If watching the Winter Olympics has inspired you to hit the slopes but you need a little time to save up then why not consider Chile as an alternative ski destination. The season begins there in mid-June and runs until October although the best skiing conditions in Chile are from mid July to early September. However it is worth remembering that the busy Chilean holidays are in July.
Chile makes a great destination for a ski or snowboard holiday plus it is very easy to combine it with other activities while you are there. The Andes mountain range is the second highest in the world and it’s tallest mountain is Aconcagua, which although is in Argentina it's very close to the Chilean border. It stands at approximately 6,950m. The ski resorts are not this high though – more like 3,600m, which is still enough to take your breath away on arrival.
Skinny Chile is the land of geographical and climatic extremes. In the very north there is the Atacama, the driest desert on earth and then in the very south is the wild and awe-inspiring Patagonia. Trips to either can be easily combined with a skiing vacation.
So how does it compare to skiing in Europe, US or Canada?
Most notably the lift systems at the ski resorts are perhaps not quite as good and can be quite slow. The resorts closer to Santiago have acceptable lift and facilities but this is not the case with the more southern resorts, as their infrastructure can be somewhat lacking. It might not have the glamour of European and North American resorts but then it doesn’t cost as much.
The average annual snowfalls are usually around 6/7 metres, although a couple of resorts receive more like 10 metres annually. The powder is reasonably dry but sometimes there can be extremely icy conditions. The days are often very sunny but when there is bad weather it can result in closures for days at a time as some resorts are very exposed.
There are about 20 resorts in the southern part of Chile of which Portillo is probably the most well known. Closer to Santiago there is the Three Valleys (or Tres Valles) where you have Valle Nevado, La Parva, El Colorado and Farellones ski resorts. Other favourites such as Nevados de Chillan incredibly sit on active volcanoes.
It is also possible to go heli skiing and boarding in Chile as well as snowcat skiing. Another popular trip are combined skiing and climbing holidays. A 15 day trip would take in climbing and skiing 9 different volcanoes in the Chilean Lake District. Skiing down is the easy part but going up can be very challenging. And if you keep your eyes peeled you may well see a puma!
Chile makes a wonderful destination for skiing but if you are going to go all that way, it would be madness not to tie in other adventures while you are there. A couple of days in the cosmopolitan capital, Santiago, is a definite must as is a trip to the Maipo Valley or one of the other wine regions. Up north, the Atacama desert has to be seen to be believed as does the ruggedness of Patagonia. An incredibly diverse country with so much to see and do, skiing is just one of the highlights.
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