Finding Good Days In A Disappointing Snow Season In The Southern Hemisphere.

The 2018 season started on time in June, after a serious drought, but sputtered out before it ever really got going. The Chilean Central Zone ended with a 54 percent precipitation deficit, despite ENSO-neutral conditions. For a ski area in Chile not to get to the Sept 18 National holidays is shameful. Which is not to say there were no good days, just that they were few and far between.

Being relatively free to select those good days, I can share a couple of snaps that are deceivingly good.

The Las Vegas lift out of the La Parva village on a cold day in July. Helps to know where the rocks aren’t.

La Parva. Credit: Casey Earle

The conditions were not sufficiently good to ski other Central Zone ski areas, where I am not so intimately familiar with their thin base rock gardens.  So in September we headed 560 miles to the south where Mother Nature was more accommodating.

The Hotel Puyehue. Credit: Casey Earle

Our first lodging was the venerable and grandiose “Termas Puyehue Wellness & SPA Resort”, formerly the Gran Hotel Puyehue, founded in 1907. Back then, guests arrived by steam boat across the Lago Puyehue to enjoy its charming hot springs. The hotel is very well located at the entrance to the Parque Nacional Puyehue, established in 1941, and the lovely Antillanca ski area, tucked up in a volcanic cirque 18 km away. This is reached at the end of a good dirt road that winds through temperate rainforest and lagoons. The snowpack was 6-10 feet, from the mid station up, as it had rained hard at the base.

Here it can rain six feet a year, so when that falls as snow, it adds up, and 10-15 ft bases are not uncommon.

I seized an unusually brilliant sunny day and headed up. Nary a rock to be seen, and superb spring snow.

Heading down back off the crater towards the ski area, with the Puyehue Lake in the distance.

La Parva. Credit: Casey Earle

After the traditional September 18 mega-BBQ at a friend’s place in Puerto Varas, on the Llanquihue Lake, we drove back north 200 miles to Corralco ski area, on the Lonquimay Volcano.

This time we chose a cozy cabin in Malalcahuello, a nearby up-and-coming mountain town nestled in a group of volcanos. Monkey puzzle trees greet you as you wind up through the forest to the barren eastern bowl of the volcano.

Again, no rocks here, even at the end of September.

Credit: Casey Earle

While the American ski team trained on the far right side of the ski area, those venturing into the bowl to the south got fresh tracks

Corralco closed at the end of October, by far the latest closing for any ski area in Chile this year.

If you liked this 2018 summary, and want to drill down to the nearly daily detail of how it panned out, try reading a bit of my 276-entry collaborative thread on the Teton Gravity Research website. Click here for my Ski Chile comments.

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