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Sled Access Backcountry Skiing - Reviews

Fantastic backcountry skiing - without the hike!

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    United States
Wood fired heater in our room Great tree skiing Backcountry access without the hiking! Not quite powder-8's, but great untracked lines
My son (age12) and I just returned from a fantastic 2 day, 2 night stay at Mallin Alto. We highly recommend this adventure.

Getting to the Dome
Our adventure began during the insertion to Mallin Alto. Carlos picked us up at our hotel in Bariloche around 5pm. We drove for about a hour out of town until the road ended at a remote ranch owned by Kao’s great uncle (age 86!). They called this “stage1”. During “stage2” we were soon fording rivers that were up to the floor boards of the car. At points we were driving straight up the stream bed itself. “Stage3” started at the snow line where we transferred to a tracked vehicle that took us up to the domes which are perched in a remote alpine setting. It was snowing so hard that we had to wait another full day before we could see the amazing views. Living in the dome was very relaxed and quite comfortable. The food was excellent and the wood burning stove/heaters made for a great atmosphere. However, we would not recommend Mallin Alto for those who have “high maintenance” standards.

There are seemingly endless lines with great terrain at Mallin Alto. We had great snow during our visit to Mallin Alto. High winds, snow and clouds on the first day kept us skiing mostly in the trees with a few late-afternoon runs higher on an open ridge. Second day after the wind died, we enjoyed repeated laps on wide-open lines in untracked, light powder. Amazing! In our opinion, a skier who is comfortable skiing black diamond runs at a resort in a full range of snow conditions (powder, crud, wind slab, hard pack, trees) will get the most out of a visit to Mallin Alto. We also found that wide skis were a definite advantage in Mallin Alto’s snow conditions.

Kao and his team are master snowmobile drivers which allows them to summit steep terrain and maneuver between tight trees. As other reviewers have said, riding a snowmobile is a thrilling, demanding and active process. You don’t get the same rest between runs as you do on a lift or cat skiing. Our max was 14 runs on the second day for a vertical of 12,000 feet.

Kao and his extended family/team are excellent hosts. Memories from our Mallin Alto adventure will last a lifetime.

An Amazing Adventure

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  • Would Revisit
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The refugio / hut The view from bed Hard not to have a good time out in the backcountry Hot tub action Morning skiing
Whilst the snow quality wasn’t particularly favourable to bucket list powder skiing, the overall experience at Mallin Alto was definitely the highlight of our ski trip to South America. It was amazing! Staying way up in a remote part of the mountains, in unique lodging with beautiful food, phenomenal views, and delightful people was truly magnificent.

The trip definitely would not have suited princesses or the unadventurous. Some funny things happened whilst we were away – keep your mind open!

It took a mighty long time to get there but this was part of the adventure! We travelled in an old 4WD car and stopped along the way at the land owners shack, an amusing legendary old man who lives with the gauchos and tries to make something of the land. They were cooking some sort of armadillo looking creature in a pot, and it smelled disgusting so it was time to get out of there!

The trail became super bumpy as we crossed creeks and rocks. When we reached the snow line we transferred to snowmobiles and an ATV 4-wheeler (thank god we’d packed reasonably lightly!). Sure we got bogged along the way which now provides an adventurous tale or two, but we arrived safely at the warm hut at the top of the mountain to be greeted with snacks and a bevvie.

The main hut was like a cubby house with dome tents (like yurts) attached to it – Kao’s little creation that he keeps adding parts to. This whole experience was uber rustic yet the lodging had more than enough creature comforts to keep us very happy. We stayed in the private “honeymoon suite” (the separate dome tent) which felt somewhat luxurious with its wood fired heater. A definite highlight was the big window that afforded the most amazing views across the mountain. At night time there was a small glow of the snow capped mountains and as the sun started to rise it was difficult to continue sleeping because I just wanted to gawk at the views.

The hot tub added to the whole relaxing experience. It was wood fired and sitting on the corner of the deck, it also afforded spectacular views.

The food was pretty amazing. Our chef (we called him the Argentine George Clooney) was a bit of a marvel at creating lovely food, especially considering the location we were in.

Sled Skiing:
Obviously the snowcat rating isn’t applicable.
We missed the most amazing skiing by a couple of days. A big dump of snow had hit the Bariloche area but then the temps had warmed a little, so the snow quality was far from optimal. As there’s only a little bit of tree skiing at Mallin Alto, most of the snow is unprotected from the sun and elements, although there are some good aspects that are shady.

Not having done sled skiing before, I was a little surprised at how much energy it took to ride up on the sled on the side (and more so when occasionally I was towed behind). Super fun of course, but more tiring than snowcat or heli skiing.

Whilst you could easily do 2000-5000 metres of vertical each day, we chose to keep the skiing to just the morning (when the snow was soft but nice) and then hit the deck for some R&R, hot tubbing, wine and more food!

On the face of it, the sled skiing may seem a little expensive, particularly considering it’s not luxurious accommodation. However once we got there we could definitely see the value associated with it, especially considering how special the setting was. Firstly there’s just the logistics of getting guests, gear, food and drinks up to the hut. High staff to guest ratios are also required to manage the logistics once up at the hut, whether it be lighting the fire for the shower or the hot tub, or the amazing food. The service levels were very high, and the staff ever so friendly.

It was a bit of a shame that we didn’t hit Mallin Alto with primo conditions, but it seemed that skiing or snowboarding is really only one small part of the experience. Being out in the remote backcountry and living it up was pretty special!