Chase The Snow To Summer’s Skiing Headquarters In The Southern Hemisphere.

Come May, you have probably set your skis into hibernation and begun patiently waiting for the snow to fly next fall. But you really don´t have to wait!  Southern America’s greatest mountain range starts getting snowed on in May, and by June the ski areas are normally in full swing.

In Chile the resorts are sprinkled just east of the Pan Am highway along the 700 mile stretch from Santiago south, at roughly the equivalent latitude of central California. With an 80 year tradition of skiing, you will find a whole new world of winter adventure, lasting into October on good years.

Santiago and the Andean foothills, after a rare low altitude snowfall. Credit: Casey Earle

Visitors will be happy to know that within a two hour drive of the airport in the capital, Santiago, there are four good ski areas, and upwards of 70 percent of winter days are sunny. Closest are the Three Valleys, which hang above Santiago on the western slopes of the Andes. At night, you can see the snocats grooming trails from this metropolis of seven million!

The La Parva, Valle Nevado, and El Colorado ski areas are interconnected, and it is possible to enjoy a total of 40 lifts and dozens of groomed runs, with multiple options for lodging and dining. Skiing here starts at 8,000 to 9,000 feet, reaching up to 12,000 feet, and is entirely above the treeline. The sunsets are extraordinary.

Casey looks out from El Colorado ski area towards the upper Valle Nevado and La Parva lifts. The 18,000 foot El Plomo mountain looms in the background. Credit: Casey Earle.

Two hours north of Santiago is the world-renowned Portillo hotel and ski area, smack in the middle of some of the highest mountains in the Western Hemisphere. The hotel sits looking north over the mysterious and beautiful Laguna del Inca lake and boasts a long tradition of great service and entertainment. Here you can rub shoulders with racers and ski fanatics from all around the globe.

Portillo and the Plateau chairlift (spot it!), with the Laguna del Inca. Credit: Casey Earle.

Further south, the ski area infrastructure and access may leave a bit to be desired, but I love it nonetheless. All of the ski areas are situated on volcanoes which have varying levels of activity. They are also surrounded by gorgeous temperate rainforests, lakes, rivers, and hot springs. The main ski areas are Nevados de Chillan, Corralco, Villarrica, and Antillanca. The first three have adjacent towns within a 30 minute drive with plenty of lodging and other touristic services. All but Villarrica have a good hotel at the ski area base.

Villarrica ski area, note the smoking volcano. Credit: Casey Earle.

My recommendation for potential visitors is to contact one of the tour companies operating in Chile, or book directly with one of the on-hill hotels such as Portillo. You will have one of the best and most unusual ski trips of your life. Most of the tour operators

Las Araucarias ski area, west side Volcan Llaima. Credit: Casey Earle

in Chile are mainly for younger, adventurous skiers, such as Casa Tours or Powder Quest. However, for the +50 crowd, I can recommend DreamSki Adventures which offers group guided resort based tours in Chile and Argentina for the 45-70+ skier. Their guides are seasoned ski instructors trained in the CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance) and offer a high degree of customer service on and off the snow.

Come on down!

For the latest in conditions in Chile from Casey Earle, click here.

Here are the resorts mentioned.

5 Comments

  1. John Caspers says:

    Awesome article!!

    I will be retiring next year, and a trip to Argentina is on my bucket list.

    Thank you Casey for the good advice on how to start planning a trip, and keep it coming!

  2. Steve (Stephen) Craven says:

    I’m Australian, 75 years young. My wife and I have skied the most popular lousy slopes in the world (in Australia) for years mandated by living in a country where the season is short as are the runs, the ski areas tiny and the queues are long. Your half a world away from any really decent skiing. Chile sound wonderful, button mention was made of cost? Just getting there from Australia is a substantial cost.

    • Cameron Earle says:

      You can now fly non stop from Sydney to Santiago, for as little as US$1,400. Not bad for a 16 hour flight (polar route). Of course, NZ is a wee bit closer. It is also possible to stop in Easter Island, definitely a worthy exotic stopover!

      • Cameron Earle says:

        The latest price for Melbourne-Santiago is US$700 in August, with LATAM, direct! I can´t put the link in here, but you should be able to find it, or send me an email.

  3. Casey Earle says:

    Actually, I overestimated the cost OZ-Chile, and a price alert says Melbourne-Santiago in August on LATAM, for US$700, direct!

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