Ski Chile, South America
Ski Chile at some of the great ski resorts perched up high in the majestic Andes mountain range. Chile is a great destination for a ski or snowboard holiday because you can combine powder skiing with an interesting culture.
Other than the skiing, Chile is also renowned for its weird shape – the long skinny country that spans 4,300km along the coast of South America and is 18 times longer than its widest point. It’s the land of startling diversity in regards to its geography and climate. From hot arid deserts in the north, to the chilly (OK, pun intended!) expanses of Patagonia in the south, it’s definitely the land of contrasts.
Chile Ski Resorts
Chile has at least 20 ski resorts located in the southern half of the country. The most northern resort is Portillo
, which is 164km northeast of Santiago
, and not far from the border of Argentina. Portillo ski resort is world renowned, and is recognized in photos by the distinctive yellow Hotel Portillo set amongst the magnificent backdrop of the snow covered Andes.
Also near Santiago
are the ski resorts in the Three Valleys (Tres Valles): the modern and massive world class Valle Nevado
, and the interconnected La Parva
, El Colorado
ski resorts. To the southeast of Santiago is little Lagunillas, a non-commercial ski resort. Nearby is Chapa Verde, 145km from Santiago.
About five hours south of Santiago near Chillan is Nevados de Chillan
(formerly known as Termas de Chillan), a hot springs resort that sits on two active volcanoes. Further south is the small family resort of Ski Pucon
on the Villarica Volcano. This ski resort is also situated on a volcano, and is popular with freestylers due to the natural half pipes formed by lava flows. Other southern resorts include Antillanca
(adjacent to Bariloche in Argentina) Antuco, Corralco
(on Lonquimay Volcano), Llaima, and El Fraile. And way down south is the Cerro Mirador Resort.
The lift systems at the Chile ski resorts are generally not very good, especially when compared to USA ski resorts
and skiing in Canada
. Undertake a good pre-season fitness regime, as your quads won’t get much rest on all those surface tows (although they will get a long rest on the slow chairlifts). The ski resorts nearer to Santiago have acceptable lift and facility infrastructure, whilst the more southern resorts have less infrastructure on offer. The upside of the lack of glitz is the lower cost. Another disadvantage for many of the southern resorts is that they are not well suited to the expert skier or boarder.
Skiing in Chile
The Andes is the second highest mountain range in the world, and it’s still rising. The summit of Aconcagua which is only 15km from the border of Chile, sits at 6,950 metres (22,841 feet). Thankfully the ski resorts aren’t as high, but those around Santiago still rise to around 3,650 metres. These elevations are fantastic for the views and snow quality, but are not quite so good for the ability to breathe for the first day or so.
These northern ski resorts are above the tree line, and as you move further south the elevations are lower which affords some tree skiing opportunities. Average annual snowfalls are generally around the 6-7 metre mark, except for Nevados de Chillan
and Ski Pucon
that receive a bountiful 10 metres annually. The snowpack is coastal, so it’s reasonably stable, and considering the cool temperatures, the powder is reasonably dry. That being said, Chile ski resorts sometimes also suffer from horrendously icy conditions.
The weather can be very kind and provide lots of sunny days, but considering that many of the resorts are very exposed, nasty weather can close the resorts and access roads for days at a time. This may put a quick dampener on your ski vacation, but when the bluebird day arrives you’ll forget about it and enjoy skiing bliss once again.
Heli Skiing and Cat Skiing in Chile
There are various heli skiing
and heli boarding
opportunities in Chile. These are typically situated at the upscale ski resorts such as Portillo, Valle Nevado, and La Parva. All the operations provide single day heli skiing packages, and most provide single runs options. See our Heli Ski Chile
overview for more information.
There is only one formal Chile cat skiing operation. The Ski Arpa
cat skiing operation is located about 100km north of Santiago.
When is the Ski Season in Chile?
Chile is a great place to have a winter vacation in summer (of course this only works for those who live in the Northern Hemisphere!), or a winter vacation in winter! The ski season begins in mid-June and runs to October. However the best skiing conditions in Chile are generally mid July to early September, but the busy Chile holidays are during July.
Why Ski or Snowboard in Chile?
Chile is a great place to have a ski holiday and experience the Latin culture all at the same time. You can speak Spanish to your heart’s content or giggle at the Spanglish where eating is described as “gastronomy”, and skiing is something that you practise. In Chile, dinner is eaten late, dancing goes to the wee hours, and you might get away with having an après siesta. And as part of the culture, only the super keen powderhounds are up early for first lifts. Fantástico!
Chile Fully Hosted & Guided Ski & Snowboard Safaris
A great way to explore the Chile ski resorts is to go on a multi-resort tour. The guides look after any language issues and transport requirements, and the guides know the terrain intimately so you get to ski the best lines in the best snow with your safety being paramount.
You don't need to be an expert or advanced rider as there are many intermediate trips available, and some tours incorporate instruction or coaching.
Chile Packages & Tours
Cant decide which resort to go to? Why not join an organised tour and visit several ski areas on the one trip and be driven around from one place to another, guided to the best spots on each mountain (relative to your ability) and in some tours you will be provided with instruction along the way!
See the Chile ski tours
for more information. For tour dates and an indication of availability, check out the South America ski tours schedule