Las Lenas Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

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

Our Terrain Ratings

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

  • Vertical (m)
    2,240– 3,430 (1,190)
  • Average Snow Fall
    6  metres
  • Lifts (14)
    2 quad chairs
    6 double chairs
  • Ski Season
    Mid June - Early Oct
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 29
    Longest run – 7 km
    Expert - 5%
    Advanced - 35%
    Intermediate - 45%
    Beginner - 15%
The Las Leñas ski resort has two very distinct zones to it: the terrain serviced by the Marte chair in the upper reaches of the resort; and the main part of the ski area in the lower parts.

Marte Chair Las Lenas

The Mars (Marte) chair and the steep steep terrain it accesses are the amazing forte of the Las Leñas ski resort, yet the Marte chair can also be the bane of one’s existence. Some say that the big mountain terrain off the Marte chair is like heli skiing except that it’s lift serviced. And just like heli skiing in non-treed areas, Las Lenas skiing is a major gamble as to whether you’ll be grounded with lots of “no fly” days. If it’s snowing, or it’s foggy, or there’s a hint of wind, they shut the Marte lift. And when the resort staff work on mañana time, they’re in no rush to do avalanche control and the lift stays closed.

And if they also close the Vulcano chair, you’ll be relegated to the mellow slopes and potentially subjected to outrageous lift queues.

However of course if you’re patient and the Marte Chair opens and there’s enough snow, you’ll be rewarded. The boundless amount of terrain it accesses is a major playground for powder hounds and pro-riding daredevils. And beyond the lift served terrain, the backcountry and touring opportunities are endless.

Ski Las Leñas - Lower Part

The lower zone of Las Lenas is where most of the beginner and intermediate riders hang out on the various groomed runs. There are also some off-piste lines off the Vulcano chair and also near the one black piste run on the hill. This lower zone is still way above the treeline, so it doesn’t afford much protection or visibility on foul weather days.

Lifts

The lift system is slowly being improved, and whilst it’s better than many ski resorts in South America, it’s still not amazing. There aren’t many surface lifts but none of the chair lifts are detachable (at least they’ve got safety bars and foot rests). Even the new quad chair is fixed grip, although it has a magic carpet loading platform so they can run it a little faster.

Some of the double chairs are ramped up to run at a reasonable speed, but this does not include the main beginner chair (which is understandable) and the Neptune chair. This is unfortunate for powder hunters because these chairs are required to do laps of the goods.

It can be a little frustrating trying to figure out which chairs are running. Any electronic or lift status boards near the lifts are generally not up to date. Your best bet is to ask one of the lift operators (which is a bit challenging from your hotel room!).

And in case you’ve partied too hard and missed most of the day’s skiing, some of the lifts are open for night skiing on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Crowds

As to be expected, the Las Leñas ski resort is rather crowded during the July holidays. At other times, there aren’t that many people at Las Lenas but they tend to congregate in the same area. On foul weather days when some of the lifts are closed, the lift queues can get a little intense. When the Marte chair opens, every intermediate heads up to enjoy the views, and lift queues can become very long. If you’ve got the dinero, hire a guide or ski instructor for the day so you can skip the lift lines!

The lift queue etiquette is rather European – don’t expect people to line up in an orderly and polite fashion.

Las Lenas Snow and Weather

Las Lenas receives an average of 6 metres of snowfall per season, with significant variations in snow volumes between the years. Thankfully there are a large number of snow guns to make fake snow on the main trails when there’s not enough snow from the sky.

This is South America so the quality of the snow also varies significantly. Many of the slopes are pure south facing (which is good in the southern hemisphere!) but there are lots of different aspects to chase the best snow quality.

As you’d expect for a ski resort with such large vertical, the snow quality varies significantly from the top to the bottom where there can be slops instead of slopes. Up top the powder can be sublime (some of the best in South America) but snow storms are generally accompanied by huge winds, so the dry powder can be very wind affected.

Beginner Skiing Las Lenas

The main beginner area is close to the base but far enough away so that novices don’t have the extra pressure of having people on the restaurant decks gawking and laughing at them. The two parallel beginner runs are incredibly mellow, reasonably wide so there’s plenty of room for error, and mostly devoid of faster skiers and snowboarders.

Beginners should not be sucked into riding the “green” run up the top of the ski resort (serviced by the Iris poma) because you can’t download the Marte chair and there’s no green run down.

For the Intermediate

Most of the groomed trails cater for intermediates, with two levels of challenge: blue (intermediate); and red (difficult) for stronger intermediate riders. The quality of the grooming is not as good as what you’d find at most North American ski resorts, but it’s better than some of the other South American resorts.

Terrain Park

Las Leñas Ski Resort supposedly has a terrain park but it wasn’t set up when we visited.

Advanced On-Piste Skiing

There’s only one official black “piste” and it’s sometimes closed for avalanche control.

Advanced riders will need to head off-piste.

Lift Accessed Expert Terrain

We typically define terrain that’s inside the resort boundaries as off-piste, while the locals call much of it “backcountry”. Semantics aside, much of the off-piste terrain needs to be treated like the backcountry at Las Lenas with respect to avalanche control and precautions. You need to register with ski patrol to ride off-piste and have avi gear and a helmet. They’ll give you a little coloured band to wear on your goggles strap, and the backcountry gates are policed to ensure you are compliant (but they don’t bother to check if your beacon is working!).

If the backcountry gates are not open, do not be naughty. Firstly they are closed for good reason (the Las Lenas ski patrollers are very competent) and secondly the resort staff will not tolerate your misdemeanour – you could be banned from Las Lenas for life!

You might need to be patient for the perfect conditions for the Marte chair to open. Once it’s open, the world is your oyster! Your first run might be straight under the chair lift. Then there is a wide plateau at the top (some accessed off the poma lift) that drops into a myriad of awesome lines with a range of couloirs, wider chutes, and big bowls. Some entries are a bit hard to find and the majority of lines cannot be scoped from a chair lift, so it’s difficult to know whether some of the chutes actually have exits or not. There’s a definite risk of getting cliffed out! Many lines readily drop back into the resort, and others get close to the Urano poma lift, although good snow cover is required for this to be open. Otherwise lines further to the skiers’ left end up on a little road where there are no hitchhiking opportunities, so you’ll just be hiking without the “hitch”.

Above the Neptune chair but serviced by the Marte chair is the South Face, which has some super gnarly lines that are only for pros such as Sin Salida and Parachute, where you’ll need a parachute if you don’t want to do a big mandatory drop.

If you want to make the most of all the fabulous terrain (and money is no object) you should hire a guide from the ski school. This provides huge advantages such as being able to ride the best lines with the best egress, you can skip the lift queues, and your guide can organise a driver to pick you up from lines that terminate on the road. The guides operate in close association with the ski patrol, which also provides plenty of pros. The guiding service is for a half or full day, and the cost is fixed for 1-2 people and then you pay a little more for each additional guest.

Other Expert Terrain

The Marte chair also provides access to an abundance of steep and challenging lines that can be accessed via short to long hikes/skins. The terrain is phenomenal! If the Marte chair is closed, then opportunities for fun shrink dramatically.

The Vulcano chair offers some off-piste terrain, a little hike-to-terrain, and there is also a backcountry gate that heads to the lower parts of some of the skiers-left terrain mentioned above.

Alternatively there is a gate at the top of the Caris chair that heads to a couple of interesting lines amongst the rocks, or if all the gates are closed you can always do a high traverse off the Neptune chair for some short powder lines.