Though few think of South America as a winter wonderland – the Southern Hemisphere really delivers in powdery snow and steep slopes, especially when the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing the hottest days of the summer. If Andean descents, Chilean wines, and Argentine steaks aren’t enough of a draw – the incredible resorts, restaurants, and après ski activities in one of the top ski destinations in South America, surely will.
Ski areas in South America are scattered along the flanks of the Andean cordillera, from Chile’s capital down to the very southern tip of Argentina. When it comes to snow, many regions in South America receive 30 inches of snow during the season. Let your ski season go even longer and switch the sweltering days of summer for a winter oasis in South America – most resorts consider the ski season in South America from mid-June to the end of October. Ready for a snowy paradise perfect for adventure lovers and après enthusiasts alike? Here are Kuoda’s best picks for ski destinations in Argentina and Chile. Get in touch with us today and we’ll plan out your sweet winter-in-summer escape!
1. The Ski Complex: Portillo Ski Resort, Chile
The Portillo Ski Resort is the most well-known and oldest ski resort in South America, renowned for its extraordinary beauty and its world-class skiing and snowboarding. Central Chile ski areas are all above tree line or timberline, located at high altitudes, and receive drier snow than their southern counterparts. They can on average receive less snow than Patagonia. Portillo Ski Resort is located 9,350 feet or 2,850 meters above sea level, on the International Highway between Santiago, Chile, and Mendoza, Argentina – just a 2-hour drive from Santiago. The highest mountain in the western hemisphere, Aconcagua, is just over the ridge. Portillo is almost an independent town in the mountains, located 165 kilometers away from Santiago. It has all the services that the passengers can need during their stay and counts with one hotel with different kinds of rooms, generating an integration of all the guests in the activities that it offers.
• The Hotel: Portillo Hotel
The guests come from all over the world to the Portillo Hotel, one of the largest ski hotels in South America, with 400 rooms. It’s maximum 450 guests have premier access to the slopes, as hotel guests get exclusive Ski Weeks Packages: from June to October, guests arrive like a freshman class every Saturday and leave a week later as great friends.
Few ski resort hotels boast a more magnificent view than Portillo Hotel. The hotel and ski area wrap around beautiful Inca Lake, surrounded by the towering rugged Andes. It’s a spectacular setting, and guests can choose between suites that face the lake or the valley. In addition, there are 2 lodges and 8 chalets available, which provide an alternative to the traditional hotel room for those looking for extra space to share with family and friends, or to spread out and relax in comfort. The main hotel is completely self-contained with the full spectrum of resort services, thus no car is needed as your room is only an elevator ride away from the ski slopes, the dining room and all facilities. Though the rooms are traditionally designed, they are stocked with amenities, 24/7 concierge service and of course the sweeping natural views.
• The Skiing:
Portillo has a golden history in the World of skiing. The celebrated skier Jean-Claude Killy won his first gold medal here, in 1966. Speed skiers in Portillo’s Kilometro Lanzado competitions were the first to exceed 124 mph. Four former gold medallists have led Portillo’s Ski School in the past and host National Ski Teams every year (last year the Austrian and U.S. Olympic teams trained here). Skiing in Chile’s Portillo also offers some steep skiing.
The snow remains cold and dry most of the season. Skiers and Snowboarders delight in Portillo’s powder, steeps, chutes, and groomed slopes. It offers 2 quad chair lifts, 1 triple, 2 doubles, 2 one-of-a-kind va et vient “slingshot” lifts, and 5 Pomas. Portillo is 100 percent above the tree line, providing incredible opportunities for off-piste skiing and snowboarding. The Ski School is one of the finest in the world. Portillo’s Ski School Director Jesús Puente is a superb skier, as well as a skilled leader. No one knows skiing better than Jesús. He is a member of the elite Spanish Demonstration Ski Team and his energy and spirit of fun are infectious both on and off the mountain.
• The Après Activities:
An outdoor heated pool, gymnasium, weight room, aerobics, cinema, disco, bar, game room make for a plethora of après ski activities that guests are never without something to do, and kids and parents love this ski resort for its wealth of family-friendly activities. The dining experience is exceptional here, not only for excellent international cuisine using local ingredients but also for the sociable atmosphere.
2. The Ski Complex: Valle Nevado
Nestled in a wonderful natural setting, Valle Nevado offers more than 34 square miles of skiable terrain. Valle Nevado is famous for powder skiing, thanks to its high elevation, and phenomenal views of the Andes mountain range. With a new lift connecting Valle Nevado to La Parva and El Colorado, Valle is now part of Chile’s Tres Valles ski area.
• The Hotel: Hotel Valle Nevado
Located in the heart of the Chilean Andes, Hotel Valle Nevado ski resort is the largest winter resort in the Southern Hemisphere and is one of the most modern in Chile, making it one of the premier ski destinations in South America. This four-star hotel located slopeside in Valle Nevado is the most convenient, comfortable, and luxurious of the hotels in the region. Here you can enjoy the relaxing fireplace in a lounge where attention to detail will surpass all expectations.
You will be amazed by this classic boutique hotel in the mountains, where each and every one of the 53 spectacular rooms has been carefully arranged for your comfort and pleasure. Valle Nevado’s most exclusive hotel offers various hotel rooms and suites all with balconies. Each room in the hotel comes equipped with central heating, cable TV mini bar, telephone, safe, background music, full bath, and daily housekeeping services.
The rooms are inclusive of breakfast and dinner in one of the following restaurants: La Fourchette, Monte Bianco, Mirador del Plomo, or Sur as well as unlimited access to ski lifts.
• The Skiing:
Due to its advantageous location in the valley, the international resort tends to trap the most snow compared to its neighbors. Here, you will find plenty of groomed terrain, wide-open off-piste bowls, and one of Chile’s most legendary out-of-bounds zones. For the adventurous, Valle Nevado borders two other interconnected ski areas, El Colorado and La Parva, which together with Valle Nevado have become known as the Tres Valles. With a multi-area ticket to accessing all three resorts and a combined 7,000 acres of skiable terrain.
• The Après Activities:
Après Ski at La Fourchette, which offers spa services included in your reservation: one body massage per person, as well as an exercise room, aerobics, and stretching lessons. The outdoor heated pool, children’s daycare, games room, and activities are perfect for families looking to make the trip inclusive for everyone in the family. Slopeside hot tubs and sunny decks beckon for après libations and fantastic people-watching and fireside cocktails at the Valle Lounge. At the lounge, enjoy a roaring fire with a hot chocolate or a glass of wine. The Valle Lounge also has an outdoor deck for al fresco après ski. There are six on-mountain dining options offered at the resort, four are traditional restaurants, La Lenera at the Hotel Puerta del Sol patio, and Bajo Zero on the mountain at the top of the gondola and at the base of Andes Express lift.
3. The Ski Complex: Catedral Alta Patagonia
• The Hotel: Aralaquen Lodge Bariloche
For boutique luxury during your ski adventures, Aralaquen Lodge in Bariloche provides close proximity to Cerro Catedral Alta while also delivering luxury comforts and amenities that go beyond what the hotel attached to the ski center can provide.
Splendid views of the lake and mountains are available in this lodge, located only 100 meters from Gutierrez Lake. The property features an indoor and outdoor pool, a fitness center, and a solarium. Featuring 28 stylishly-appointed rooms, guests can soak in the striking scenery while enjoying all of the comforts of premium amenities with an independent spirit offered throughout the property.
• The Skiing:
The Catedral terrain park in the Nubes zone is one of the most progressive and established ski and snowboard parks in all of South America. A dedicated lift and a full-time staff of both grooming and snow park specialists have helped develop this park into one of the best. There are features and sections for all abilities from those just being introduced to terrain parks all the way to skiers and riders looking to push the limits of the sport.
A full calendar of skiing and snowboarding events assures there is almost always action to watch through both nighttime contests at the base area to globally recognized series taking place in the park. Catedral Alta has the largest lift-accessed ski terrain in South America, approximately half of which is off-piste terrain. This mega ski resort has 1,150 meters, or 3,773 ft of vertical drop, and 120 km of slopes with a split of 15 percent beginner, 60 percent intermediate, 20 percent advanced, and five percent expert. The Catedral includes 28 lifts between cabins, alongside ski schools for varying ages and experiences, and a fully-staffed first aid center. Guests visiting the Catedral can also enjoy a range of eateries and bars in nearby Bariloche.
The Cerro Catedral ski resort is best suited to intermediate and advanced riders, and there’s also adequate terrain for beginners. Catedral is known for its good tree skiing, and experts also have a range of alpine off-piste options as well as backcountry chutes and bowls. And for terrain park junkies there’s a decent park.
• The Après Activities:
Whilst the rest of the world calls it “après ski”, Argentina calls it “after ski”! After-skis is always a great time at Cerro Catedral, particularly at one of the lounges, Mute, where they often have a very festive atmosphere. Relax on one of the leather couches or get up and dance to some of the DJ tunes. Mute is the most vibrant nightlife spot later on in the evening. It’s only open some evenings and they have bands or DJs playing great 80s and 90s music. The space also doubles as an international restaurant Jackson’s Bar next to the Soul Max Hotel is excellent for a laid-back drink or for dinner.
Back at Aralaquen, guests of the hotel can revel in the splendid offerings of the Arelauquen Golf and Country Club, which include an 18-hole golf course, two polo fields, an equestrian center, tennis and squash courts, trekking trails and a yacht club at the Gutierrez Lake. Arelauquen Lodge also features the restaurant Epic by Chef Julian Del Pino.
4. The Ski Complex: Las Leñas, Argentina
The steepest resort skiing in the Southern Hemisphere is found on and around the slopes of Las Leñas, in the Mendoza province of Argentina. Las Leñas ski resort has amazing jaw-dropping vistas of big mountains with dramatic peaks. The Las Lenas Resort famously has powdery, snowy terrain, so it’s not surprising that it attracts pro-skiers and celebrities from around the world. The village of Las Leñas is located at the base of the lifts providing lots of ski-in / out accommodation options.
• The Resort: Virgo Hotel and Spa
Given its excellent location on the stage of Las Lenas, Virgo Hotel and Spa offers magnificent views of the mountain landscape. Virgo Hotel offers the best combination of services and amenities to make your stay in Las Lenas unforgettable. The Virgo offers 105 rooms with multiple room types, all of which offer sweeping panoramic views of the valley or the mountain. its excellent location amidst the unique scenario of the Valley of Las Leñas, it offers the best views of the Andes and it gives the perfect frame for renewal at the Health Club and Spa or enjoy a drink in its exclusive Wine Bar & Cellar. An onsite sushi bar, wine bar, heated pools, and direct access to the slopes make it the perfect place for travelers looking for a luxurious stay, right at the base of the ski resort.
• The Skiing:
Though there are trails for all levels of skiers, experts will enjoy the extra steep slopes, some of the steepest in South America. Las Leñas ski resort also has runs for beginners, intermediates, advanced riders, and your average expert skier or snowboarder that’s not a pro
The resort features 15 lifts, 40 miles of piste, and an abundance of challenging off-piste terrain. At an altitude between 2,240 m and 3,430 m, the skiable terrain comprises 2.3 km2, which is about 1 square mile, with 19 runs designated greens (easiest), 17 designated blue runs, 11 runs are suited to advanced skiers, and only two are black diamond runs. The ski resort is also home to a ski and snowboard school for all levels and ages.
• The Après Activities:
The Virgo offers plenty of entertainment and is right onsite. The popular sun terrace offers spectacular views of the mountain by day. Daily scheduled après ski activities include Bridge, Canasta, Burako, and Backgammon. By night, the restaurant serves upscale international cuisine or one may elect for sushi and wine at Cava Wine Bar offering one of the finest wine selections in the valley in a relaxed atmosphere with a billiards table. There is also a separate lobby bar that remains open 24 hours and a fabulous unique micro cinema for movie lovers with 36 seats, surround sound, and comfortable seats where guests can enjoy a good movie every day.
In the spa area, the Virgo also has an indoor/outdoor heated pool and hot tubs with great views of the mountain. The Spa area also features a large gym, Jacuzzi, sauna, Finnish bath, and Scottish shower with a full menu of spa services available such as massages and mud therapy. There is also an onsite hair salon. The hotel also offers a business center, drug store, gift shop, arcade/game room, and a comprehensive onsite kids club for children from 3 months to 6 years with trained personnel handy for parents who want to enjoy some quality time together at night while the kids are being entertained.
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