portillo.

                      Never been to Las Lenas.

                      Hope that helps.


                      • #12
                        Many thanks, Steven. That kind of local knowlege is invaluable.
                        It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!


                        • #13
                          Of course this is all dependent on the weather. Storms down there are infrequent and come with giant dumps followed by days/weeks of sunshine. It stays cold enough in the higher elevations around Santiago/Portillo (and probably Las Lenas) than it does Bariloche/Chillan. In the north, if the wind doesn't get to it first, you can find powder a couple weeks after a storm. Not so much down south where it quickly transitions between powder to spring corn.


                          • #14
                            Good to know. Thanks, Steven.
                            It's turns! Of course it's worth the hike!


                            • #15
                              Bayo with a pair of skins and OMFG.