“When are you coming back to the Cordillera de Los Andes?” my friend Rafa said to me over Skype from his Santiago apartment.
“It’s our playground. Limitless possibilities of terrain, active volcanoes, unbelievable scenery, you must come back,” he insisted.
Rafa and I met almost three years ago on my first trip to Chile. Within an hour of meeting each other, we piled into his truck with my Dad and two of his friends to chase some snow in Chillan.
Now, he wanted to plan our next ultimate Chilean ski road trip.
“We’ll start at Portillo,” he began. “If we leave Santiago by 7am we’ll be there for the lift opening at 9am.”
Day 1: Bluebird Day at Ski Portillo
Ski Portillo is 164 kilometres from Santiago, and one of the resorts I hadn’t skied yet.
Rafa explained his favorite run was inside the resort boundaries called Roca de Jack. The challenge, as he said, starts with a very steep climb on the Va et Vien lift. Then, he suggested, we take the Travesia and also hit Kilometro Lanzado Bowl, El Estadio and Ultima Quebrada.
“Or, if we’re feeling up for it,” he adds, “we can hike the mythical Super S Colouir, which takes a few hours to reach.”
Banking on a bluebird day, Rafa suggested to have lunch—pescado o carne asada (barbecued Fish or Meat) with a pisco sour—at Tio Bob’s restaurant. The restaurant is located near the Plauteu Lift on a snow-covered terrace looking over the magnificent Laguna del Inca.
Après in Santiago:
After skiing, we’ll return to Santiago in time to eat Lomito Italiano from the Fuente Alemana Restaurant in Pedro de Valdivia in Providencia.
“We’ll recover our strength with a pork meat sandwich with tomato, avocado and mayonaise so we’re ready to hit Farellones the next day.”
I usually had a strong stomach for road trips, but I knew if Rafa was planning on taking me to Farellones, I’d have to go easy on the red wine and pack some Gravel for the next day. The 41 switch back turns in addition to Rafa’s eagerness to get to the mountains meant I would be white knuckled the whole way as he drove.
Day 2: Impressive Terrain at La Parva
Farellones Mountain village is 33 kilometres from Santiago. Rafa does the drive in just over an hour, 41 switch backs and all. The town is the hub for three different ski resorts which are connected through the 3 Valles Ski Pass.
“We will stay at my friend’s Marcelo and Maca’s home,” he said.
His two friends welcomed me into their home several times before, which is near the base of ski resort El Colorado’s first lift. Ski in and ski out, plus Maca makes a mean pisco sour…it was perfecto.
We will start our time in Farellones skiing La Parva, which has been the backdrop for Eye Of The Condor for the last two years. (And for the Freeski World tour in 2009, Rafa added.) It’s a family resort mostly focused on alpine race skiing, but has an impressive terrain accessible with very short hikes.
“Bring your avalanche gear,” he said. “As at Portillo, La Parva has a very thorough avalanche control program. So, if we have good conditions we can go ski La Falsa Parva, Mckonckey´s or La Chimenea.”
You might know La Chimenea from pro skier Instagram accounts, usually picturing the iconic drop-in.
“Depending on our mood,” he added, “Maybe we’ll do the two hour hike up EL Cerro LA Parva which promises nice colouirs, bowls and cliffs.”
“And,” he sneaks in, “we have a nice pisco Sour on the terrace there.”
Rafa suggests we check the Alambique Bar at El Colorado Resort.
Day 3: Sweet Spots at El Colorado
On the next day, we’ll visit El Colorado, skiing right from our cabin by taking four lifts to the top of the resort. We’ll take the Corniza and Cono Este run to some sweet spots, Valle Olimpico and the more challenging Chanchito with small colouirs and cliffs.
“For Lunch we can stop and charge our energy at Manolo´s on the middle of the slope,” he continued. “And for the end of the day we finish with my favorite run in Santa Tere.”
The Santa Tere run is an out of bounds area that finishes on the road that goes from Farellones to Valle Nevado.
“We’ll have to hitchhike back to Farellones with your big big smile, Sarita,” he laughs.
Day 4: International Valle Nevado
On our fourth day, we will hit Valle Nevado, the most international of the resorts attracting mostly Brazilians. The Three Puntas Lift takes you deep inside the mountain, and leaves you with some amazing skiing possibilities.
“We’ll have two different mountain approaches. To the front of the lift we’ll have a couple of spots to hike but for the back of the resort, again endless possibilities but I would advise caution for hiking because of the amount of snow back there,” he said. “And once you leave the resort, there is no avalanche control.”
He explained to me as he weighed the options.
“Lunch is expensive in the resort restaurants here so probably well have to do with a completo italiano (tomato, avocado and mayonnaise hot dog) with papas fritas (French fries) and a beer at the middle slope-slide restaurant.
We’ll head back for a night in Santiago, have diner at Liguria in Manuel Montt (a favorite of mine!) and go for a dance at Subterraneo Club en Orrego Luco.
“Or maybe some place cooler, maybe Candelaria on Vitacura or something more bohemio in Bellavista where we can find live music like Galpon 9, Onaciu or Bar Loreto,” Rafa said. “But, if you feel like dancing late night electronic music, we’ll hit up Club La Feria.”
Day 5 & 6: Nevados de Chillan (My Favorite)
Saving the best for last, Rafa suggested we spend our final two days at Nevados de Chillan, about a five and a half hour drive south from Santiago, nearly 480 kilometers away.
There we’ll stay in Las Trancas Village, a small town about 18 kilometres from the ski resort. Rafa usually stays at Los Hualles or Roca Negra Lodge, so that’s where we’ll go. (But there are many options for nice, warm accommodations in the middle of Las Trancas village and close by bars like Palo Huacho or 8 Loco.)
He promises a 9:00am sharp start time so we can take laps in Elefante, easily accessible terrain by way of two lifts.
“It is like a steep Japan-like terrain because of the trees and super deep POW!” he said excitedly.
Later, we’ll shred Pirigallo and the Fingers, two runs, and finish with a nice Chilean asado back at the cabin. (Asado is the word for barbecue and is usually fueled with burned wood.) He says we’ll prepare lomo vetado (rib eye), entraña (thin skirt beef), pollo (chicken), pork ribs, zucchinis, mushrooms with potatoes, tomatoes, onion and lettuce. Rafa was an expert, as most Chileans are, when it came to the asado.
For the second day he planned for us to go to all the bowls in Las 3 Marias and finish the day with the cat skiing at the top of the Chillan Volcano. He promised the view over the 3180 metre summit, impressive.
“Next trip we can go further south to Laguna del Maule, Volcan Callaqui, Pucon, and Corralco,” he said.
Other hot tips from Rafa, the Chilean Babe:
- On the car stereo: Lots of reggae and Chilean bands are on Rafa’s playlist. Check out Los Tetas, Tiro de Gracia, Zaturno, Aguila and Matanza.
- Airport pickup: Take an authorized taxi shared or alone, which should cost you no more than $CH18.000 to nearly any place in Santiago’s city region.
- Drink: Pisco sour is a typical Chilean drink. Enjoy. But always remember: Respect the Pisco.
- Weather: Take on my Dad’s mantra: The next best thing to skiing in Chile, is being in Chile, and you should have good time.
Are your bags packed yet?