Skiing in South America: Deep, off-piste powder without the crowds.
The Southern Andes are dotted with high-altitude resorts, most with skiing above 3,000 meters, where the snow is deep, terrain is challenging, the wine is outstanding and skiing back to your hotel is the norm. The ski areas of Chile and Argentina are open between mid-June and mid-October.
For beginners and intermediates, South America offers wide-open snowfields and well-groomed runs, while advanced skiers can hit some of the steepest and deepest off-piste powder in the world.
South American ski resorts are generally quite small, with a limited choice of accommodation, bars and restaurants.
The main Chilean ski resorts are Portillo, El Colorado, Valle Nevado, Villarrica/Pucon.
While Portillo (2512-3348m) is South America's oldest, and arguably most famous ski resort, Portillo’s owners have kept the resort small and intimate. In fact one of its biggest selling points is that the resort has just one hotel, which accommodates 450 people at a time, meaning there are rarely any lift queues and the 45 kilometres (28 miles) of pistes are never crowded. Portillo offers something for all levels, from well-groomed beginner and intermediate runs to steep, powder-packed off-piste.
El Colorado (2430-3333m) is the closest resort to the Chilean capital, Santiago. The ski centre is a cone-shaped peak with wide-open fields best suited to beginners and intermediates. The Park Colorado is the largest snowpark in Chile and features jumps, rails, and boxes for all levels.
Valle Nevado (3025-3670m) is known for its beautiful sunshine and lofty altitude. Its local pistes offer high-altitude skiing, meaning sunshine and excellent snow conditions are almost guaranteed. The powder-packed slopes are suitable for all levels. Valle Nevado has a variety of lifts, including the Andes Express chairlift — the only high-speed quad in Chile, and the most modern in the region. Expert skiers and snowboarders flock to the deep powder bowls above the tree line.
Argentina’s main ski resorts are Las Leñas, Cerro Catedral, Caviahue, Chapelco and Cerro Castor.
Las Leñas (2239-3429m) is known for its high-altitude skiing, meaning snow conditions are reliable and skiing back to your accommodation is often possible. Its 64 kilometres (40 miles) of well-groomed pistes are suitable for all levels. Las Leñas is known for its deep off-piste powder, the best of which is accessed from one of the most legendary chairlifts in the world, the Marte chair. Experts flock to Las Leñas for its steep bowl and long couloirs. The snowpark features jumps, bumps, and rails.
Cerro Catedral (1030-2180m) may not be as high as Las Leñas, but it has twice the ski area. The 120 kilometres (75 miles) are suitable for all levels and served by 38 lifts, including a modern bubble and six-seater chairlift. The snowpark has rails, boxes, and ramps. It hosts four freestyle events: Big Air Reef, Rip Curl Winter Search, Girls Only, and Gorilla Day.