Fifty Years Ago, Portillo Changed Everyone’s Idea About Skiing Below The Equator.

Fifty years ago, Portillo hosted the first FIS World Championship below the equator. It changed a lot of minds.
Portillo improbably hosted the first FIS World Championship below the equator in 1966. It changed a lot of minds.

At the time, it was a wild idea.  Hold the FIS World Championships in Chile, at Portillo, at 3,300 meters, in the Northern hemisphere’s summer. Somehow, resort owner Henry Purcell convinced the FIS to award the 1966 event to the nascent resort.  Despite a 1965 hurricane that destroyed lifts and created monstrous snow falls and avalanches, the FIS held fast and the World Championships were (heroically) held in the Andes with skiers gathering from all over the world.  You can read about Portillo’s history here.

In the commemorative documentary video below, you’ll see Henry Purcell, the owner, describing how the event changed the world’s view of South American skiing.  Nancy Green, Canadian super star, Austrian ski race legends Egon Zimmerman, Hermann Maier, and Erik Schinegger, Carlos Senorer, Italian gold medal winner, and even modern day whiz Ted Ligety offer their thoughts and memories about that most pivotal event.

Portillo continues to attract summer skiers and racers preparing for the season.  As we have seen, this season has had its moments of really, really big snowfalls.  Click here for a report of a nine-foot snowfall this June. Have you skied ‘way down south?


  1. Great article. Heading to Portillo two weeks from today for a week of skiing with my friend and former ski and board school Director at Bogus Basin, ID. Hope to make some turns with PSIA Alpine Team member and Portillo school Director, Robin Barnes and Team Coach, Michael Rogan! Cheers!

  2. Ken Campbell says:

    What a great piece and what wonderful memories
    I was fortunate to be there during the 1966 World Championships, which introduced me to a career in ski and sports film making with Dick Barrymore
    I must also say a huge thank you to Henry Purcell who was extremely good and generous to me while I was there
    I do hope to visit one of these years its only been 49years!
    Ken Campbell

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