Cerro Chapelco Lifts & Terrain


Cerro Chapelco 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 Chapelco Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,260 – 1,980 (720)
  • Average Snow Fall
    8.9  metres
  • Lifts (12)
    1 gondola
    1 fast quad
  • Ski Season
    mid June - mid Oct
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 28
    Longest run – 5.3 km
    Beginner - 25%
    Intermediate - 25%
    Advanced - 30%
    Expert - 20%

Chapelco Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Cerro Chapelco Ski Resort is medium sized, relative to other South America ski resorts. The ski terrain can loosely be categorised into three vertical parts. The lower part of the resort is serviced by a triple chair and the telecabina (gondola). The terrain is pretty flat and consists of a few groomed intermediate runs and the snaking Camino beginner trail. The base area elevation of Cerro Chapelco Resort is 1,260 metres, and even though this is higher than that of Cerro Bayo or Cerro Catedral, the snow conditions in this area can be pretty sketchy.

The gondola unloads at a mid-mountain hub where there are a few restaurants and other facilities such as ski school. The magic carpet serviced novice ski area is located here. This middle section also consists of groomed intermediate trails, as well as very mellow tree skiing that can be rather fun when the snow conditions are prime.

The upper part of the ski resort is above the tree-line and consists of a few groomed runs for intermediates as well as off-piste slopes. The terrain here is a little steeper than the lower parts of the mountain, but there’s nothing in-bounds that will make experts quiver in their boots. Rock features and little gullies make things a little more interesting, and in low visibility the huge cornices can make things REALLY interesting! This alpine area has three peaks. Cerro Teta is in the middle and has the steepest in-bounds terrain. Cerro Escalonado is to lookers’ right and has the Filo area (red runs) and the sidecountry La Pala area. Cerro Mocho is to the looker’s left and has some short black runs. 

Chapelco Lifts

Cerro Chapelco has 12 lifts, and the lift infrastructure is good by South American standards. The Silla Cuadruple Rancho Grande is a super fast detachable chair that flies up the hill. You need to have your neck gaitor on because even when there’s not a breath of wind, the speed of the chair makes it feels like it’s really windy! The up-hill capacity of this lift is very grande, but the resulting problem is the traffic on the associated runs. You’ll need to keep your wits about you (as you do at most Argentina ski resorts!).

Other than the gondola, the rest of the lift infrastructure consists of fixed grip chairs or surface lifts. Lift queues commonly develop, and as is typical in Argentina, the queuing can get rather disorderly and there are minimal corrals, and the staff don’t facilitate lift loading. There are singles lanes for some quad chairs but strangely it just feeds into the fourth spot, so you can’t load as a 4, and the singles lane doesn’t fill the gaps if there are only two going onto the chair. For the old egg gondola, the attendants don’t load people’s skis to move things along to ensure the cabins are filled, so often only 3 or 4 people can get into a 6 person gondola. Thankfully you may only have to stand in that queue once because it’s mostly for initial access and for pedestrians.

If you’ve got the pesos for it, you can pretend you need a private lesson so that you can skip the lift queues.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are up there as some of the most expensive in Argentina, so it depends on how weak the peso is as to how cheap it is for international visitors. Seniors are considered to be 60+, children are 6 to 11 years of age, whilst kiddies 0 to 5 years are free.

Chapelco Snow

As is typical of South America, the Chapelco snow conditions are highly variable, and to further reduce the likelihood of great snow conditions, the slopes are north to northwest facing. One day we visited, the snow cover was marginal at the base, it was mushy in the middle, and the alpine section was icy and wind scoured. At other times, the Chapelco snow has been delightful.

Like other Lakes District ski resorts, the powder tends to have decent moisture content. We visited on a big powder day, and the pow was heavy. Powder hounds should pack the fat skis or powder board.

Whilst in-bounds snow quality may not be Chapelco’s forte, the ski resort does well in the quantity stakes with an average of 8.9 metres (350 inches) of snow per season. If Mother Nature is not doing her thing adequately, Chapelco can cheat a little by using their snow-making cannons.

Chapelco Ski Season

The Cerro Chapelco ski season usually goes from late June to late September.

Beginner Skiing Chapelco

All the beginners’ terrain at the Cerro Chapelco Ski Resort is below the tree line so it is protected from any inclement weather. The magic carpet serviced novice area is at the mid-mountain hub, so the littlies and first-timers have to upload and download the gondola. The next progression is to hit Camino, a gentle trail that weaves down the mountain through the lenga forest. At 5.3km in length, it is guaranteed to tire the hell out of snow ploughers!

Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The Cerro Chapelco ski and snowboard terrain is very good for intermediates. With 25% blue runs and 30% red runs, intermediates are likely to be adequately entertained for a week long ski vacation at Chapelco. Some of the intermediate runs are serviced by the fast quad chair, so you’ll get lots of vertical in each day if the lift queues aren't too bad.

Chapelco Terrain Park

Chapelco has a small terrain park within a dedicated area just below the tree line. The terrain park has a few jumps, rails, and boxes, and sometimes a quarter pipe is set up.

Advanced Skiing Chapelco

Confident intermediates and advanced riders can hit the low angle trees in the mid section of the ski resort. The hairy trees are very widely spaced and they have no low branches so they’re really easy to get around, although the bamboo can be a bit of a bitch!

Balcones in the lower part of the resort is generally a bumps run, otherwise the rest of the advanced terrain is up in the alpine. Small areas off Cerro Teta have some steeps, but largely it’s pretty tame. One limitation is that the alpine lifts are commonly closed in inclement weather or after a snowfall.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

The in-bounds area has a few cheeky expert-only terrain features such as little chutes, gullies, rocks, and pesky cornices that sneak up on you in low vis. There is lots of off-piste and the skiers’ right of the resort has a better aspect and some steeps, although these tend to get tracked out quickly.

Chapelco may only entertain experts for a couple of days if they want to remain in-bounds, and only when the alpine areas are open and snow conditions are good. Experts will want to head into the side-country and/or backcountry when conditions permit.

Sidecountry & Backcountry Chapelco

The top of the Filo poma lift provides access to La Pala. This area is marked on the trail map but it’s not patrolled or actively controlled for avalanches, so it should definitely be treated as the backcountry and only head there if stability is good because there are some big terrain traps. The aspect isn’t conducive to great snow quality, so play it by ear.

La Pala can be accessed via a traverse or a 5 minute hike up and then traverse to get more vertical. This sidecountry zone has some chutes and bowls and a couple of gnarly spines, and it feeds down into trees before a traverse back into the resort. The return traverse can be a little tricky to find, so head out with a guide or wait until the track is clearly set by other riders.

The Chapelco backcountry bowls are renowned and those willing to hike will be rewarded with some steep open bowls and challenging chutes.

The hike-to terrain often offers great snow conditions to complement the couloirs and drops, yet it is definitely only for avy savvy riders or go on a guided multi-day tour. Notify ski patrol of your backcountry intentions.