Ride The “Va et Vient” Lift Up The Steeps, Ski With Ski Teams, Enjoy The Vistas Of Remote Mountains. There Is Only One Portillo.

Editor Note:  Casey Earle has written several articles for SeniorsSkiing.com, introducing Norte Americanos to skiing in the Southern Hemisphere. Also click here for advice for neophytes . Portillo hosts international ski teams in training during the summer months, and it boasts amazing runs, unique lifts, and a curious sense of remoteness with luxury amenities. Here’s his Resort Review.

Filled with amenities Hotel Portillo is the only place to stay at the resort. Credit: ChileSki.com

Portillo should be on every skiers bucket list. It’s a beguiling combination of big mountains, a sense of remoteness, old world charm, and wild skiing. Known for intense suntans from its brutal sun, young whippersnappers pumping adrenaline to the limits, a heated pool with a lake view to make even jaded travelers swoon, fine formal dining, and great après ski, you can´t go wrong.

Riding the Roca Jack “Va et Vient” with the US Ski Team. Credit: Casey Earle

Located near the Chile-Argentina border two hours north east of Santiago, 14 miles from the Western Hemisphere’s highest mountain (the Aconcagua at 23,000ft), the area is accessed by the only paved highway to Argentina for over 400 miles. Founded in 1949, the ski area was bought in 1961 by two Americans, Bob Purcell and Dick Aldrich and is still run by the Purcell family. The original hotel has been preserved and remodeled to modern standards.

The area has five chairlifts, four pomas, and four “Va et Vient”. While most are short lifts, several will provide you with about 1,000 vertical feet on the aprons of 14,000 ft mountains, or in combination, more. The “Va et Vient” are specially designed for steep slopes, with only one tower at the bottom, and two bull wheels suspended from the rock above, giving the lift a triangular form. Four or five people load up to the platters hanging from a crossbar, and when ready, the lift starts up and whisks them up the mountain. One can release before or after the lift stops at the top, but be careful getting off on the steep slope, you do not want to fall there!

While there are several good groomed runs, notably Juncalillo and Plateau, much of Portillo’s attraction comes from skiing those steep, ungroomed runs. Famous challenges for skiers are the Garganta (throat), the Lake Run, and the Roca Jack. The most ambitious hike over two hours up takes you to the “Super C”, a lengthy couloir for extreme skiers only. Also, some great heli skiing for intermediate and advanced skiers can be had on the surrounding mountains. All the while, you will be surrounded by a united nations of skiers, and some of the world’s top racers in training.

Taking on the Lake run. Credit: Casey Earle

The only lodging available within 90 minutes of Portillo is the Hotel Portillo. With a variety of options from US$1,150 to $3,950 for a week, meals included, there is something for everyone. A range of activities are available, including a gym, game room, and a full court for sports such as basketball. For lunch, there is no better venue than Tio Bobs, at the top of the Plateau chair, where you can gaze down at the Laguna del Inca and up at the surrounding Andes, while feasting on BBQ’s, fish, salads, and of course a potent Chilean pisco sour!

For more information, click here. For a trail map, click here. 


Worse case scenario, you can always just kick back in the pool, get a massage, or hang out in the bar. Credit: SkiPortillo.com
Trail map gives an orientation to Portillo. Click here for more detail.

One Comment

  1. Paul Remillard says:

    Just back from 2 weeks in Chile and Argentina 8/26-9/8. I highly recommend a summer ski trip down there but make sure there’s plenty of snow. This season saw the least amount of snow in many years at So. American ski centers and my bases tell the tale.
    We started our journey in the 3 Valleys areas which includes Valle Nevado, El CoLorado and La Prava skied 2 days at Nevado and La Parva and this was the best snow of the trip. Went from powder up high to corn on the lower half but still very thin cover. Nice big above tree line ski resorts with respectable vertical drops. I would definitely go back to these areas if i get the chance. Just a note on the lifts there are many surface lifts so they can operate in windy conditions. Rent a car if you aren’t staying right at these resorts you’ll need it to get to and from the resorts. We stayed in the town of Farellones in a great inn with breakfast and dinner for a lot less $ and nice ambience.
    On to Portillo. If there is a next time I won’t waste my time and $ going there. Short verticals and not much that thrilled me. To be fair it’s beautiful inside and out but I don’t go skiing to be wined and dined I go for big vertical and plenty of terrain variety.
    Next up Las Lenas Argentina. This is another must go to self contained resort. Big vertical plenty of variety from the easiest novice to full blown incredible extreme chutes and it’s all accessible by lifts. The base village is self contained with many eateries and bars plus stores for all your needs. Shuttle busses included to take you to and from your lodging. We stayed on the far edge of the lodging but still an easy walk to the heart of the action.
    If you go learn as much Spanish as possible that will help a lot because not much English is spoken in any of these places except Portillo.
    All in all a great experience and even with the thin cover we skied off piste when ever we deemed it worthwhile and we found some sweet powder and corn but my bases took a beating but they’re being repair as I write this. So go and enjoy the skiing the great wines and the warm people but make sure the snow is deep before you go!!!

    On to Portillo. I won’t waste my time or money there next trip

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *