Tue, 18 Jun 2013 By John Hill
Whilst skiers in the northern Hemisphere are sweltering on the beaches or on city breaks, the other half of the planet is in winter – and that’s when Chile scores as the southern hemisphere’s top ski spot – with skiing in resorts all over the Andes. Here we feature the top four….
Vallee Nevado is not just the biggest and highest area – it is the ski resort nearest the capital Santiago, and entry airport for visiting Europeans.
Just an hour’s drive up a zig-zag mountain road you pass tiny ski satellites of La Parva and El Colorado (nowadays linked to Nevado) and you arrive with a sense of déjà vu – Nevado was built by the French and copied from the design of Les Arcs.
The skiing is suitable for all, including expert, with runs from the resort at 9,924 feet to the top ski height of 12,040 feet. And once you catch your breath you have mile after mile of swooping, fun, cruising descents, with vertical drops of 6,500ft to 9,800ft – all amid sensational Andes scenery. They also have very good and inexpensive heli-skiing.
The resort is lively during the day, with après ski of canopy rides, skate parks, climbing walls, and of course lots of eating and drinking – Chile is steak and red wine country, and massive portions too, and there is plenty of après-ski fun, with visiting Brazilians laughing and samba-ing the night away with locals in the busy bars and clubs. And on Thursdays it is wine fest day when a local winery puts on a tasting for visitors.
Valle Nevado has begun an £80million development programme and has already built two new slopes, and the country’s first gondola. And the owners say they plan to stay Numero Un resort in the southern hemisphere.
Two hours south of Santiago is Ski Portillo, South America’s most historic ski resort, now celebrating its 60th birthday. This self-contained luxury resort has its own hotel right on the slopes with sensational views of the Laguna del Inca amid the Andes highest peaks, With an employee for every guest, Portillo delivers an unsurpassed service, cultural and athletic spirit.
Portillo ski weeks include seven nights lodging, breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner and lift tickets. It accommodates only 450 guests so, there’s never any overcrowding and no lift lines.
Ski Portillo features 14 lifts, and the terrain caters to skiers of all abilities, particularly lovers of advanced steeps. For beginners and first-time skiers or snowboarders, Portillo’s ski and snowboard school boasts fine instructors – nearly 100 percent instruct year-round, while less-experienced guests will find wide-open and uncrowded beginner slopes. Guests get use of swimming pools and hot tubs, fitness centre, gymnasium, aerobics and yoga classes, cinema, game room, children’s activities, the day-care centre ski and boot check and timed race courses.
Famous athletes offer special weeks on the steep and deep terrain, including extreme skiing champion Chris Davenport.
• Ski Portillo also own Tierra Atacama adventure spa, in the Atacama Desert.
Way in the south of the country lies Chillan, a ski mountain with a live volcano, which still steams! Chillan is 530 meters above sea level with 32 ski tracks and 30 km prepared on a ski area of 10,000 hectares. It has nine lifts with longest run a 6.5 km. from top to bottom. With a vertical drop of 870 meters Chillan also offers skidoo tours, canopy rides and thermal nine thermal pools open all year.
Right on the slopes is the ski in ski out Gran Hotel Termas de Chillán (www.termaschillan.cl), an exclusive 5-star mountain hotel, with one of the best spas in the Andes. The hotel is known for its warm and inviting atmosphere, and boasts a full-service hot springs spa, 3 hot springs pools (two outdoor), and a host of other amenities.
Also in the South, Corralco Mountain enjoys the imposing landscape of Malalcahuello National Reserve.
Its natural beauty, where Araucaria trees, snow and mountain are combined, make this a class destination for beginners and advanced skiers.
Corralco offers 6 lifts serving 25 runs of varied difficulty, and this season gets a new base station, and a spa hotel, Valle Corralco Hotel & Spa with 5,500 square metres and 54 rooms, with restaurant, bar, spa, , gym, movie theatre, convention hall and a 5 stars service.
This puts Corralco among the most exclusive mountain resorts nationally and will appeal to those visitors who love the landscapes of southern Chile.
To find out more about any ski trip in South America, visit Snoventures or call 0208 144 3806 for more information.