What We Can Learn From The Ski Season In Chile During The Pandemic

Only four ski areas opened in Chile this year, due to the pandemic, all in the last third of the normal season (late August). The country was in the midst of a severe drought when the entire metropolitan region of Santiago shut down in May. An “atmospheric river” arrived late June, and over a period of 10 days it snowed more than it had in a decade. All one could do was look longingly at the webcams and pray the snow would last until restrictions were lifted. In June, the ski area association presented a protocol for opening to the government. At the same time, Chile had one of the worlds highest infection and death rates from the virus, so nobody really believed there would even be a ski season.

La Parva on July 5.  Looking via webcam, not skiing. Credit: Casey Earle
Corralco mid-July. Snow but not open to skiing. Credit: Casey Earle

The quarantine lasted to late July in some of the districts of Santiago and the first ski areas were opened on August 18, specifically El Colorado and La Parva. At the end of August Corralco and Las Araucarias, in southern Chile, opened. Rules were strict and at times confusing. Masks, properly worn, were required, as were gloves, online sales only, two skiers per quad, and no restaurants. The number of tickets sold was limited to the equivalent of an uncrowded day. At times a lift attendant would berate skiers for not spacing enough in the few line-ups that occurred and take your temperature on your wrist.

The police were controlling access to the mountain road and were strict about not letting anyone by that was not from a district that had advanced to the correct stage. This produced line-ups and long waits, which I avoided by going up at 6:30am. Use of second residences was not allowed, weekends were quarantined (closed ski areas), and a curfew was (and still is) in effect.

In order to ski, one had to fill out a fill out a health declaration online, and sometimes show it at the bottom.

With only 20cm having fallen since early July, the conditions for the August 18 opening was a bit disappointing. But a final 20 cm fell on August 26, and what a day it was.

Fortunately, the run maintenance was superb, and we skied the groomers through to mid September, when the lack of new snow was taking its toll and the heat was turned up. La Parva closed on September 25.

Lift line trying not to block the run.Credit: Casey Earle

Most days there were so few people that one could ride and empty lift and ski an empty run.

Few people. Credit: Casey Earle

In early October we set out to Villarrica to ski the volcanos of the south, but promptly went into quarantine and had to sit out the remainder of the season. Corralco was open until October 18.

That we could ski at all was a miracle. I must say, however, that skiing, properly regulated, is probably one of the most socially distanced sports around, but much depends on the individuals respect for the rules.

7 Comments

  1. I live close to Mt Shasta CA, and have wanted to ski, but not alone, and have no way to communicate with Senior skiers, so we could set up a day to ski‍♀️
    I’m an intermediate skier, and like most, I love fresh powder, now all I need are buddies to ski with

    • Michael Maginn says:

      Why not post a classified ad under Looking For Ski Buddies.

    • Join 70+ski club. $15. a year dues,$18. if wife/husband included.
      6 trips a year. At age 70 or so I was running out of ski buddies.
      I am now 83 and the club serves me very well. Folks tat I have things in common with are great to visit with.
      Dick Brooks, Houston Texas

  2. Thank you for this great report. Im still one of those in the “lets wait and see “ what develops with the pandemic catagory,

  3. Yvette Cardozo says:

    Casey,
    Nice that the three resorts outside Santiago are now “The Three Valleys.” I skied S. America somewhat often in the ’80 and never heard that name. My husband, Bill, and I became friends with Mimi Leatherby who built I believe it was El Colorado (using jeeps being driven backwards to string lines for the lifts, she told us). She also had a home in Florida where I lived at the time. I’m sure she is no longer alive as she was much older than me and I am now 75. It was great skiing and we were there on slope in ’87 when word came that our Miami townhouse had finally, finally sold, allowing us to escape Miami for wonderful Seattle (a LOT closer to skiing).

  4. Jon Weisberg says:

    Terrific report. Makes me want to ski Chile. Thanks!!!

  5. I skied in Chile in 1960 at Farrellones/La Parva. The accommodations were rustic and the road up the mountain terrifying but the skiing was great when the lift wasn’t broken.

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