Cerro Catedral Lifts & Terrain


Cerro Catedral Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

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

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Cerro Catedral Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,030 – 2,180 (1,150)
  • Average Snow Fall
    6 metres (summit)
  • Lifts (37)
    1 Gondola
    1 Six-pack
    2 Quads
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am to 5:00pm
    Mid June to mid October
  • Terrain Summary
    Area - 1,200 ha
    Longest run – 9 km
    Expert - 5%
    Advanced - 20%
    Intermediate - 60%
    Beginner - 15%

Cerro Catedral Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Cerro Catedral is sometimes called the Whistler of South America, in part because of the size of the ski resort and the huge vertical. Whilst it’s only about a third of the size and only 70% of the vertical of Whistler Blackcomb, Catedral is still a giant, especially by South American standards!

The mountain can be roughly broken into three vertical parts. The base area is narrow with a handful of beginner and intermediate runs largely serviced by surface lifts and slow double chairs. The middle area of the ski resort is also below the tree line and is characterized by an abundance of cat tracks that wind down the mountain. The déjà vu cat tracks can make orientation a little challenging initially, and they may provide an annoyance (and potential danger!) to off-piste riders heading through the trees. The upper part of the mountain is above the timberline and fans out into a huge area providing terrain for intermediate, advanced and expert riders.

Cerro Catedral can also be divided into two sides; these were separately owned many years ago. If you want to ride both sides, be aware that it’s easy to move from lookers’ left to right but not so easy to move the other way without returning to the base.

Catedral Alta Patagonia Lifts

Catedral Alta Patagonia has 37 ski lifts. Whilst the lift infrastructure is a far cry from lifts at high profile North American ski resorts, the lifts at Cerro Catedral are fantastic relative to other South American resorts where an abundance of surface lifts are the norm.

The Amancay Gondola is the main lift from the base up to the left side of the mountain, whilst the super fast Sextuple lift (six-pack) with the bubble is the primary lift from the base up to the right side of the mountain. Both of these lifts as well as other double chairs can be downloaded. There are 3 quads chairs; otherwise the chair lifts consist of slow double and triple chairs. Catedral also has lots of surface lifts, but unless you’re a novice you’ll be able to avoid these.

Catedral Alta Patagonia also has a cable car, although this is only for pedestrians.

The considerable development over recent years has alleviated the previous problems of really really long lift queues that were commonplace. However if even a few lifts are closed due to wind for example, the lift lines can be horrendous, especially on the slow double chairs. As is typical of Argentina, there is minimal organisation to maximise lift capacity. There are no singles lanes and quad chairs commonly only have one or two people sitting on them. When you’re standing in a lift queue this can be a little infuriating, but you just have to learn to get into the Argentine culture of “all in good time”.

Catedral Lift Tickets

Cerro Catedral lift tickets are amongst the most expensive in the country. In addition to this, kids 12 and above are considered adults, and they also charge a small fortune for infants (0 to 5). However lift ticket prices seem somewhat reasonable considering the size and infrastructure of the resort, and they’re not as expensive as Las Lenas where there are only 13 lifts. And of course depending on the currency exchange, the lift tickets are significantly cheaper than at Whistler, Vail or Park City!

Cerro Catedral has electronic keycards which are scanned through turnstiles without the need for contact, however if you just purchase a day pass at the window they’ll give you a lift ticket that needs to be inserted into a machine at the turnstile.

Buying a lift ticket on-mountain can be a process. There are often queues and once you get up to the ticket window you can see Argentine efficiency at its best….not! And as at other Argentina ski resorts, if you want to use your credit card you’ll need to enter the PIN, sign the receipt, AND provide your passport number. They may even want to see your passport.

Cerro Catedral Snow Conditions

As to be expected, the snow quality and quantity varies significantly across the 1,150 metres of vertical. The average annual snowfall at the top is 6 metres and the quality can be really good; a little better than nearby Cerro Bayo and Chapelco where the top elevation is about 200 to 400 metres lower.

Further down in the trees the powder is commonly wet and heavy, and after a little while it can turn to complete snot, slop or ice.

Down near the base the snow is often a complete disaster. Don’t take your brand new skis or snowboard to Catedral because the snow in the lower parts is frequently scant or absent. The average annual snowfall is only 1.5 metres. The snow that doesn’t get washed away by the frequent rain in the village gets baked by the sun and quickly melts.

Cerro Catedral claims to have a comprehensive snowmaking system, but they’re clearly dreaming! There are just a handful of guns and they don’t seem to know when to use them.

If you’re at Catedral late in the season you might be lucky enough to score a legendary huge dump from a Santa Rosa storm. There may be more myth to this popular Argentina legend than reality, but part of the theory is that Santa Rosa storms occur up to five days earlier than or five days later than the Santa Rosa festival of Lima which is celebrated on the 30th of August each year.

Beginner Terrain at Catedral

Most of the beginner terrain is at the base area, so if the snow cover is scant, poor beginners may be dodging around patches of dirt. Confident beginners can also upload and download the gondola and head up to La Hoyita.

Intermediate Skiing and Boarding

Catedral is fabulous for intermediates due to the vast number of blue runs (for low end intermediates) and red runs (for strong intermediates).

Whilst the terrain for intermediates is great (except for all those silly cat tracks!), there are a couple of downsides for intermediates. Firstly the quality of the grooming can be very shoddy with big seams in the corduroy, so best not to be a speedy Gonzales. Also the slopes are often crowded and the other riders seem to be very unpredictable. Sometimes great agility is required to get down the runs in one piece!

The piste have coloured poles to indicate the level of difficulty and there’s a little bit of signage about the place, but low end intermediates should keep a very keen eye on a trail map.

Terrain Park

The terrain park is reasonably good by South American standards and offers hits for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. Features include rails, boxes and jumps, and sometimes a ski/boardercross course is set up. The terrain park is in the upper reaches of the resort where snow cover is not an issue. Cerro Catedral hosts frequent events so there’s plenty of opportunity to watch the pros at work.

Advanced Skiing and Riding

Despite the black runs being labelled as being for “experts”, these are really just single diamond black runs suitable for advanced riders. There are only a handful of black on-piste runs with the main fun being off-piste. The in-bounds tree skiing is lots of fun if the snow is good, but just be careful of the drop-offs onto the cat tracks. In the alpine areas the world’s your oyster across the various big bowls.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The in-bounds Nubes area has some great challenging terrain and offers to-die-for views. This rocky area has a range of chutes of varying degrees of difficulty. Unfortunately freshies don’t last long now that this area is no longer hike-to-terrain (unless of course the Nubes chair is closed). A hike up to the Punta Princesa area also offers gnarly terrain, but you possibly won’t want to go there after watching the video below.

If you head outside the resort boundary to the skiers’ left there are lots of great lines through the hairy Lenga trees. Creek crossing and finding the right exit point might be tricky without some frustrating experimentation or a guide. The wrong exit points may result in hours spent hacking through the cane!

The Laguna area is a favourite. Don’t be fooled by the poma lift that runs up into this area– it’s not operational and is just there to tease you! A short 15 minute hike leads to the lower part of Laguna. This area has a cirque that offers an abundance of wide lines, cliffs and chutes. One gnarly sphincter-puckering chute is so exciting it will give you an erection (and I’m a chick)!

A 45 minute hike up the ridge to the top leads to sweet long lines, or beyond Lagunas is some fantastic backcountry terrain. Avid ski tourers should also consider a night or two at Refugio Frey.

Avalanche Safety

Despite being in-bounds, La Lagunas area and many other off-piste areas of Catedral should be treated like the backcountry. It is highly advisable for advanced riders to be kitted out with an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe.

The ski resort is not actively managed for avalanche risk with blasting or the like, and there are many locals who are not well educated regarding snow safety. In Laguna in particular, don’t be surprised if you have a class of ski school wallies all on the slope at the same time and drop in on you from above!