Which resort in Argentina/Chile?

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Which resort in Argentina/Chile?

Postby johnnash » Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:33 pm

I'll be travelling to Buenos Aires on business, probably from Aug 13-24, and may have a free weekend after that for skiing before I have to go on to Montevideo. With only 2-3 days to spend :cry: , I'm looking for a resort with minimal transport time from BA, and where the chances for decent conditions are high. In terms of preferences, I ski mostly blue groomers, but enjoy some ungroomed or groomed blacks for a challenge. I've been poking around the web, and I gather that the most well-known among international skiers are Bariloche and Las Lenas, but both have some downsides, and there are several other smaller resorts that seem like possibilities, especially for a short stay. Any advice or relevant experience would be welcome!
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jun 29, 2007 5:21 pm

In your case, definitely Bariloche and the nearby ski area Catedral. Not too far away is San Martin de Los Andes and its ski area Chapelco. These are supposed to be nice resort towns with lakes and great scenery. The rap on these areas is low altitude and less snow than the higher areas on the spine of the Andes. But they got a huge dump last week http://www.powderquest.com/news.aspx so this could be a great year to go there.

Presumably you've read about my Las Lenas trip 2 years ago http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... php?t=1164 . The emphasis upon steep off-piste would not be the best fit for you. Another problem is Las Lenas' remote location with the Saturday only flights to the convenient airport at Malargue. I suspect flights into Bariloche are more frequent and easier to fit into your schedule.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby johnnash » Sun Jul 01, 2007 8:32 am

Yes, thanks, Tony. I had reached pretty much the same conclusion that Las Lenas wasn't the best option, for the reasons you mentioned. When I started looking at air schedules, I also discovered that the schedules are better a(nd cheaper) to Santiago than to the Argentince resorts, so I may also look at the resorts close to Santiago.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Geoff » Sun Jul 01, 2007 12:48 pm

johnnash wrote:Yes, thanks, Tony. I had reached pretty much the same conclusion that Las Lenas wasn't the best option, for the reasons you mentioned. When I started looking at air schedules, I also discovered that the schedules are better a(nd cheaper) to Santiago than to the Argentince resorts, so I may also look at the resorts close to Santiago.


Valle Nevado/La Parva is likely your best option. Lots of intermediate groomed terrain. 2-ish hours from the airport in Santiago and less from downtown. Beware that they price gouge on transportation between the airport and the ski resorts. You'll get whacked for ~$360 round trip. The road requires chains so you're kind of stuck unless you can find a local source for a rental car that will give you chains (or 4wd).

For 2 or 3 days of skiing, consider doing day trips from Santiago rather than stay at the resort. Look at http://www.skitotal.cl for day trip prices from the local hotels.

I believe Valle Nevado will book short stays. Their prices are on their web site. Portillo insists you stay a week.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Jul 01, 2007 3:26 pm

I can probably answer some questions or give references on the skiing from Santiago. The NASJA trip did not draw enough interest and was cancelled. By the time that had happened I had set up my time in Peru, including the flight from there to Santiago.

So Adam and I will still be in Chile from Sept. 6-15, but on our own. Plans are not final but I will probably be going through http://www.santiagoadventures.com/ , which is a full service operator for all types of Chile tourism, and handle all the arrangements for El Arpa Snowcat Skiing in particular.

In your case I'd recommend Valle Nevado, and the 4-star Puerto de Sol hotel there that NASJA was going to use. Independently I've heard of poor service at the 3-star Tres Puntas. I'm hoping to split time between there and Los Andes, which is 1+ hour from both Portillo and El Arpa. NASJA was going to combine Valle Nevado with Chillan, which is 5+ hours south of Santiago. If you go to Chillan independently, the acclaimed Colchagua Valley wineries are about halfway between. We're probably spending the last 2 days of our trip there.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Geoff » Sun Jul 01, 2007 4:17 pm

Tony Crocker wrote: If you go to Chillan independently, the acclaimed Colchagua Valley wineries are about halfway between. We're probably spending the last 2 days of our trip there.


Interesting. My Robert Parker Wine Advocate showed up in the mail on Friday. For the first time ever, they have done Chile. They tasted 650 wines and recommend 279. In the Colchagua Valley, they have a bunch of wines that are rated in the 90's and many are reasonably priced. Get to a wine shop and photocopy the 10 pages. I've had pretty good luck with random selections over the year. A buyers guide improves the odds. Make sure you sample a lot of carmenere. Very little of it gets to the US.

In my experience, the Jumbo hypermarket in Las Condes (the ritzy part of Santiago on the way to Valle Nevado) has a very good wine selection. There's another one in Chillan with the same inventory.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby johnnash » Tue Jul 03, 2007 3:18 pm

Yes, thanks Geoff and Tony, after looking around, it seems that staying in Santiago is a pretty good option, especially since I can't afford to get stuck at a resort, which seems to be a real possibility if there's a dump. Another nice advantage is that I could apparently ski each day at a different one of the 3 closest resorts (Parva, Colorado, or Nevado), although it's hard for me to tell from the info on the websites what are realistic transport times from Santiago. Geoff, what would you estimate to be the "normal" transport times for each of these 3 from downtown?

And on the wines, yes I agree that there are some great wines coming from Colchagua -- and other relatively recently "discovered" areas like Aconcagua also -- since those regions seem to be where the big-name international wineries have set up shop, presumably because land is cheap. But don't forget that Maipo is still the region with the longest winemaking history, and Cousino Macul (which is virtually in Santiago) is IMHO still one of the best. If you like smoke, leather, and tobacco, their Antiguas Riservas cab is your wine! But definitely try lots of carmenere as well. Since it was re-discovered a few years ago (for decades, everyone thought it was merlot!), it's rapidly becoming Chile's signature grape.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Geoff » Wed Jul 04, 2007 1:06 pm

johnnash wrote: Another nice advantage is that I could apparently ski each day at a different one of the 3 closest resorts (Parva, Colorado, or Nevado), although it's hard for me to tell from the info on the websites what are realistic transport times from Santiago. Geoff, what would you estimate to be the "normal" transport times for each of these 3 from downtown?

<snip>

But definitely try lots of carmenere as well. Since it was re-discovered a few years ago (for decades, everyone thought it was merlot!), it's rapidly becoming Chile's signature grape.


La Parva, el Colorado, and Valle Nevado interconnect. The drive time is the same since they share a common entry road. Halfway up, you take a right to go to Valle Nevado and a left to go to the other two. At least at Valle Nevado, you can get a lift ticket that works at both Valle Nevado and La Parva.

At el Colorado, I've never used any of the lifts but the T-bar that goes up the back side from Valle Nevado. You use it to access some very intersting (and big slide risk) off-piste that dumps you out on the Valle Nevado access road. Nobody ever asked me for a lift ticket.

If it's in your budget, I noticed that the InterContinental has a $120 internet rate. From there, it's sub-2 hours. I suspect that if you use somebody like SkiTotal, there will be a lot of screwing around along the way stopping at hotels and getting people into rental equipment.

When I'm in Chile, I pretty much only drink Carmenere. It's pretty much unobtainable where I live.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Jul 05, 2007 12:41 pm

Season snowfalls:
Portillo 159 inches
Valle Nevado 90 inches
Not bad for July 5. But the exceptional conditions are farther south. Since Alta Patagonia's own website admits to average annual snowfall of only 60 inches at the base and 240 up top, Bariloche might be worth a look for someone like John with a flexible schedule, given the unusually strong start to its season. It sound likes he's been to Chile before anyway.

Aconcagua Valley wine area is near Los Andes, for those skiing Portillo and/or El Arpa. We probably won't have time to visit wineries when we're in that area. One of the South America guidebooks also mentions Cousino Macul, so we should probably try to squeeze that in when we're in Santiago.

Everything I've read recommends staying in the resorts and not doing daily commutes from Santiago. Not only for being on the right side of road closures on powder days, but also for commute times and exorbitant transfer costs. I'm making an exception for Portillo because I don't want to spend a whole week there on my first Chile trip, and because I want to try El Arpa while I'm in that area. If you are going to do a lot of commuting, it may be best to rent a 4WD for $75/day.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby ChrisC » Fri Jul 06, 2007 1:58 am

Tony Crocker wrote:I'm making an exception for Portillo because I don't want to spend a whole week there on my first Chile trip, and because I want to try El Arpa while I'm in that area.


I've been curious about length of vacation at ski areas.

I am a hyper traveler when motivated...and do not want to waste time.

I think one week at Portillo would be too long. I liked 'Salida's' pics....but unless I got a storm cycle...a week might(will be) too long for me.

I have never been to SA, but would like to take extended time and try: Peru, Santigo- for skiing, Argentina - a little Las Lenas and a little Buenos Aries, Brazil - Rio. In about 3 weeks.

So is skiing Portillo for 1-2 days from Santigo, 4 at Valle Nevado complex seem reasonable?

I asked a year ago or so -- Tony seems to think Las Lenas is for a week....go with the flight schedule.

Anyways, this comes from someone who got Euro equivalent vacation time for some time working in Dublin. And I did the following: 5 days at Les Tres Vallees, 4 days Val d'Isere/Tignes, 4 days La Grave (and others), and 4 days Chamonix/Verbier/home.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Patrick » Fri Jul 06, 2007 8:53 am

ChrisC wrote:So is skiing Portillo for 1-2 days from Santigo, 4 at Valle Nevado complex seem reasonable?

I asked a year ago or so -- Tony seems to think Las Lenas is for a week....go with the flight schedule.


I've been doing a bit of research in the past few months. From my understanding, 4 days at Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Parva might be a bit much compared to 1-2 days at Portillo. I was told that they were pretty much intermediate with few steep shots (unless you ski the backcountry between them).

From my understanding....Portillo and Termas de Chillan are the real interesting ones, VN/EC/LP would come afterward. And yes, Las Lenas is better than those (when Marte is open). However VN/EC/LP are conveniently located next to Santiago.

One last note, you'll get hit with a $100 US fee when you land in Chile, so you'll save money by arriving in Argentina then travelling across to Chile. However the pass/road is subject to closure and the border crossing is all expect fast...expect a bureaucratic delay, especially if you're not comfortable with Spanish. All this is second-hand of course.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby johnnash » Fri Jul 06, 2007 11:14 am

Transportation to Portillo from Santiago is considerably more expensive (US$50 per person, 4-person minimum with KL Adventures) than to the 3 closer resorts ($15), from which I infer it must be a much longer trip.
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re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Jul 06, 2007 12:44 pm

The transfers from Santiago are very expensive when quoted alone. When we were going to be arriving a day late for the NASJA trip, I was quoted $110pp from Santiago airport to Valle Nevado, and you had to pay that round trip price even if you were only going one way.

Now I'm dealing with Santiago Adventures on a package deal where the transport costs aren't broken out. Since they run El Arpa and I'm getting a press discount I'm not inclined to nitpick.

I'll respond to Chris C.'s questions because I'm also a "hyper traveler" and his proposed itinerary is essentially a combination of my 2005 and 2007 trips.

Peru: We'll be there 9 days, and if you're going to hike the Inca trail you need 7 minimum. Our extra 2 are for river rafting (which also adds a 3rd acclimitization day in Cusco) and the highly recommended Nazca lines. Without the hike you could hit some highlights in 4 or 5 days. If you want the Inca Trail in July or August you need to reserve it at least 4 months ahead to get specific dates. We barely got reservations for Sept. 1-4 in late May.

Las Lenas: Saturday to Saturday for the hotel/flight schedule and enough time to get a good shot at Marte open.

Other Argentina and Brazil: We had one day Buenos Aires, 1.5 days Iguazu Falls, 4 days Rio. These are the consensus highlights, all popular and easy to arrange.

Chile: I'll know more once I've been there, but since Santiago Adventures runs the El Arpa snowcat skiing, they have package deals where you stay in Los Andes and ski both there and at Portillo for as many days as you choose.

I think 3 days is about right for the lift-served Valle Nevado group. The guy at Powderquest says La Parva's terrain is more challenging, but Valle Nevado gets more snow. They have an 8-day package which also includes El Arpa/Portillo, but like Extremely Canadian is not flexible for dates.

One of the guides from CPG in Alyeska works at Valle Nevado's heliskiing in the summer. Terrain and prices are customized to the interests of each group. For a strong group in exciting terrain plan on about $950 for 25,000+ vertical.

If you go to Chillan, you can chew up 2 days getting there and back to Santiago, which NASJA was going to do by train to minimize cost. I'd recommend flying or spending some of that transit time in the Colchagua Valley wine district. It's also possible to cross the border farther south from Chillan (maybe skiing Pucon also) and go to Bariloche.

But on a "hyper travel" schedule in Chile I think it's best to stay close to Santiago.

My two trips are a combined 5 weeks. If you want to go everywhere ChrisC mentions, I think you need at least 4 weeks.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Patrick » Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:16 pm

johnnash wrote:Transportation to Portillo from Santiago is considerably more expensive (US$50 per person, 4-person minimum with KL Adventures) than to the 3 closer resorts ($15), from which I infer it must be a much longer trip.


The Three Valleys (VN/EC/LP) is just above Santiago - on a long, twisting and scary road. Portillo is further to the NE.

Tony Crocker wrote:The transfers from Santiago are very expensive when quoted alone. When we were going to be arriving a day late for the NASJA trip, I was quoted $110pp from Santiago airport to Valle Nevado, and you had to pay that round trip price even if you were only going one way.


I don't have the exact details, but my friend SuperNat was staying in Santiago and using shuttles to ski at VN, etc... She didn't mention anything about being expensive. Her trip was pretty unexpensive from what I was told. (yes, she was a solo traveller). Although she would have like to stay closer (no vacancies?), she ended up in Santiago. Price/Quality for lodging was pretty amazing I was told.

Tony Crocker wrote:I'll respond to Chris C.'s questions because I'm also a "hyper traveler" and his proposed itinerary is essentially a combination of my 2005 and 2007 trips.


Here's a good safari trip of skiing in South America. 3 weeks for 3g (I believe that the amount I was told).

http://www.tetongravity.com/forums/show ... hp?t=59375

Tony Crocker wrote:If you go to Chillan, you can chew up 2 days getting there and back to Santiago, which NASJA was going to do by train to minimize cost. I'd recommend flying or spending some of that transit time in the Colchagua Valley wine district. It's also possible to cross the border farther south from Chillan (maybe skiing Pucon also) and go to Bariloche.


I was surprise to learn that SuperNat didnt' lose a day when she travelled from Santiago to Pucon by bus. Some Buses in Chile and Argentina have beds, so she sleeped for the 800km overnight trip and woke up the next day and when skiing that morning.

Tony Crocker wrote:My two trips are a combined 5 weeks. If you want to go everywhere ChrisC mentions, I think you need at least 4 weeks.


OR GO BACK NEXT YEAR. I've read some great stuff about Pantagonia. Everything from Chile, Argentina, Peru and part of Brazil (Rio) + some serious skiing might make a 5 weeks trip to jam pack with stuff or a bit to much.
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Re: re: Which resort in Argentina?

Postby Geoff » Fri Jul 06, 2007 6:33 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:
Chile: I'll know more once I've been there, but since Santiago Adventures runs the El Arpa snowcat skiing, they have package deals where you stay in Los Andes and ski both there and at Portillo for as many days as you choose.

I think 3 days is about right for the lift-served Valle Nevado group. The guy at Powderquest says La Parva's terrain is more challenging, but Valle Nevado gets more snow. They have an 8-day package which also includes El Arpa/Portillo, but like Extremely Canadian is not flexible for dates.

One of the guides from CPG in Alyeska works at Valle Nevado's heliskiing in the summer. Terrain and prices are customized to the interests of each group. For a strong group in exciting terrain plan on about $950 for 25,000+ vertical.

If you go to Chillan, you can chew up 2 days getting there and back to Santiago, which NASJA was going to do by train to minimize cost. I'd recommend flying or spending some of that transit time in the Colchagua Valley wine district. It's also possible to cross the border farther south from Chillan (maybe skiing Pucon also) and go to Bariloche.



Your advice about getting to Chillan is dead wrong. The nearest airport is in Conception which is another hour+ away. The Santiago/Conception flight I'm aware of has most people hanging around at the airport in Santiago for 4 or 5 hours. The train is the only way go go. First class is spacious and you can order food aboard. The view is killer. If you insist, you can get out partway, hire a car, and do the vineyard thing on your way though Chile in the middle of winter isn't exactly ideal for vineyard tours.

I don't know how long Valle Nevado has had US or Canadian-trained heli-skiing guides. In my experience, their operation was high on testosterone and low on safety. Maybe they've gotten better.

I really don't quite follow how you get off giving resort recommendations at a place you've never been. The off-piste at Valle Nevado riding the el Colorado T-bar and skiing down to the Valle Nevado access road is probably the best in Chile.
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