La Parva Is A GS Cruiser’s Heaven.

As a first installment on the Three Valleys of ski fame in Chile, I’ll write about La Parva. One hour and a half from the Santiago airport, La Parva is perched up at 8,700 ft on the front side of the Andes, and overlooks the city. The road up involves 40 switchbacks and a vertical rise of 7,000ft.  I do not recommend tackling it during a storm!

The furthest north of the three ski areas, the village rests at the base of the La Parva peak (13,000ft), which itself is a sub-peak of the El Plomo Massif (18,000ft). Stretching for a width of three miles across several watershed— all connected with skiable cat tracks— the area faces mostly west, with the north sides of the valleys collecting the most snow. While this western orientation exposes it to the sun and north wind, often leaving bare ridge lines, it also means snow accumulates in those multiple bowls where the snow is blown, and the sun hardly shines.

On a good year such as this, even the north faces are skiable.

As a bonus, the sunsets over Santiago are wildly beautiful.

To get you up the hill, there are four chairlifts, each serving different terrain, and seven good surface lifts (platters, thank god). In windy weather, the platters are safest, as you can bail out wherever you want. But, with 80% of the days being sunny, and often with no wind, the weather is generally not an issue. Grooming is excellent with no mogul bashing required, ever, but add in 70% of the runs being intermediate level, and this is a GS cruisers heaven. The entire vertical rise of 3,000 ft can be skied in one go, so get the long boards out boys!

The village itself is like a classy suburb of Santiago with no hotels, but several restaurants. Most of the 2,000 or so beds are ski in-out apartments, and the family-oriented atmosphere is manifest in the hoards of little racers out at 9 am sharp every weekend. Racing is the name of the game in La Parva, and while often fun to watch, it does take up some of the best runs, especially when the international teams arrive in August. Fortunately, there is a lot of room in the ski area, especially when the off-piste is in good shape.

Casey finds a lonely route down to the Las Aguilas chair, and the small restaurant at its base.

For lodging, there many private apartments, and a few houses on Airbnb or Booking.com. The village has three restaurants, a bar/disco, and a small grocery store. On the hill, aside from the three restaurants mentioned (all accessible on skis) there are two mid-station restaurants, and a small, occasional, open-air one at 11,400 ft. Careful with the pisco sours, it is a long way down…

For La Parva Trail Map, click here

For La Parva Webcams, click here

Check out the La Parva website here.

2 Comments

  1. I drove that road in 1961. It was so narrow that a 57 Chevy had to make 3point turns on some of the switchbacks. There were no guard rails.The skiing was great. The accommodations were primitive and the one lift was out of service a lot. We shouldered our skis and hiked up!

  2. Boy does this bring back memories…of the poma lift at something like 11,000 feet (puff, gasp), of staying overnight in a stone cottage with the woman who built the three resorts…La Parva, El Colorado and Farellones. Her stories of putting in the lifts using WWII surplus Jeeps that were driven backwards up the hill (reverse was stronger, she said). I wish I could remember her name but her estranged husband was Don Dickey, I think. This was in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It wasn’t called Three Valleys then. Also of the hotel eventually built where you slept at 9500 feet and the ski run ‘home’ that took you alongside a canyon that, I swear, looked like the Grand Canyon. Imagine skiing alongside the Grand Canyon at dusk. Oh, and we were skiing at, I think, El Colorado when a patrol chap came over a hill waving a satellite phone. Our townhouse in Miami, on the market 8 months, had FINALLY sold. We had to go down to the city to sign and fax the papers. That was 1987.

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