A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
Chile: Exciting Terrain To Exhilarating Nightlife -
Skiing in the Andes is an exhilarating combination of Latin culture and nightlife and the exciting terrain served up on the world’s longest exposed mountain range. Aprés starts late, very late, with dinner often served around 10 or 11 p.m. and dancing at midnight. If you like to combine your love of party with your love of snow, don’t expect to make first lifts.
A few hours from Santiago sits the three valleys of Valle Nevado, El Colorado, and La Parva. Combined they have over 40 lifts. La Parva serves up 30 runs across mainly intermediate conditions with about a third of the resort for advanced and 10 percent for expert. It’s a ski in, ski out village above the tree line and a mere 50 kilometres from Santiago.
El Colorado is one of Chile’s founding ski resorts and at its peak sits 3333 metres above sea level with 1,000 hectares of skiable terrain and a 900-metre vertical drop. The resort averages five metres of snowfall a season and with it’s high altitude the snow is dry and light. It’s not a resort for the advanced and is generally more suited to intermediates.
Founded in 1988, Valle Nevado is one of Chile’s more contemporary resorts. The resort’s 9,000 hectares has played host to the Snowboard World Cup. Add 102 trails, a terrain park, and a half pipe and it’s one of Chile’s most versatile resorts. Heli-skiing is also offered from Valle Nevado throughout the winter season. There’s a disco, a spa and some good standard restaurants as well as both hotel and apartment accommodation options.
Portillo ski resort sits on the Chile Argentina border a couple of hours from Santiago. This resort is a self-contained ski area with the famous yellow Portillo Hotel that offers three standards of accommodation from shared dorms to the Octagon shared rooms to private rooms in the hotel building itself. Guests stay from Saturday to Saturday and with just 400 beds, there is never a queue for the ski lifts.
It’s a blend of good groomed runs and big mountain skiing with plenty of expert terrain for those who are willing to hike, though be careful not to end up in the lake. Guests eat in the dining hall together for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The resort has a disco, two bars, a gym, cinema, and pool.
Further south of Santiago sits Termas de Chillan, a resort built on two active volcanoes with some exceptional hot springs to soothe the tired ski and snowboard muscles at the end of the day. Snow is bountiful in Termas de Chillan with some fun terrain complete with steam floating up from the thermal springs beneath the volcano. The resort has a casino and spa and a varied mix of accommodation from five-star down.
Another resort on a volcano is Pucon. It’s a smaller family resort and good for snowboarders due to the mountain's natural lava half pipes. The Gran Hotel Pucon services the resort’s twenty ski runs with accommodation.
Getting to and from and between Chile’s ski resorts is not always easy and the South American culture that makes it such a fun place to visit can also test a traveler’s patience, so pack lots of it. The trek will be worth it though as most of Chile’s variety of ski and snowboard fields come with a good dose of heartfelt hospitality.
The roads can be closed for days when storms hit, especially at Portillo. It may cause some obstacles in your journey, but when the sky clears, there’s nothing like skiing or boarding Chile powder under a blue canopy sky.