My wife and I are thinking of planing a trip to Chili this summer for some skiing. Was just wondering if anyone here has been and what your expereance was like, or if anyone has any good insight on where the best place to go is.
I can't speak to the skiing. However, I went to Chile three years ago for whitewater kayaking. Chile is an amazing country, and I highly recommend it! Good luck with the planning. I hope to make it down there for some snowboarding someday.
I've heard good things about the Bariloche region in Argentina... my wife and I are thinking of honeymooning there (during their summer, not their winter- I don't want a divorce immediately after the honeymoon, or during it) if we can get decent airfare (another possibility: Oaxaca Mexico). Check out Cerro Catedral: http://www.catedralaltapatagonia.com/invierno/en/index.html
I knew of a site that had lots of beautiful pictures of the region, but I can't find it now. It's a very moist, heavily forested region- Chile is more desert (though there are more forested areas to the south).
edit- here's the hotel with some really nice photographs of the area (I think it's in or adjacent to Nahuel Huapi National Park):http://www.llaollao.com/
ive never been but was looking into a trip last summer, that didnt materialize. Portillo is probably the most popular destination. But Valle Nevado is slightly closer to santiago. there is some dude on another site from s.a. that posts killer helmet cam vids of skiing in chile/argentina, etc. here is one from valle nevado that should stoke your fire! Valle Nevado trip
I've been to Portillo. I had a wonderful time. Portillo is more like a "club" experience because 99% of the skiers stay at the hotel. Valle Nevado is a more traditional resort experience.
rusty... Did you feel like the trip was worth it? It's a long way to go
I echo Boofit. Chile is an amazing country. A place of paradox and also a place of incredible beauty as well as the economic little giant of Latin America. Wonderful people. Literacy rate above ours. Chile is a disciplined and extremely productive country where things work and the rails run on time.
I spent an entire winter in Chile as we were feverishly working at the Embassy trying to sell them F-16s... We'd work like horses M-T and Friday we'd take off to Farellones. We stayed at the Posada de Farellones, at the base of Colorado Mountain, at the 8,000 foot level, and right near the bifurcation where you could go to Nevados or Colorado and La Parva. Three resorts next to each other: Farellones/Colorado, La Parva and Nevados. The resorts are more European than American. There are wide bowls in all mountains and so the grooming that we expect in the US may not be there. As well as the European ski ettiquette which means bring your rock skis, as your skis will be stepped on, skied on, scratched and mauled while you're on the line.
These resorts are literally within eyesight of Santiago. That is, if there happens to be a clear day, which is rare in the winter in Santiago, as domes of high pressure settle over the city and drive the air pollution to unnatural and sometimes dangerous levels. Leaving the city you start climbing and the road markers are measured by switchbacks. Above 4,000 feet you climb over the smog and get into beautiful clear weather, with views of the front range that top 9,000 to 14,000 feet and then in back, the majestic range that just a bit north of it, on the Argentine side, top at 22,800 in the Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in the Americas. The views are simply out of this world. Most of the skiing is above treeline.
Valle Nevados' peaks are almost at 12,000 feet. One of the things about the resorts is that they may only sell you weekly packages during high season. There is a complex of about 5 hotels in the resort, totally self-contained, that share the same infrastructure. To get to the tallest peak, Tres Puntas, its a bit of a chore but well worth it. From Nevados, you can ski down to the other two resorts with one ticket.
La Parva is much smaller, almost undeveloped, little to do other than skiing, and the village concept hasn't taken off there yet. Perhaps because it is at the end of the road at 9,000, with a top of (I think) 12,000. Steeps in some of the areas but generally more of a family mountain with a genteel feel. Colorado has about the same, 3,000 vertical, but all the entertainment and apre-ski in its base as well as Farellones.
If you want something less crowded, try Portillo, on the way to Argentina, on the Pan American Highway, totally above treeline. Portillo reminds me so vividly of Lake Louise. With the hotel in the background, the Lake of the Incas. The hotel is certainly not as nice as Chateau Lake Louise, with small yet comfortable rooms. I remember that almost half the runs were black runs, with historical runs that saw Stein Ericson and other early pioneers of skiing.
We were going to stay for a weekend in Portillo but the rub is that since it is totally above treeline, it is avalanche country. We had a blizzard enroute that closed the Pan American Highway. Stayed in our cars for about 10 hours on a particularly inclement day. Not good. If you go to Portillo, or go between Chile and Argentina, check the weather.
I'll write about Bariloche soon but I have to get out of here as it is a sheet of ice outside....
Thanx for the great information. Looks like we may do Valle Nevados, maybe sepend some time in Santiago. Any rocomendations on the best way to set up the trip. We were just going to use Amex travel services.
I use Amex a lot as they can be responsive and you do have some assurances that they will indeed respond if things go awry. They may even be able to get a better discount than you can through the hotels themselves. Anyone else please feel free to chime in...
The road to Farellones/Nevados/La Parva is well built but because of the traffic, it is one-way up in the morning and one-way down in the afternoon, with two-way in the mid-day. So if you want to go against the traffic, you're stuck. Whatever method you take, it will likely stop about 2K feet below Farellones and put chains on.
You will find that Nevados and Farellones is chock-full of Europeans. Which goes to the heart of the reason for the European ski ettiquette.
The other good thing about that area, so close to Santiago, is that you can visit Santiago, especially if you like history. The downtown area dates back to the 1500's, and check the local market near the river. Worth it. From Santiago, you can also go to visit some of the sights. the National Park at Torres del Paine is one of the most gorgeous sites in the world, if I may say. The southern provinces are roughly equal in beauty as the Northwest and the Canadian Pacific, with fjords, bays and mountains that reach to the sea.
Right outside of Santiago, going West, you get into wine country. Chile is the only country in the world (including France) where the original French stock vineryards are still surviving. Which pisses off the French to no end, as even in France, the result of the blight of the late 1800s made it necessary for the French to graft their vines onto Manischevitz-producing Concord Grape plants. Heheheeee... Then at the end of your westward trek, Valparaiso. It is the Miami Beach of Chile, and in the winter it is a wonderful place to relax and watch the cold, cold waters of the Pacific break against the beach.
Chileans are quite socially conservative, yet their government is headed by a socialist woman, Michelle Bachelet, graduate of the Inter American Defense College at Ft McNair, DC, (her father was a Chilean Attache in Washington, one of the most popular generals in the Chilean military, and was jailed by Pinochet and supposedly suffered a heart attack during torture) and is pretty much geared towards a European social democrat system. I had the incredible opportunity of meeting her while she was a student at the College and I was in the Pol-Mil world in the Pentagon. The Chileans are amazingly disciplined. In a few years, we in the US will have a higher incidence of poverty than Chile. Yet their economy is quite a blast furnace and they're extremely sophisticated technologically. An incredible country. And yes, they did buy F-16s from us, being only the second Latin American country to have this system.
Chile and Spain have a strong similarity in their history. Both were victims of brutal fascist dictatorships; Chile with Pinochet, and Spain with Franco. Both harbor deep political divisions, and it will surprise you just how many Chileans will approach you and sing the praises of Pinochet. Yet others will freely discuss how their relatives disappeared. But the bottom line, friendly people, extremely hospitable, very warm, and quite congenial.
rusty... Did you feel like the trip was worth it? It's a long way to go
For me, the trip was well worth it because of the overall experience. For the skiing alone, there's no need to go further than the Rockies.
There's a good article on Bariloche in the February 08 issue of Travel and Leisure. It's not online so you'll have to get a printed copy.