Skiing in Chile: 6 ways to do Southern Hemisphere slopes

(CNN) — Skiing, as one witty anonymous figure once said, is “the art of catching cold and going broke while rapidly heading nowhere at great personal risk.”

Yet for many the ski season is all too short. Just as you start to perfect your skills, the snow melts and you have to pack away the boards.

This is where the Southern Hemisphere comes to the rescue — and Chile is a ski destination that has the winter sports world buzzing. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. New runs, expanded operations

All this within two hours of the Chilean capital.

All this within two hours of the Chilean capital.

Courtesy Jimmy Baikovicius/Creative Commons/Flickr

Two ski resorts — South America’s largest, Valle Nevado and South America’s oldest, Portillo — are within day-trip distance of Santiago.

Valle Nevado is less than an hour, just 35 miles, from the capital. “Boutique” resort Portillo (which opened in 1948) is two hours, or 100 miles, away.

2013 marked 25 years since Valle Nevado opened. The resort created a new ski run, expanded Snowpark and introduced Chile’s first-ever gondola, which deposits skiers at Bajo Zero mountain restaurant, 3,200 meters (10,498 feet) above sea level.

For a super-speedy commute to the slopes, Valle Nevado has a heli-pad, as does W Santiago.

2. Volcano skiing

Ski on top of Volcan Osorno.

Ski on top of Volcan Osorno.

Courtesy Steve Bittinger/Creative Commons/Flickr

In a country with hundreds of volcanoes — some active — it’s logical to make the most of the steep slopes by skiing down them. Chile’s newest ski center sits atop Volcan Osorno, in the southern part of the country.

Noted for its visual similarity to Mount Fuji, Osorno is located about 40 miles from Puerto Montt, in the Lake District. It rises 2,662 meters (8,733 feet) above sea level, has two chairlifts, three drag lifts, 12 slopes of varying levels and a season that lasts until October.

“One of the highlights at Osorno is the snowcar tour,” says Raffaele Di Biase, owner of BirdsChile and president of the local Tour Guides Association. “It’s a vehicle that takes you up over the snow to the snowy side of the volcano, an area otherwise inaccessible.”
On a clear day, the view from the Glacier Station reaches to the Pacific Ocean. An unexpected perk of volcano skiing: snowshoe excursions to the volcano’s crater. LAN Airlines runs multiple daily flights between Santiago and Puerto Montt.

3. Wine tasting

Chilean wine and the Portillo slopes. Who needs summer?

Chilean wine and the Portillo slopes. Who needs summer?


In 2013, chic Portillo brings its popular Wine Week concept to the slopes for the first time.

Between August 3 and 10, top Chilean wine producers will come to Portillo to fill glasses for skiers and snowboarders. Tastings start at 6:30 p.m. each evening at various locations.

4. Snowcat skiing

Enjoy the view of Mount Aconcagua.

Enjoy the view of Mount Aconcagua.


For off-trail, downhill skiing without a helicopter, snowcat skiing is an exciting alternative.

Near San Estean (67 miles from Santiago), Ski Arpa was the first place in South America to launch cat skiing.

Its longest run is 1,000 vertical meters, and offers spectacular views of Mount Aconcagua. At 6,962 meters (22,841 feet), it’s the tallest peak in South America.

5. Eco-ski lodges

Valle Nevado: Just dropping in.

Valle Nevado: Just dropping in.


Located in the National Reserve of Malalcahuello-Nalcas, the 54-bedroom hotel is linked with the Corralco Mountain & Ski Resort, which opened eight years ago. With a new hotel to host skiers, 2013 marks the first year that the Corralco slopes will be open for the entire season.

6. Skiing and touring Patagonia

Ski and explore the Torres del Paine National Park.

Ski and explore the Torres del Paine National Park.

Courtesy Liam Quinn/Creative Commons/Flickr

Chilean tour operator Cascada Travel offers a great tour for those who want to see some of Patagonia as well as ski.

Its six-day expedition runs in September only — due to the short window when both the ski slopes and Patagonian “glampsites” are open.

After skiing at Valle Nevado, guests fly to Punta Arenas then drive to Torres del Paine, stopping en route at Milodon Cave, inhabited 10,000 years ago by giant sloths.

At EcoCamp, beds take the form of a dome below the park’s famed granite towers. After a few days exploring the park, including hiking to the base of the towers and taking a boat ride to Grey Glacier, guests return to Santiago.

Editor’s note: This article was previously published in 2013. It was reformatted and republished in 2017.

Previous post 10 Most Romantic Hot Springs Getaways In Arkansas
Next post Cruise review: Star Clippers’ Cannes to Corsica to Civitavecchia sailing