The quality of the trails, world class infrastructure, scenic beauty and quick access are only a few of the attributes offered by Chile’s ski centers that each season attract thousand of tourists to our country.
How could we describe something that you have not experienced? Hard to tell. Asking somebody who has doesn’t solve the problem either. No way other than assuming the challenge.
Skiing. For those who had never walked over a ski track, it is the ideal dream: speed, vertigo, status, year round tan, no limits fun, etc. For others, a little more hesitant, it means not being able to lift the beefiest part of the body from the ground, definitely not an inspiring panorama.
However, for the chosen ones, that know the art of sliding over the snow, it is only a matter of time (and weather) for the ski centers of our country to turn the switches on and get the lifts going. Don’t forget that the ski season in Chile starts normally on June 15 (a pre-season may come earlier if snow conditions permit) and ending on early October.
Of your are making your first "steps" (or better, " bumps") in this sport or if you are from distant lands, and you don’t know where to go in Chile, you will find in this article a complete sketch of each center, resort or ski refuge in Chile.
From the fifth to the twelfth regions, Chile has ski centers of world class recognition that make it one of the best destination for world skiers, and reasons for this fame include: quality of the trails, world class infrastructure, scenic view, quick access, proximity to urban centers, among others.
In Central Chile (fifth, metropolitan , sixth, and seventh regions) the places to ski are Portillo, El Colorado/Farellones, La Parva, Valle Nevado, Lagunillas and Chapa Verde. In Southern Chile we can mention Termas de Chillan, Antuco, Las Araucarias, Villarrica-Pucón, and Antillanca. More to the South, we have Cerro El Fraile and in the far South, Cerro Mirador, the southernmost ski center of the world, where you can ski with a shore view.
Most Famous First.
Located in the Fifth Region, 149 km. from Santiago (and 2860 m. above sea level), this ski center is one of the oldest, most beautiful and famous of the Country. Among its attributes we have Del Inca lagoon in the middle, modern snowmaking and world record track for speed skiing.
The center is equipped with platter, chair and va-et-vient lifts that will take you to trails of different levels of difficulty, with vertical drops from 8 to 680 m. and a maximum altitude of 3.350 m. above sea level.
The ski domain is 24% of easy trails, 33% intermediate and 43% are difficult to expert (mostly 2 diamonds). In the latter we can mention the run called "Roca de Jack", where the world record for speed skiing was set and not yet surpassed.
With powder snow on its 23 runs this center offers the visitors other alternatives to the white sport. The heliski and snowboard are ideal for the adrenaline junkies. Otherwise, the Del Inca Lagoon turns into an excellent place to practice the beautiful ice skating discipline.
This center is not only about great runs and a beautiful scenery. The Hotel Portillo offers a great variety of services to make your stay more enjoyable and comfortable. These services include a heated pool, gym, sauna, restaurants, child care facilities, entertainment room, movie theater, ski school, to mention a few.
Farellones y El Colorado
Farellones/El Colorado is a typical example of symbiosis of a ski center with a winter town that together make a attractive ski destination, going beyond what a ski center can offer.
This ski complex is the closest to Santiago city, only 40 kms. away over a paved road, and is the favorite destination for the local skiers.
With 19 lifts, surface and chairs combined, the skiers can choose from 22 trails of powder snow, with difficulty level that goes from "easy" to "expert", after arriving to the summit of Cerro Colorado (3333 m).
Both places offer a variety of lodging options, where we can highlight El Colorado Apart Hotel and the Posada de Farellones Hotel , being the latter, one of the first lodges in this place since the mid ’40s. You can also find restaurants, cafeterias, discos, ski school, ski rental, private hospital and transportation.
This winter village 2.650 m. above sea level dominates from above the city of Santiago, 50 km away, and is very close to El Colorado/Farellones.
It has 14 lifts surface and chairs combined covering 9.670 meters in a skiable terrain of 30 sq. km., distributed among 30 trails rated from "easy" to "most difficult".
Like in other centers, snowboard and heliski are also available for those who enjoy these activities.
In La Parva village the visitor can find most services like restaurants, cafeterias, bars, discos, ski school, ski rental, and transportation.
Combining the skiable terrain from El Colorado/Farellones, La Parva and Valle Nevado you have the biggest ski area of South America. With a common lift ticket you can go from one center to another, having a total of 102 trails and a huge off-piste area.
Nevertheless, Valle Nevado has its own merits. Only 60 km. Away from Santiago this is the youngest ski center (running since 1988) and the biggest also. It has world class infrastructure and services comparable to those in Europe and North America.
Rising 3.025 m. above sea level, this center has 9 lifts, (3 chair and 6 platter) and a "baby lift" for children or those beginning, that will take you to 27 trails and a skiable area of 31 sq. km. There are zones for heliski and helisurf, and also a snowboard park. You can also ride a snowmobile or a dogsled, or practice hanggliding or paragliding.
If you are looking for a comfortable vacation, this complex has 3 luxury hotels, 7 international food restaurants, shopping center, bars, pub, disco, heated pool, gym, child care center and transportation. And if you are new to the sport or want to practice a new variety, you can have private or shared lessons in the International Ski School.
Termas de Chillán
What distinguishes this center form the rest? It combines a variety of activities and attractions hard to find in a single place. Termas de Chillan (Chillan Hot Springs) has one of the biggest skiable domains in South America, complemented with a SPA that has contributed to his fame.
Located 480 km. South of Santiago, and 82 km. East of Chillan, this center has over 10.000 hectares of skiable area, 28 trails of powder snow and 9 lift both chair and surface. We can highlight a chairlift going 2.500 m. long, the longest in South America.
The maximum skiable altitude is 2.700 m. and you can practice some varieties to alpine skiing like Nordic or randonne (alpine touring). To these you can add the popular ones like snowboard, heliski and even ride a snowmobile or a dogsled.
Termas de Chillan offers some alternative activities for those who can’t ski like horseback riding, trekking, biking or climbing the Chillan Volcano.
The lodging options do not fall behind with the Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan and the Pirigallo Hotel. Services are also varied: pools, bars, disco, gym, child care, squash, SPA, etc.
Villarrica Ski Center
In the foothills of the Villarrica Volcano, 125 km. Southwest of Temuco and in the middle of the "Araucania", this ski center is located in one of the most attractive tourist regions of the country.
This allows the visitors for multiple complementary entertainments that will make the stay more enjoyable. Notice for example, that the ski center is within the limits of the Villarrica Volcano National Park, with five marvelous lakes around and hot springs everywhere, and if you wish – and can keep going after the ski session – Villarrica and Pucon villages offer several alternatives to keep your body in motion.
Administered by the Gran Hotel Pucón, this centers has 7 lifts, both surface and chairs, that will take you to trails of different levels of difficulty, making it suitable for beginners and experts alike. The center offers several services like cafeteria, ski rental, ski school, parking and infirmary.
The access to the center is very quick although it is required to carry tire chains.
In the foothills of the Casablanca Volcano and within the limits of the Puyehue National Park, the Antillanca ski center has gained a deserved international reputation thanks to the excellent powder snow trails and beautiful scenic views.
Antillanca, that means "sun jewel" , is located 98 km, Southwest of Osorno, rising 1.050 m. above sea level. With 4 lifts and 10 trails offers different levels of difficulty. This center has lodging, cafeteria, restaurant, sauna, heated pool, gym, and disco.
The not so famous.
The fact that the following ski centers are no so recognized, does not necessarily mean they are of lesser quality, but usually have less infrastructure and services.
Located in the Metropolitan Region, 17 km. from San Jose de Maipo and at 2.200 m. above sea level, the Lagunillas ski center receives the sport fans and mountain beauty lovers in a homelike environment that other centers don’t have. With 3 surface lifts this place is ideal for children and beginners. Private refuges from Digeder, CEAL, Swiss Club and Chilean Andean Club are located here.
Located in CODELCO’s land, the Chapa Verde ski center is the choice in the Sixth Region. It is located 60 km Northeast of Rancagua and access is restricted to CODELCO buses. Daily departures from Rancagua, Av. Miguel Ramirez 665, Mon.-Fri at 09:00, Sat-Sun and Holidays at 08:00. This center is equipped with 3 surface lifts and one chair serving 8 trails. You will also find a refuge, restaurant, cafeteria, ski rental, ski school, first aid, and ski patrol.
Antuco. This center gets its name form the volcano that hosts it, in the Bio-Bio Region, within the limits of Laguna del Laja National Park. Located 89 km east of Los Angeles and 1.400 m. high, this small center is equipped with 3 surface lifts. There are several private shelters, cafeteria, bar, ski rental and ski school. It is possible to spend the night in the Los Angeles Ski Club.
Another center located in a national park is Las Araucarias, in the Conguillio N.P., 78 km east of Temuco, regional capital of La Araucania region. With 2 surface lifts and marvelous scenery this center offers also ski rental, ski school, cafeteria and lodging.
Farther to the south, in the Patagonia zone we can find the Cerro El Fraile ski center ( 1.600 m above sea level ), where you can ski below the tree line, surrounded by lenga, nirre and pine trees, with a skiable area of 577 hectares.
Located 29 km. Southeast of Coyhaique, this center is equipped with 2 lifts and 5 trails from 600 m. to 2.200 m. long. A cafeteria, ski rental and first aid are available.
The world’s southernmost ski center is the Cerro Mirador. Located 8 km. west of Punta Arenas city, Magallanes Region, 600 m above sea level, Cerro Mirador has 2 lifts and 11 trails plotted amidst a lenga (birch) forest. The center offers ski rental, ski school, restaurant and first aid. From the center you have an scenic view of the city, the Magellan Strait and Tierra del Fuego.
The ski season is here. The snow fever begins to spread among the ski lovers, who are preparing their equipment and spirit to hit the summits and plummet downhill. And if you are with those in doubt, what do you think? Will it be worth to go for it? You bet.
Text: G. Salinas