In the sweltering summer heat wave we’ve been enduring in the northern hemisphere, it may be hard to imagine donning heavy ski gear and hitting the slopes. Yet that’s exactly what serious skiers and snowboarders are doing in Chile—and other ski destinations in the southern hemisphere—right now.
I went skiing in Chile’s Andes Mountains at the Valle Nevado ski resort and it was one of the most incredible travel experiences I’ve had.
The ski resort-village is located just 21 miles outside of Santiago, Chile. But to get there, you must traverse a stomach-churning narrow mountain pass with about 50 switchbacks that’s not for those with weak stomachs or a fear of heights. And yet once you reach the resort, atop the mountain, the rewards are spectacular: breathtaking views of mountains covered in glistening snow.
The resort itself is situated on a ridge in the Andes that’s about 10,000 feet above sea level, but some of the trails go up to over 12,000 feet. The trails are above the tree line, which means that after a fresh coat of snow the complex becomes one large playground just begging to be skied and boarded.
There are over 2,500 acres of skiable terrain at Valle Nevado, and if you opt for the multi-resort ticket, which gives you access to the trails at the neighbouring resorts of El Colorado and La Parva, you’ll be able to ski over about 7,000 acres. A 1-day lift ticket at Valle Nevado costs around $84, and a three-night stay at the resort starts at $1,400 per person, including meals and lift tickets.
Valle Nevado’s ski season lasts from late June to early October, but July and August are some of the best months to go as it’s not in the brutal cold of winter and there’s endless powder.
The Valle Nevado resort, comprised of several buildings, has 3 hotels, 6 restaurants, 12 shops, 4 bars and a spa.
The ride to get to Valle Nevado is breathtaking, but with about 50 switchbacks it can also be nauseating. If you don't have a strong stomach, take Dramamine before embarking on the hour-long journey from Santiago.
On my first morning at the resort, I stepped out onto my balcony and awoke to a spectacular sunrise at around 7am.
Because it's high above the tree line, nearly every inch of these mountains is skiable—and people do ski over all 2,500 acres.
There are 14 chairlifts at Valle Nevado, including a high-speed quad that takes approximately 10 minutes to get to the top. The resort is also installing a new gondola for the 2013 ski season.
The view from the chairlift is incredible: endless powder-covered mountains just begging to be skied.
And more spectacular mountain views. If you want to ski these, you may need to take a helicopter. (The resort arranges heli-skiing.)
Remarkably, the resort never gets that crowded and the lines for chairlifts never seem to get too long.
Après-ski. At the end of the day, everyone heads to the outdoor deck to drink Chile's signature beverage: pisco sour.
There are weekly wine tastings on Thursdays and torchlight parades on Saturdays. There was a wine tasting event with vendors showcasing local Chilean wines and food when I visited.
As the sun began to set, the trails, etched with lines from skiers and snowboarders, glistened in the harsh light.
At night, people huddle around the central fire pit for warmth before heading to one of the resort's bars.
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