South America Storm Cycle

ChrisC

Well-known member
Looks like there is finally a big storm cycle to get underway in South America.

BTW - OpenSnow is going to start charging for almost all its useful information.

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EMSC

Active member
BTW - OpenSnow is going to start charging for almost all its useful information.
Both not a surprise and also disappointing IMO.

Most relevant feature for me was the forecast discussion on how to understand the certainty of the multi model run forecasts (eg nearly all forecast runs show some level of snow so its a very certain storm, with just slightly different timing/details; or the models are all over the place and changing each 12 hours so very uncertain). The exact details of the number of inches or etc.. are easily found with similar info elsewhere (I don't think their "proprietary" forecasts are really all that much better across a full season than others). And now that I have a basic understanding of how to interpret the sometimes stable vs fluctuating forecasts of the NWS and others, I don't think I really need the "handholding" discussion nearly so much either. It's also true that in general I ski the days I ski, and can only rarely call an audible for this coming season anyway.

Basically I'm not a subscriber and don't plan to be.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Portillo has the only reliable source of snow data in South America. 110 inches season-to-date snow, 50 of that in the past week. FYI this not cause for great celebration. Santiago has normally received half its annual precipitation by now, so that 110 inches is below average YTD vs. the 1970-2007 Portillo annual average of 254 inches. The ongoing La Nina is another negative.

For more narrative comments and some good pics, CaseyE in Santiago is worth following. We had lunch with him in Santiago last Dec. 3 before our eclipse flight.
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I thought OpenSnow cut back on the free info last December. In general I'm highly resistant to online subscriptions, but I make an exception for OpenSnow. The local reporters are uniquely insightful. Another plus is that all the OpenSnow info online is easily available on mobile. Lots of ski area websites provide more limited info on a phone.
 
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ChrisC

Well-known member
Both not a surprise and also disappointing IMO.

Basically I'm not a subscriber and don't plan to be.

I believe OpenSnow was charging for their daily 6-10 day forecast this year. Now they are charging for daily 1-5 day forecasts. I kind of liked the app when road tripping - however, NOAA is quite good for the USA, and wePowder is quite good for Europe. They also tried to report snowfall amounts which I found useful - especially in Europe.
Portillo has the only reliable source of snow data in South America. 110 inches season-to-date snow, 50 of that in the past week. FYI this not cause for great celebration. Santiago has normally received half its annual precipitation by now, so that 110 inches is below average YTD vs. the 1970-2007 Portillo annual average of 254 inches. The ongoing La Nina is another negative.

Assume there can still be some good years, but my interest in South America seems to wane. While I enjoyed my trip to Chile in 2016, I am unlikely to repeat it. I thought snowfall was very similar to a below-average California year. Conditions were either Spring or some forzen.

Also, the terrain was less than impressive.
  • Portillo did not live up to its reputation - primarily due to the Roca Jack traverse being closed. However, the Lake Chutes and other areas were fun. It's a death trap getting up slow trucks, and a lack of lodging/inflexible lodging.
  • Also, I stayed in Santiago and commuted up to La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado. Fine on weekdays, a pain on the weekends. It's essentially a one-lane road. Stayed at the Hyatt on points because rooms were incredibly expensive at the slopes since they were often priced in US Dollars versus lodging in Santiago in Pesos.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, South America is receding in my rear view mirror too. I did have an encore trip to Las Lenas in 2015 to ski some of the fabled terrain I missed the first time in 2005 due to Marte being open only one day.

But the real issue is the ominous weather trend, with 2009 being the last above average season at Portillo/Valle Nevado/Las Lenas. This is sort of like 2010 being the last above average season in SoCal. In both cases weather volatility is so high we can't yet say these are permanent trends, but they are in line with what some climate models predict. Regardless of stats, when conditions are subpar year after year, eventually you stop incorporating these regions into your advance plans.

Even Patrick had very marginal conditions on his last South America trip in 2012 and has not been back since. I have not skied the areas farther south in latitude. They are not as drought prone, but their infrastructure is mediocre and they are low enough for rain to be an issue.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
It looks like there are some attempts at infrastructure improvements - at least at Cerro Catedral / Bariloche.

Master Plan released. Here Here#2
Looks like more HS Lifts and perhaps more importantly snow-making. Never understood why they do not have base area snowmaking so people could ski down the majority of the season.

Managed a new HS Quad this year. Here. Here#2.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
I have some perspective now about Bariloche, thanks to the brief summer trip there in December 2020. The resort town and scenery are obvious attractions, and presumably those lure enough visitation to provide some $$ for capital improvements. Terrain looks interesting from afar, and while I've critiqued the exposure in the past, in Patagonia being leeward of wind is probably more important than being shaded from sun.

Yes the altitude is a problem with too much rain, and perhaps snowmaking could help that out some. However, capital improvements are very difficult in Argentina with exorbitant protectionist tariffs that presumably apply to lift and snowmaking infrastructure. At least that's what I heard the last time I was in Las Lenas.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Argentina is an economic tragedy. To go from one of the wealthiest counties in the world 100 years ago to what they are now - very sad. The import tariffs, fixed foreign exchange, etc - oh my!

I saw Las Lenas was trying to buy an old Saalbach gondola pre-pandemic. Was hoping it would go to the top, but no...just the less interesting terrain underneath Martes.

It might be fun to go to Bariloche and other areas in a good snow year and add a trip to Cabarete. However, I have been to Torres del Paine, Chile, and do not really need to see more Argentine Patagonia glaciers/mountains. Therefore, I keep looking at 10 days (Buenos Aires - Mendoza/Las Lenas - Bariloche (don't care if I see the other ski mountains) - Buenos Aires). Las Lenas just seems like such a pain to get to, undercapitalized, TISA time and you are not guaranteed a good time. Really, the only thing left I want to do in South America is a Galapagos diving liveaboard.

I could be happier just doing quick laps at a couple of New Zealand resorts with HS lifts and checking out the Milford Sound. Been to the South Island in a loop, but in summer - missed the Milford Sound area too.
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Really, the only thing left I want to do in South America is a Galapagos diving liveaboard.
That's on our list too. The catch is that the noteworthy diving is off Wolf and Darwin Islands, 18 hours by boat from the larger islands with all the unusual wildlife. So it's a two week trip on separate boats if you want to see both.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
That's on our list too. The catch is that the noteworthy diving is off Wolf and Darwin Islands, 18 hours by boat from the larger islands with all the unusual wildlife. So it's a two week trip on separate boats if you want to see both.

Yes, I looked into the Galapagos - especially coming out of COVID lockdowns to see if you could score a deal. Not really. And Wolf and Darwin Islands (poor Darwin's Arch) are the main events (hammerhead schools, whale sharks, other sharks, etc), yet perhaps less than 50% dive boats go there due to distance and time. Also, the waters can be quite cold despite their nearly equatorial location.

Most of my dive trips are 2.5-3 days and land-based. I have done one liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach / Whitsunday Islands for 3.5/4 days. That was long enough. I am not sure how much time I would want to spend diving vs. seeing the islands themselves. Most friends want to be more land-based and if they dove with a few sharks one day - good enough.

Anyways, given time and expense, I just put it off for a much later date.
 

ChrisC

Well-known member
Was looking at some of the OpenSnow forecasts and came across this map of the Chilean resorts near Santiago. Just such a tragedy they could 1. not work out a combined ticket of some sort and 2. try to install a lift in the backcountry between El Colorado and Valle Nevado. I understand they need to control this area - Santa Theresa? - just due to the access road to Valle Nevado.

Maybe the Vail-Alterra competition will push them together somehow. You can see the links quite easily - especially on this map.

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Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Most of my dive trips are 2.5-3 days and land-based. I have done one liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef from Airlie Beach / Whitsunday Islands for 3.5/4 days. That was long enough. I am not sure how much time I would want to spend diving vs. seeing the islands themselves. Most friends want to be more land-based and if they dove with a few sharks one day - good enough.
I would also prioritize the unique naturalist attractions over the diving for the Galapagos. But I would definitely do the Galapagos from a one+ week cruise ship. I would not want to be limited by daytrip distance from a land resort on a particular island.

In 2012 Liz and I did a 4-day liveaboard on the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns to Lizard Island. Some dive destinations are far flung enough that you won't see the best of them any other way than liveaboard, notably in Indonesia by my experience but I would say Great Barrier Reef as well. Truk can be done land based, but research indicated that the Truk Odyssey was the most knowledgeable operation there.

As for coordination among those 3 ski resorts, I would hold my breath on that given likely TISA factors. Valle Nevado has very poor lift placements from the perspective of advanced skiers. Of course advanced skiers also need some decent natural snowfall, which has been hard to come by since 2009, particularly since these areas historically get less snow than Portillo and Las Lenas.
 
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ChrisC

Well-known member
Looks like Portillo is re-averaging snowfall downwards. Thought they claimed near 300"/yr or 7-8m.

Now they are down to about 200"/yr according to website:


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tseeb

Active member
Sad story posted by Mattadvproject - he's been leading trips featuring AT access to sidecountry at Nevados de Chillan for several years.

"on the way to the mountains on August10th, we stopped in Chillan on the way for a big late lunch at my favorite restaurant, Motoneta 3. Unfortunately sometime between 3pm and 4:30pm, some scumbags broke into our van and stole all our electronics; about $15k in gear including laptops, cameras, GoPros, headphones and some other stuff.

My laptop was one of the ones taken and I had my entire business on it. I lost pretty much everything, it was devastating. We filed police reports but it's unlikely we'll get anything back."
 

Tony Crocker

Administrator
Staff member
Portillo year-to-date snowfall is 163 inches, so chalk up another below average season. Significant snowfall is very rare after early to mid September. Santiago has normally received 87% of annual precipitation by now vs. 78% in L.A. by March 10.

By the miserable standards of the past decade plus, this season in South America was decent per CaseyE's thread on TGR. Big storms in the first half of July put down a decent base. Nothing big happened in August but surfaces were good following a few refresher storms.
 
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ChrisC

Well-known member
It sounds like Bariloche had a well above-average snow year since they were skiing the lower trees and the runs to the base had coverage most of the winter. Still do not understand how they have never installed snowmaking on the return to base runs??

Looks like there was one great week in August for Portillo/Vallee Nevado/Las Lenas, and the rest was OK.

This poor guy from TGR sounds like he has made the Andes trek 7 times for frequently below average skiing? Yikes. I would give up one or two times.

In fact, I will never return to Chile for skiing. Really enjoyed my visit as a precursor to the 2016 Rio Olympics, but.......It's essentially California snow conditions - wind, consolidated powder, heavier powder, ice, corn or slush. And I think A-Basin is bigger and better than famed Portillo.

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ChrisC

Well-known member
Maybe some year a Buenos Aires-to-Bariloche/Catedral-to-Medoza/Las Lenas trip. However recent history just puts this idea on the back burner.....

The Patagonia lakes in Bariloche look beautiful if just the upper mountain has snow, but Las Lenas looks always so iffy. I guess it's get a guide the nice day that Marte is open and ski dawn to dusk.
 
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