South America 2023

Portillo and La Parva closed Oct 1 and I believe Las Lenas was scheduled Sept. 29. So if ChrisC tried to do some skiing, he's probably done by now. Portillo's season snowfall remains at 256 inches, and I don't know if they measure after the ski area closes.

A few later closings:
Valle Nevado Oct. 9
Catedral Oct. 15, presumably the population base in Bariloche helps with that.
Corralco Oct. 29 unquestionably has abundant snow (OpenSnow clip from today).
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I'm still surprised because a closing that late is very unusual for a more remote place.
 
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So if ChrisC tried to do some skiing, he's probably done by now. Portillo's season snowfall remains at 256 inches, and I don't know if they measure after the ski area closes.

I really tried to see if I could get to Las Lenas, but with double overnight travel (flights/bus) and iffy bus schedules, it was too much of a journey/time suck. Another time when snow comes earlier.

However, I randomly spoke to my brother around Labor Day-- he had been watching the storms and was interested in Chile: Valle Nevado and Portillo. I told him Valle Nevado is over-rated and that Portillo should be the focus. His friend Josh (ex-Tellurider who has been on many trips with us - Japan, Alaska, BC) was game too. Therefore, we collectively booked 3-days/nights at Portillo and a single Valle Nevado ski day on departure day. (I had only spent one day at Portillo previously after a redeye flight. All the Lake Chutes terrain was open and Roca Jack/Caracara, but the traverse was closed. I came away less than impressed). Chile is a relatively easy ski trip - it's a bit set up like SLC. Local resorts are 1 hour from the airport and Portillo is like Snowbasin/Powder Mt - 2 hours away. You can ski arrival and departure days if you want.

As for scheduling, we had to avoid the mid-September storms (closed roads) and went down the weekend of September 16/17. Portillo offered to put us all in one of its Chalets right on the lake versus the hotel, and we took them up on the offer. All the ski teams had left, and the resort was not busy since the season was far below average until mid-August and it was unclear how long the snow would last. So for about $1200pp we had a chalet on Inca Lake, 4 meals a day (including beautiful lunches at Tio Bob's! on the mountain), hotel breakfast/dinner/apres, Pool, Hot Tub, gym, and lift tickets. It was old-school traditional fun with a deserted, semi-private mountain - only the lodges of Alta might compare to this experience (during a road closure). Almost like a cruise ship - which is what the Hotel Portillo gets compared to sometimes. While I had vowed not to go back to Chile, this experience was incredibly special and unique. Loved it! Fun meeting all the skiers from around the world at dinner and drinks afterward. Almost like a heli or snowcat lodge. Excellent snow. Lots of great Chilean wines - especially the Carmenere varietal which is quite rare outside of Chile.

There was still powder when we got there: the far-out Lake Chutes, Las Vizachas/Condor traverses, and Roca Jack/Caracara traverses. The snow started to transition a bit to spring conditions due to the strong sun, but temps were mostly cold. It is very easy to ski the appropriate exposures. We did not go for Couloir Super C. Day 2 would have been appropriate, but we were still having fun exploring the terrain, skiing the relatively untouched lower sections of the couloirs and eating long lunches above the lake at Tio Bob's --- a 2-hour hike did not seem all that appealing.

We stayed in Santiago one night and skied Valle Nevado - mostly backside (Tres Puntas, Valle del Inca) for a few hours before late-night flights back to the USA on Wednesday. Not as much snow and more wind-impacted, but still fun.

While not Las Lenas I had a great time in Portillo.

Portillo - I'll do a lengthier write-up when time allows.

Roca Jack and Caracara slingshots / The "Traverse" is to the looker's left or skier's right after riding lift
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Plateau / Garganta Chutes
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Lakeside Chutes / Inca Lake
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View from Chalet to Inca Lake
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Estamos en Chile: An insider’s guide to skiing in Portillo - A Guide to Portillo Skiing Here
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1. A classic: Super C Couloir

Stand on top of one of the world’s most aesthetic couloirs after a three-hour bootpack off the Roca Jack poma. The line is steep and committing, once you drop in, you’re in. Granite rock walls frame the 4,000-foot line. It’s a run you’ll never forget and you’ll brag about for the rest of your life.

2. Techy: Toilet Bowl

With a couple of mandatory airs, a frozen waterfall to navigate and a backdrop of jagged rock, the Toilet Bowl is one to lap on a powder day. While it’s easily accessed off the Roca Jack lift, the line requires some beta and technical skiing to navigate.

3. Bucket List: Lake Run

Arcing powder turns above the mirrored waters of Laguna del Inca is a must. The Lake Run is an institution in Portillo. But, if you’re like FWT Champ George Rodney, you’ll look at the lines above the Lake Run and see endless options. Rodney will always traverse and climb off the Condor poma to link powder fields, chokes and chutes with the Lake Run. This creates a 3,500-foot, leg-burning top-to-bottom that ends on the shores of the Inca Lake.

4. Claim it: La Chimenea

There’s no better après-ski spot in the entire world—arguably— than Tio Bob’s. The cobblestone refuge goes off in the afternoon. Impress everyone at Tio Bob’s by booting up La Chimenea and skiing the beautiful chute that directly faces the Tio Bob’s deck. You’ll score pow in this south-facing line even when everything else is hacked up.

5. AK in the Andes: El Estadio

The apron of powder that sits beneath the exit of the Super C looks more like Alaska than Chile. Flutes and spines that never get skied reward those who poke around, link up jump lines by boosting off rocks with pristine powder landings and tuck into hidden nooks and crannies that aren’t visible from the on-piste trails. The Estadio requires sweat equity and a traverse, but it’s worth the effort. Trust us.

6. A week after the storm: Ultima Quebrada

Have you seen those quintessential Portillo photos where
Dav or another pro skier is blasting a pow turn underneath cloudless blue skies? Odds are the photo was shot in this zone a week after a storm. No one skis it because it takes time to traverse to and patience to pass all the untouched zones you slide past en route to Ultima Quebrada. But, this spot is worth checking out during a high-pressure system. Bring your GoPro or camera, this is where you’ll nail the shot.

7. Hot laps: Gargantita Dos

Just like at your home hill, spinning hot laps on the chairlift in Ski Portillo is damn fun. The line to lap over and over if you’re looking to bang out efficient laps is Gargantita Dos. This chute sits right underneath the main chairlift, El Plateau; so, you can scope it out every time you’re heading back up. On low-tide years the exit requires an air, but you can ski it from top-to-bottom with your skis on the ground during deeper seasons. From chalk to powder, this line is highly rippable.
 

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I told him Valle Nevado is over-rated and that Portillo should be the focus.
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ChrisC's trip was much better executed than my 2007 trip sleeping three nights in Los Andes, two in Santiago and two in Valle Nevado, but that trip was like most Southern Hemisphere trips booked far in advance. How high were the airfares on short notice?
 
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How high were the airfares on short notice?

We booked about 10-14 days out, and things were not too bad: $1k. (Miles were not a good deal). We all chose United and met up in Houston for the flight to Santiago. I don't mind paying a premium if I know I'm getting great snow.

If you were looking for 'best' fares, you could get $700-800 rt to Chile about 2-3 weeks out in the fall.

The above was much better executed than my 2007 trip sleeping three nights in Los Andes, two in Santiago and two in Valle Nevado, but that trip was like most Southern Hemisphere trips booked far in advance.

I did Los Andes for my single day at Portillo in 2016. And 4 nights in Santiago at the Hyatt (points) - great views of the Andes from the 20th floor. Commuting up to La Parva/El Colorado/Valle Nevado was fine during the week. Nightmare on the one weekend day.
 
If you want a 'good deal' to South America (Chile), American Airlines has lots of reward travel for roughly 45-55k miles rt. Had I been on my own, I would have likely used AA miles. On my previous trip in 2016, I few American. Buenos Aires is a little more.

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ChrisC's trip was much better executed than my 2007 trip sleeping three nights in Los Andes, two in Santiago and two in Valle Nevado, but that trip was like most Southern Hemisphere trips booked far in advance. How high were the airfares on short notice?

It's really a shame that Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Pava are not better connected and marketed collectively with a reasonable lift pass. Given recent expansions, all the resorts now share many common borders.

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I have highlighted in red the lifts that were not there when I skied these areas in 2007.
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Connection between La Parva and El Colorado in 2007 was likely not possible without a hike or transiting through Valle Nevado. The Fabres chair I marked makes it more straightforward now, along with the two new surface lifts in El Colorado. Much of that El Colorado terrain was accessible by gravity from Valle Nevado in 2007.

Not to be overlooked is the marked Embalse lift at Valle Nevado. The allows more off piste skiing skier's left off Tres Puntas. The lower red marked lift at Valle Nevado is a gondola which provides more efficient access from the hotels to the base of the only high speed lift Andes Express.

The steep terrain off El Colorado to below the Valle Nevado base remains accessible only by road shuttle. A lower lift with base near the red X I marked would be a big plus for expert skiers.

Despite these improvements I would have made the same call as ChrisC last month and concentrated on Portillo.
 
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Despite these improvements I would have made the same call as ChrisC last month and concentrated on Portillo.

At Portillo: With deep fresh snow, the High Traverse off Roca Jack slingshot opens up a ton of expert terrain. Maybe a little similar to ABasin and how Pali, Alleys, and the new terrain function. Or like The Ridge at Taos. Lots of fun stuff. Also, the Lake Chutes become a lot broader with many skiable lines - even worth hiking a bit from the Condor slingshot to reach them. Vizcachas slingshot is just untouched and ignored - lower angle powder for days.

I now understand why Portillo has its fans - Chris Davenport, etc. It definitely feels similar to Taos, Alta, ABasin, etc. - but with Sierra snow. Low season at Portillo starts the last week of August and its 3 or 4-day packages are good deals - nearly 40% off high season rates. I do not believe they had these options when I visited in 2016. A week would be too long at Portillo.


Valle Nevado has very short steeps. Tres Puntas is perhaps the best zone. There was still some powder on the lee side of features, but a lot of wind compaction.

I preferred La Parva over Valle Nevado on my 2016 visit. Although I got to ski it after a minor 4-6" storm. But there were big open slopes - especially the 'Freeride Zone' on the south side of the mountain. The new T-bars at El Colorado might be a little interesting.
 
I preferred La Parva over Valle Nevado on my 2016 visit.
Definitely true for terrain quality. But La Parva takes a lot of wind hammering with its west exposure. There were many sastrugi and wind stripped sectors there in 2007.
 
It's really a shame that Valle Nevado/El Colorado/La Pava are not better connected and marketed collectively with a reasonable lift pass. Given recent expansions, all the resorts now share many common borders.

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They had somewhat shared common borders in 2007. I remember skiing El Colorado and buying an extra lift ticket at La Parva to ride their lifts on the same day. There were no shuttles from Santiago to La Parva.

 
Definitely true for terrain quality. But La Parva takes a lot of wind hammering with its west exposure. There were many sastrugi and wind stripped sectors there in 2007.

Terrain:
La Parva is definitely my favorite of the three (skied a bit in 2007, but full day in 2012). But it’s really personal; I could see why some would prefer the others.
 
They had somewhat shared common borders in 2007. I remember skiing El Colorado and buying an extra lift ticket at La Parva to ride their lifts on the same day. There were no shuttles from Santiago to La Parva.
My feature article from 2007.
Staying in Valle Nevado, it's quite straightforward to spend most of a day in La Parva or El Colorado. You do have to pay a lift ticket upcharge and it is more efficient to spend most of your day in one area and not bounce back and forth among them. That feature has the trail maps from 2007, which I used to make the additions in the prior post above.

From Patrick's report above, he got a a rather cursory look at La Parva due to public transit logistics and starting at Farallones. Adam and I got a good overview of La Parva on Sept. 12, 2007, skiing 17,600 vertical there coming from Valle Nevado. I think Patrick may have had a more thorough day at La Parva on one of his later Chile trips.

I have noticed that in my 2007 Chile TRs I was captioning pictures, so those captions were lost in the Xenforo conversion, as EMSC lamented for most of his TRs. I may try to remedy that sometime where I can recall locations.
 
I didn't realize this prior to today, but apparently:

MCP ski focused Mtns - With MCP being the primarily US SW focused Mountain Capital Partners.

This acquisition was noted by Tseeb back in January. Here It's a little odd for MCP to be buying a property so far outside its base of operation of the SW.

However, they have added 7 free days at Valle Nevado to their season passes (full and 12-day passes) - at least for Purgatory. Not listed as a benefit at AZ Snowbowl or Pajarito - maybe just an oversight since pricing is the same.

Looks like Valle Nevado is still on the Mountain Collective - for now.

BTW, I used a Mountain Collective Pass in Valle Nevado in 2016 when Telluride was on the pass too.
 
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