Argentina: Party Hearty And Ski Spectacular Snowfields -
From the wine regions of Mendoza to the southernmost tip of South America, Argentina’s ski and snowboard areas offer some spectacular skiing and riding. Argentineans like to party in style and, like their neighbours in Chile, think nothing of stepping out for dinner at 11 p.m. and the disco after midnight. Most resorts have ski in, ski out accommodation so there’s not far to walk to the lift in the morning.
Las Lenas is the most extreme of the Argentinean mountain resorts and known for its lift accessed back country with steep pitches, deep powder snow and some seriously white knuckle runs. The vertical drop at Las Lenas is 1200 metres, or 1.2 kilometres and the resort has 230 hectares of inbound skiable terrain.
There are 27 official runs, but a host of out of bounds backcountry skiing that requires a knowledge of avalanche and extreme conditions. The resort does offer some excellent intermediate skiing, but it really comes into its own for those at the advanced end. The resort base is basic, the emphasis here is on skiing, but there is a variety of accommodation options from luxe to budget and, where there is snow, you will find bars and people willing to party.
The resort town of Bariloche further south is an alpine tourist Mecca on the shores of a lake with the Andres thrusting skyward. It’s a modern town akin to Aspen, but with a European influence and feel. There’s an airport making Bariloche easily accessible from Buenos Aires. Some of the country’s finest lodge and hotel resorts are found in Bariloche and from there, it’s possible to ski a number of resorts including Cerro Catedral.
Cerro Catedral is named after the peaks that form a cathedral formation with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding Andes from the piste. Cerro Catedral has 600 hectares of skiable terrain inside the Nahuel Huapi national park and the resort offers 29 lifts and a 25, 45 and 30 percent split between beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain. It’s possible to stay in Catedral at the base of the mountain in the local village with a variety of hotels and lodges or at Bariloche, 19 kilometres away.
The alpine region of Villa La Angostura is home to Cerro Bayo ski and snowboard area, which offers 200 hectares of terrain complete with tree runs. You won’t find the lift queues of Catedral at Bayo. The mountain has a 700 metre vertical drop, 23 runs and 12 lifts. Around 40 percent of the resort is intermediate and 35 percent advanced.
Further south again is Chapelco ski area sits in the country’s southwest region near San Martin de Los Andes. With 140 hectares of terrain, it’s a boutique style resort, smaller and more intimate with a good blend of gentle slopes ideal for families and some backcountry adrenaline runs for those willing to hike. There’s plenty of tree skiing on offer as the resort is set within a forest and the base town is picture postcard cute.
Cerro Castor is the southernmost ski field in the world. It’s elevation is low from 195 metres to 1,057 metres and it’s close to the sea so the snow, while plentiful, is not as dry as up north. The novelty of skiing this far south and this close to the ocean is an attraction unto itself. The majority of the terrain is intermediate across 600 hectares and 23 runs.
Getting between resorts in Argentina is not always an easy task. Las Lenas to Bariloche takes 16 hours in two different buses so if you’re planning a snow safari allow for travel times. There are however enough resorts to cater for all sorts of skier or boarder and if there is some travel time it will be well rewarded with Argentina’s unique approach to skiing and snowboarding where style and a love of life combine.