For some, the ideal summer destination is any place that involves your swimsuit, flip flops, soft sand, warm sum and clear blue skies. But for avid skiers and snowboarders, a dream summer vacation can also include chasing winter around the globe.
Three summers ago, my husband and I did just that and skied Portillo for a week in August. The experience was fantastic in every way. (Think stunning peaks, covered in dry light powder that lasted for DAYS.)
Here’s why you should make a trip to ski Chile this summer:
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1. Because You Can.
Yes, it’s summer in North America, but head far enough south, past the equatorial tropics, and snow is falling. Tip the seasons on their head and pack your ski gear. Search for flights and book your stay.
Just because it’s hot and humid at home, doesn’t mean you can’t have winter.
2. Because It’s Close.
The Southern Hemisphere is a big place, with options for skiing and riding in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
Without a doubt, a trip to Chile or Argentina is much easier on the wallet, and on the body, than a trip down under. Think less time in the air and fewer time zones to cross.
Valle Nevado is less than 40 miles from Santiago, although the drive up winding, steep mountain roads takes about 90 minutes. Portillo is also close, just about two hours from the Santiago airport. Reserve a shuttle to either resort and enjoy the views.
Major US airlines fly to Santiago from many US hubs, so even those of us who live in the hinterlands often only have to change flights once to get to Chile.
3. Because It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Fortune.
Once you’ve ante up the airfare (which can top $1000 per person), you can spend as much or as little as you prefer on a Chilean ski vacation.
Lift tickets are significantly less expensive than comparable U.S. ski areas, while the larger resorts, Portillo and Valle Nevado offer all-inclusive lodging, lift ticket and meal packages at their hotels.
While the Hotel Portillo and Hotel Valle Nevado are luxurious and expensive, both of these resorts also offer mid-range and low-end, economical options, again with meals and lift tickets included. Bookings are traditionally by the week, but don’t give up the dream if you only want to visit for a single day or a few nights.
Day tickets are available at all resorts, and the Mountain Collective pass works at Valle Nevado.
In addition, Portillo offers discounted mini-weeks, and weekly guests at Valle Nevado receive two interconnect tickets for neighboring La Parva and El Colorado (for a combined 7,000 skiable acres). Resort websites have information in English on all booking options, along with special discounts.
4.Because the Skiing is OUTSTANDING.
The Andes are mountains por excelencia, the world’s longest mountain range, running some 4,500 miles along the west coast of the continent. With an average height of 13,000 feet, the Andes top out at 22,841, the summit of Mount Aconcagua, on the Chile-Argentine border near Portillo.
Chilean skiing is found in two regions: in the high, rugged Andes near Santiago and in the more-southerly and temperate Lake District, a forested region dotted with lakes, volcanoes and natural hot springs.
The most popular resorts with North Americans are in the high Andes closest to Santiago. The skiing here is above tree line, in vast open bowls on the shoulders of the mountains.
While there is grooming, and terrain to suit all tastes and abilities, Valle Nevado and Portillo, in particular, are known off-piste skiing on powder that lasts for days, thanks to the relative lack of skiers and snowboarders competing for turns.
Portillo has 1,235 skiable acres served by chairlifts and their uniquely famous slingshot lifts — picture surface lifts with up to five Poma discs that hurtle skiers and riders up the mountain and then stop cold to let everyone off.
By itself, Valle Nevado has 2,200 inbound skiable acres, with easy access to another 5,000 skiable acres in a hike-to back bowl (now with a lift to take guests out) and connecting trails to La Parva and El Colorado.
5. Because Many Adventures Await
Chile is long thin land, stretching 2,653 miles from tip to tail. Within this expanse is immense geographic diversity from the impossibly arid, yet beautiful, Atacama Desert in the north to the wonders of Patagonia in the south.
During the Chilean winter, the Atacama Desert is at its best, offering hiking, mountain biking, abundant sunshine and infinite stargazing. Both Portillo and Valle Nevado have sister properties in the desert and offer discounts for guests combing a visit to each locale. Additional lodging, including inexpensive hostels, is found in nearby San Pedro de Atacama.
Another option is to extend your trip for a few days in Santiago. A city of 6.5 million people, Santiago has an impressive food and wine scene, along with good urban walking and hiking on three hills, Cerro Santa Lucia, Cerro San Cristobal and Cerro Manquehue.
Finally, if you’re still hoping to score some beach time, combine your summer ski trip with a surf trip. Metanzas and Pichilemu are two surfing hotspots popular for their perfect waves and steady winds. Another beach option is the popular coastal town of Valparaiso, just 90 minutes northwest of the capitol.