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Planning our South American ski trip, we had few destinations mapped out, leaving a good chunk of the trip tbd. This means keeping an open mind when listening to locals and fellow travels to find the best spots to hit. The following destinations were either on our agenda or recommended by new friends and each spot stood out in a country filled with rad places.
Tres Valles (three valleys)
Three resorts sit just around 1.5 hours outside Santiago. Each bringing their own character to the trifecta of ski mountains.
The furthest of the three, at about 2 hours from Santiago, Valle Nevado is a great option. Not the most extreme of resort shredding, but some fun steeps and plenty of groomers. The backcountry options more than compensate for the lack of expert terrain. El Plomo, perched at nearly 18,000 ft, is the most prominent mountain in the area. BC skiers and riders will have endless options surrounding the resort as well as on Plomo’s flanks.
There are several different hotel or condo options at the base if your budget allows. If you’re pinching pennies there are plenty of hostels in Santiago that start at around 8-10 dollars a night. From there you can hop on a round trip ski shuttle for about $20.
As for us, equipped with a winter tent, we camped in the Valle Nevado Backcountry. At $0 a night this accommodation fit nicely into our budget.
This small town is situated at the fork between the road to Valle Nevado and the road to El Colorado and La Parva. While Farallones the ski hill isn’t much more than a bunny slope the town is perfect for travelers to base their operations.
Our crew spent time at Lodge Andes, an amazing family style hostel, that provides breakfast, dinner and some of the coziest beds we’ve come across for just $45 a night. The manager Jorge, a long time guide in Patagonia, also had plenty of knowledge and genuine smiles to share.
La Parva/ El Colorado
The locals choice, these adjacent mountains have significantly more expert terrain and access to some beefy backcountry zones. La Chimenea Couloir sits just a short tour off of the La Parva resort, while El Colorado provides the best access to the Santa Teresa, some of the best slack country terrain in the country. Santa Teresa has been host to The North Face Chilean Freeskiing Championship in years prior attesting to the burliness of the zone.
Similar to Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado have several hotel and condo options for visitors with more $ to throw around. Book early and look for package deals to save. For you ski bums out there consider staying in Farallones or bringing a winter tent!
Embalse Yeso (Yeso Resevoir)
We heard about this hidden gem from our gregarious new Polynesian friend at the Princesa Hostel in Santiago. This breathtaking reservoir marks the trailhead to the Termas del Plomo (Plomo Hot springs) a natural hot spring resting smackdab in the middle of the Andes. The reservoir itself is surrounded by several gorgeous peaks providing some postcard-worthy views. There’s plenty of skiing in the area but be prepared for long approaches and gnarly lines. To access much of the terrain you need to travel around the lake as you cannot (legally) cross the dam. About two hours South East of Santiago, this is a hotspot for weekend warriors and can get pretty busy Saturday and Sunday.
This world-class resort boasts some of the best terrain in Chile. With the infamous Super-C Couloir, a 5,000 ft vertical decent, accessible from the resort and a plethora of steeps and cliffs to hit on the resort, it’s no wonder why some of the best skiers on the planet frequent this place year after year.
While the resort is incredible, you still have to fork over some dough to ride those lifts. So for the true backcountry addicts out there, you need look no further than across the street. Right on the Argentine/Chilean border an unnamed couloir sits waiting. At nearly 4000ft of vertical your legs will be burning as you make you way back down. Parts of the couloir are very steep and snow can be variable so crampons and ice axes are recommended.
When planning a trip here get ready for package deals. It’s difficult to book anything less than 7 days. At around $1000 you can get a dorm bed, lift tickets and three meals a day for 7 days. Prices go up from there. Single day tickets are available, but only if there are empty spots in the hotel. During high season when the hotel is full don’t expect to come up for the day.
These three destinations will give you a small taste of what this beautiful country has to offer. If you’re making your way to Chile in the future, make sure to include these zones in your itinerary. At the same time don’t get too bogged down with planning every aspect of the trip. If you leave some time for raw exploration, keep open minds and ears and talk with locals to try and find your own special places.
Written & Photos by: Jacob O'Connor @jahcobo