Do you dream of powder in the summer months? Quality skiing both on and off piste, back country, natural bowls, cornice after cornice? Read how my own dream became reality… Skiing in Chile and Argentina offers all of this with no sacrifices.
The Andes offer a wide range of skiing from single lift runs through to European and North American standard resorts. I spent countless hours looking for accurate information before my first skiing trip to South America. I set off from the UK with very little but very important information – I would find snow. This assurance had come from a Chilean National Park guide who I had met in Prague just one month before my planned departure. Alex also told me which resort to head for so my goal was set. Ticket booked, my departure date was set for the beginning of August. The Lufthansa flight was due to arrive in Chile via a stop in Buenos Aires at 9.30am the following day. An unexpected refuel in Sao Paulo made us 4 hours late.
On arrival at the international terminal at Santiago de Chile airport it was impossible to make it to my intended ski resort the same day using public transport. I took the decision to get as near as I could that day to the my now infamous destination, eager to be on snow the following day. With my limited Spanish but the friendly and helpful Chileno’s I worked out my route. Two buses and seven hours later I made it to the closest city 5 hours south of Santiago. Just one and a half hours from the ski resort I ran out of options and had to bed down for the night. It was 7am when I awoke the next morning. Just enough time to fill my stomach and my wallet from one of the cashpoint machines before catching the bus at 8am. What’s the snow like? I asked one of the locals before catching this the only morning bus to the mountain. No bueno, I was told, but hey they thought it worth the effort, it couldn’t be that bad, I had to remain optimistic.
On arrival at the accommodation in (a hostel found through the Internet) I dumped my bags, unpacked my snowboard and stood outside in the hope that I could hitch a lift up the mountain. The first car stopped, snowboard hanging out of the rear window I was about to spend the day snowboarding. It was only 6kms to the mountain, I was so close now. On arrival I was amazed at what I found. There was steam rising from the hillside near the ski resort complex, surely a component of the volcanic activity in the area. This area was named after the hot springs which I was to discover the next day. More importantly though there was snow…lots of it, chairlifts…modern and efficient, skiing and snowboarding, but not too many people. I spent this my first day on the snow in Chile in awe of the quality of the skiing. I explored the controlled area and didn’t run out of options. The day flew by and I hitched back down the mountain after the last lift at five o’clock. What a rewarding day, I was going to have a good time here.
Day two was even more enlightening. I had met numerous people from Chile of course, but also from Europe and North America the previous evening and I was joining them for a day of backcountry skiing and snowboarding. The first of the lifts was the longest in South America. A two man chair, at 2.5km in length, reputed to close every time the wind blows, although this wasn’t my experience. From the top of the chair we dropped down to the first ‘T’ bar, one more ‘T’ bar and we were at the very top of the ski area and at 13.5kms the longest run in South America. We didn’t take the run down but headed out further into the Andes, firstly around an active volcano, which continuously deposited into the otherwise clear skies above it.
Two valleys later we were ready to have some fun. The scenery was amazing, we could see across the Andes to what eventually became Argentina, and we could see a taster of what lie between us and the bottom of the resort – untouched bowls of fluffy white powder topped with perfect cornices. My first ski trip to South America lasted 7 weeks and I have been back every year since bar one, due to an injury picked up in Whistler. The Andes continue to be my favourite ski and snowboarding destination for a variety of reasons, not least, Chile & Argentina offer a ski experience second to none.
Richard Dass founded and now manages Snoventures Skiing in Chile & Argentina information resource for organising trips for those who wish to experience the magic of the High Andes.