Family-Friendly Skiing in Chile
More and more, families are realizing that traveling with small children is easier than they think. Chile is very child-friendly year-round, and for the upcoming southern winter (June through September), skiing with kids is a cinch. And if your kids are too little to ski, or don’t yet know how, here are several resorts that will keep them entertained, regardless.
Near Santiago, there are several ski areas that cater to families traveling with children, including Portillo, Valle Nevado, La Parva and Colorado/Farrellones. In the south, families traveling with slightly older children should try the spa and resort at Chillán for family-friendly skiing and relaxation.
Portillo is perhaps the most family-friendly resort, where Chilean families usually come the same week every year, forming friendships to last a lifetime. Foreigners do the same (as well as expat families whose kids speak English), and the focus of this resort is on spending time together as a family, and in groups. There are no televisions in any of the rooms, and the lounge is a cozy social spot all winter long.
Portillo offers both morning and afternoon lessons at the Portillo Ski School Kids’ Camp for kids 4-6 years of age, with children 7 and over welcome to join in on regular kids’ lessons. Four year olds can take private lessons with skilled instructors, where the focus is on having fun. All children who attend the Kids’ Camp or ski school are permitted to participate in a ski-instructor supervised race held on Thursdays on one of two runs, either El Puma or El Corralito.
Non-ski activities include organized sports, a game room, a swimming pool and supervised board games. There are special children’s menu items offered, and in the self-service cafeteria, a nightly children’s dinner at 7:30 PM. Friday nights there is a torchlit parade. Portillo is about 2 hours’ drive from Santiago, has 14 lifts and 35 runs, with the longest run of more than 8,000 feet about 15% of the slopes are suitable for beginners.
Valle Nevado, which is the closest resort to Santiago, provides non-ski activities for kids such as the Kids Zone with games and activities and a movie theater. But for snow-loving kids there are classes at the Snow Garden, which involves some ski skills, and the “magic carpet lift” to get kids up the hills easily, and some just playing in the snow, for kids ages 4-7. Group and single lessons for children are available for these ages, and for younger children, there is both a day care and private babysitting available on-site.
Valle Nevado offers family ski tickets for two adults and two children, and has events such as the Saturday evening torchlight parade which is a big hit with families, and a snowshoe walk with igloo building and navigating back to the resort under starry skies. Valle Nevado is also part of the Mountain Collective Pass, which means that if you are a pass holder at AltaSnowbird, Aspen/Snowmass, Jackson Hole, SquawValley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain, you get two free ski days at Valle Nevado, with special pass pricing for kids.
Valle Nevado has about 80% sunny days annually, more than 7,000 acres of skiable terrain, and one of the best terrain parks in South America with ample areas for free-styling.
La Parva and Farrellones/El Colorado
These ski areas also offer programs for children. La Parva starts lessons for children from ages 4 and 5 at the “Baby Ski School,” part of which is indoors, and part of which is on the slopes. Private lessons are also available. After that, kids ages 6-12 are separated by age and skill level into ski school groups. La Parva has 14 lifts, including quads, triples and doubles, covering almost 1,000 acres of terrain.
At Farrellones/El Colorado, beginning ski school starts from age 3, and goes up to age 11. They are in an area exclusively for the ski school’s use. They also offer small group daycare. El Colorado has 101 slopes, with many different ways to get up the mountain, including lifts, towropes and T-bars.
Families coming to ski at the “three valleys,” (Valle Nevado, La Parva and Farrellones/El Colorado) can buy a combination access pass to ski at all three areas, but access depends on ski conditions, and skiing ability, which should be at least strong intermediate).
LAN Airlines and its affiliates offer 39 flights weekly from the United States to Santiago, with 14 nonstop flights weekly from both New York and Miami. West of the Rockies, LAN also has daily direct flights from Los Angeles, and connections from big ski cities like Denver, Salt Lake City and Seattle.
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