South America 2024

Skieric

Member
I have been thinking about a trip to ski in Chile in the future. However finding information about how much snow these ski areas get is challenging. Tony - you seem to have snowfall stats on almost everywhere. On a normal to good year, how much snow do ski areas such as Valle Nevado or Portillo get? Would coverage generally be good by the end of July or the beginning of August?
 
However finding information about how much snow these ski areas get is challenging.

Yes, and inaccurate. The average seems to be 175-250 inches, with massive volatility. But if you look at the La Parva acquisition stats - they were as low as 125"/yr inches - I'm not sure if this was the last 10 years - but it might be the most accurate number due to financial due diligence. You cannot misrepresent things.

Personally, I would not put my money down until I saw nearly 80-100% open and a 40-60" base. And likely, you might wait until July for those conditions to evolve.

I would not book ahead, especially before August 1st. Last year, the Andes experienced a disaster that lasted until late August/September. If you booked for late July, resorts were barely open. Meanwhile, September had almost 10 feet of snow.

Tony did one of his great write-ups on the Chilean Andes link

Is Chile fun? Yes, it's now the wealthiest South American country. Beautiful skiing. But most seasons are mediocre for a lot of the time - more like bad Tahoe. And $/time is likely better spent in British Columbia - versus dust on crust on low bases in the Andes.
 
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Portillo in-season stats are the only ones that are reliable. When I was there in 2007 I got annual stats back to 1970. 1970-2007 average was 254 inches. Projection of monthly Las Lenas data 1984-2015 is 247 inches average. But the last above average season for those resorts was 2009. Limited Valle Nevado data in the mid-2000's implied about 3/4 of Portillo/Las Lenas, so I wouldn't be surprised at all if average since 201 was 125.
Personally, I would not put my money down until I saw nearly 80-100% open and a 40-60" base. And likely, you might wait until July for those conditions to evolve.

I would not book ahead, especially before August 1st.
+10
Last year, the Andes experienced a disaster that lasted until late August/September. If you booked for late July, resorts were barely open. Meanwhile, September had almost 10 feet of snow.
That was an aberration. In much of North America we think of average snowfall being fairly even December - March. Average Santiago precipitation (and Las Lenas snowfall) peaks in June/July with August 2/3 as much and September less than half as much. So most years if it's low tide at the end of July you can stick a fork in it. March miracles are way more common in North America and the Alps, southern Alps this season being a good example.
 
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Tony did one of his great write-ups on the Chilean Andes link
In that 2008 article, Tony writes "While skiing is available in Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa and Lesotho, the biggest resorts and most dependable snow cover lie in South America." Interesting to see the adjective "dependable," as it seems like the Andes in general (viewed purely from my armchair) tend to be very volatile snow-wise?
 
In that 2008 article, Tony writes "While skiing is available in Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa and Lesotho, the biggest resorts and most dependable snow cover lie in South America." Interesting to see the adjective "dependable," as it seems like the Andes in general (viewed purely from my armchair) tend to be very volatile snow-wise?

New Zealand and Australian ski resorts have an even lower average annual snowfall than South American resorts. None of them register above 200 inches. Therefore, conditions could always be variable, and large snowmaking installations are required. The South Island of NZ could have some relatively high snowfall areas if they were located near the West Coast, but none are.

However, South America has been faltering a bit this last decade. There have been some good years but many recent slow starts / poor seasons. So maybe South America is more dependable than NZ/Australia, but not necessarily reliable.

When I went to Portillo/3 Valles in 2016 before the Rio Olympics, I waited to add this stop until early/mid-July, when the resorts received a massive 6-8 ft dump establishing a base for the remainder of the season. I was even lucky enough to get 4 inches before Day 1 at Portillo and 6" during my visit (down day—toured Santiago), resulting in a La Parva powder day. (Used my Mountain Collective for two days at Valle Nevado). However, temperatures quickly warmed up after the minor storm to the mid-40s, creating Spring surfaces - very similar to Tahoe. I would not go to South America expecting powder unless it snows during your trip - surfaces quickly consolidate and diminish.
 
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