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powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Lifts & Terrain

Nevados de Chillan Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The variety of ski and snowboard terrain at Nevados de Chillan is fabulous. It's the best in Chile!

The lower part of the mountain has the best beginner terrain in Chile, yet Nevados de Chillan also has very interesting terrain for advanced and expert skiers. This is not a standard mountain with a front face that has uninterrupted runs with perfect fall line and no cambre. Sure there are some areas with wide-open terrain, but in the top half of the ski area, volcanic eruptions and rivers of lava have left lots of mounds, mini bowls, natural half pipes, steep pitches, and drop-offs. Nevados de Chillan has a plethora of playgrounds to explore.

Nevados de Chillan is a reasonably large ski resort and it has some claims to fame. It has the longest run in South America, the 13km long Tres Marias, and the biggest vertical drop in Chile. It has the longest chair lift, the Otto, with a length of 2,500 metres covering a vertical ascent of 700 metres. Don’t be too impressed though, as the lift is painfully slow. It takes 21 minutes to get to the top (and when we last visited it took 24 minutes)! There’s a big screen at the top of the chairlift that looks like it belongs at a drive-in cinema. It’s a shame that they don’t show movies, as it would help pass the time!

Another statistic that the resort can lay claim to is that it receives the most snowfall in South America (although it has to share this claim with Pucon Villarica). And thankfully for powder hounds it’s easy enough to score the abundant snow in the form of fresh tracks. Even when it's busy (e.g. July school holidays), there is a high proportion of beginner and intermediate skiers, so there are plenty of fresh tracks on offer in the more challenging parts of the mountain.

Unlike the ski resorts near Santiago, some of terrain at Nevados de Chillan is below the tree line. However tree skiing fiends shouldn't get too excited. The snow quality on the lower quarter of the mountain is often not conducive to off-piste skiing, and in many areas the spooky trees adorned with green hair are either too close together, or have too much undergrowth. However in the right snow conditions and with some exploring, some amazing tree skiing can be found.

Lifts

In past years, Nevados de Chillan had all sorts of problems when it came to the lifts. Back when Termas de Chillan owned the resort, the quality of the lifts was appalling. Then as many conflicts arose with the new ownership the bickering resulted in some lifts being closed. That’s mostly sorted now and Nevados de Chillan has been upgrading the lifts (thankfully!).

The ski area has a combination of chair lifts and surface lifts which are handy in windy conditions when some of the chairs have to close. And sometimes the Otto lift off-loads at the mid station if it's too windy at the top.

Someone did a crap job of designing the Enlace T-bar because if the chair lifts are closed (or you want to access it from the mid-mountain base) you have to sidestep up about 20 metres to get to it.

The main lifts open rather late in the morning (as the time zone is a bit skew-iff), but don’t trust the lift status reports you’ll find on-line or in the hotels – they’re generally not accurate.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are included as part of Nevados de Chillan packages for the on-mountain hotels (although the hotels might be rather tardy in making the lift passes available in the morning – annoying on a powder day!). Be aware that Gran Hotel packages include lift passes, but these are not for the main ski area of Nevados de Chillan so you’ll have to purchase these separately.

The resort has a designated capacity (although I’m not sure if this is related to a certain number of lift tickets or the car parking capacity), so when it’s busy (e.g. late July weekends) day trippers may get turned away if they arrive late.

Nevados de Chillan Snow and Weather

The Nevados de Chillan snow is generally bountiful so powder days are frequent.

The slopes are mostly south to southwest facing which is good for the snow quality, but like other South American ski resorts, the quality of the snow can be very inconsistent. Sometimes the powder is dry whilst at other times it can be rather wet. The resort is further south than those around Santiago, but the top elevation is about 1,000 metres lower. With almost 1,000 metres of vertical, the snow conditions in the lower parts of the resort can be poor. At these low elevations it sometimes rains, or the snow can be sloppy or icy. Hopefully the beginners that hang out in this area won’t care (or know!) that the snow is much better at the top of the mountain.

Nevados de Chillan commonly suffers from windy conditions. The obvious downsides of this are that your face may get cold, lifts may close, and the snow becomes wind affected. However on the upside, the wind creates additional terrain features with undulations and cornices, and there are always windblown powder stashes to explore.

Keep an eye out for the occasional “hole” in the snow created by the steam rising from the fumaroles. Alternatively keep a nose out for the stinky sulphur!

Nevados de Chillan Skiing for the Beginner

The beginners’ areas at Nevados de Chillan are absolutely fabulous. Many of the beginner runs are spread across the lower quarter of the mountain, below the tree line where they are well protected from any inclement weather.

There is also a great beginner run located mid-mountain near the Alto Nevados Hotel.

Ski Center Valle Hermoso is located at the base of Nevados de Chillan and is ideal for beginners. This ski area has separate lift tickets (that are included with Gran Hotel packages).

Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Both the blue and red runs are appropriate for intermediate riders. Some of the blue runs are wide groomers that are great for cruising or racing, and there are plenty of places to pop off the side for an off-piste experiment in the powder (on good visibility days).

The super long Tres Marias run is a great way to zip down the full vertical of the resort on a narrow-ish trail, but you’d probably only do it once a day because the slow lifts required to return to the top are too much to bear.

Terrain Park

Nevados de Chillan supposedly has a terrain park although it’s always been closed when we’ve visited. Thankfully there are plenty of natural terrain features for shredders.

Advanced Terrain On-Piste

The advanced trails are really just intermediate trails, and there is one long expert trail off the Otto chair (if it’s not closed due to avalanche risk) which would get rather boring after doing it a couple of times (and after twiddling your thumbs sitting on the Otto chair).

Off Piste Skiing Nevados de Chillan

Nevados de Chillan has incredibly interesting and challenging terrain with a plethora of ridges, humps, gullies, cornices and some short steep pitches. The resort has designated freeride areas, and you’re supposed to log-in at the office in the Otto Plaza to get a wrist band.

Some of the best ski and board terrain is off the long Otto lift. If you don’t want to be challenged too much, off load at the mid-station and play in the bowls and gullies either side of the lift. Or from the top of the lift there are more challenging lines. In this treeless terrain you can just spot a line that takes your fancy.

The trails that fan out on the skiers’ right in the Tres Marias area provide a smorgasbord of lines in which to play. Snowboarders will need to keep up plenty of speed on the traverses. Another disadvantage is that the snow on this side of the hill may be more wind affected than that around Otto.

With a bit of exploration in the gullies and on a cold day, a degree of tree skiing can be found in the mid sections of the resort. When the snow is really good, there’s some fabulous old growth forest skiing near the Bosque Nevado trail.

A degree of avalanche control work is undertaken in the designated freeride areas, but it would be very wise to don your avalanche safety gear anyhow.

Backcountry

If you’ve got energy to burn, there are a plethora of backcountry opportunities available from the top parts of the resort. The obvious temptations are to tour up to the three volcanoes, and the Pirigallo Valley is particularly well renowned.

As with all backcountry skiing, check with patrol regarding the conditions and take the usual precautions and safety equipment.

The resort runs guided cat skiing runs a few times a day, which are very reasonably priced. The Nevados de Chillan cat skiing is held in the alpine terrain above the Otto chair (Volcan Chillan Nuevo), so the operation is very weather dependent.

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  • Open Termas de Chillan Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,530– 2,500 (970)
  • Average Snow Fall
    10.1  metres
  • Lifts (12)
    2 Quads
    1 Triple
  • Ski Hours 9:30am to 5:00pm
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 32
    Longest run – 13 km
    Expert - 20%
    Advanced - 30%
    Intermediate - 30%
    Beginner - 20%
  • Lift Prices Adult/child
    1 Day – 40.000/31.000