If the snow isn’t to your liking, or it’s out of season, or you’re just itching to try a new sport, there’s a great option in the north of Chile, that might remind you of snowboarding, with a touch of surfing, and a whole lot of desert. That sport is sandboarding.
Photo: Avá Araujo
Last year, American pro skier Chad Sayers embarked on a massive road trip across Argentina, covering some 2,500 miles down the windswept spine of the Andes mountain range. Along the way, he visited some of Argentina’s lesser known ski destinations, including Penitentes.
For pristine, above-the-treeline back-country skiing, tremendous vertical drop and the opportunity to ski in the shadow of Aconcagua, South America’s tallest peak, cat-skiing at Ski Arpa, has an offer that is unparalleled in Chile, and much of the world. Add to that the fact that Chilean winter comes during North America’s “off season” period, and the decision is simple.
Photo: Alicia Nijdam
At Chapelco Ski Resort, near the town of San Martín de los Andes, the stunning scenery nearly outshines the thrills of the slopes. Mount Chapelco looms 6,496 feet above cerulean Lake Lácar, and many of its twenty groomed ski and snowboard trails run through tall forests of lenga (pictured above), a type of beech tree native to the southern Andes.
Photo: Jason Hollinger
Just a few miles east of the Chilean border lies the northernmost ski resort in Argentina, Penitentes. The resort encompasses 740 acres of skiable terrain, with 20 groomed trails for beginner to expert skiers. Snowboarders are welcomed at the resort, as well. From the Penitentes slopes, you will be surrounded by the High Andes—you can even spot Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.
Photo: Ismael Cañete
Pucón is Chile’s adventure sports capital, with a beautiful, volcanic-formed topography including the snow-covered Villarica volcano that peeks out on sunny days. In and around Pucón there are great opportunities for biking, hiking, canopy, rafting, skiing, horseback riding, canopy, rock-climbing (some of these only in season), and to wrap it all up at the end of the day, plentiful hot springs to choose from to suit every taste from rustic to elegant, and all-inclusive resorts.
A few hours from Santiago, Chile, lies Nevados de Chillán a snow-covered volcano, offering the prettiest combination thousands of acres of fresh powder and warming natural hot springs that you’re ever likely to get the chance to visit. There are several housing options, from a nearby hostel to four-star hotel right at the resort, so there’s something to suit every budget. Ski packages and ski gear rental are available at many of the accommodations as well. This mountain has plentiful activities to choose from, and offers ski schools and day care for kids, off-piste guides, volcano ascents and more, making it one of Chile’s favorite resorts.
Parents know that one of the best ways to form fabulous family memories is to spend quality time together with the kids. Chile is a very family-friendly tourism destination, with many vacation packages available. While summer is great for hiking and late sunsets, Chile’s off-season June to August southern winter rounds it out with world-class skiing.
Portillo is a great option for family skiing at one of the world’s ten best resorts, nestled high in Chile’s majestic Andes mountains, some of which tower at over 19,000 feet.
Photo: Latitud 48
From late June to October, you can ski the southernmost resort in the entire world on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego island, near the city of Ushuaia. Cerro Castor is the newest ski resort in Argentina. It opened six years ago, after a $10 million USD investment, and now boasts three modern ski lifts leading up to 26 groomed downhill trails. There is an onsite skiing and snowboarding school, and a network of low-level trails through the lenga forest for snowshoeing and hiking.
As spring and summer settle on the northern hemisphere, Chile is laying in fresh snow for your “off season” skiing pleasure. Skiing is within easy reach of Chile’s capital city of Santiago, with one of the best, Valle Nevado, just 37 miles away. Recent repaving and widening of the access road have improved travel time to the slopes.
Due to Valle Nevado’s location high in the Andes, this resort has some of the most reliable snow in South America, and even with 80% sunny days, conditions are optimal, due to low temperatures.
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