by Chris Fellows
The word “portillo” means “opening or road between two heights” – an apt descriptor for both the Chilean ski resort as well as the transformations that occur on its slopes every summer. The highs and lows, laughs and cries of this annual trip set a standard for personal exploration unlike any other ski experience. To truly immerse yourself in the adventure, start by clearing away any preconceived notions you might have of what a ski vacation entails. Full-immersion summer training in Portillo will redefine your expectations.
Portillo is located approximately 100 miles and at least 37 switchbacks from the Chilean capitol of Santiago. Approaching the grand yellow Hotel Portillo feels a little like seeing land after a long time at sea. You can smell its essence and feel its terra madre. The soul of Portillo greets you upon arrival, transporting you into a trancelike state, a combination of the warmth of the hotel and the immensity of the outlying environment.
Get off the shuttle and just try not to gawk at the infinite skiing possibilities. With more than 2,500 vertical feet and 1,300 skiable acres serviced by 14 lifts, the Chilean Andes resort offers steep groomers, couloirs, deep powder runs, and trails that look like expansive tongues lapping up the sides of the rocky summits. Adding to the locale’s formidable physical strengths is the logistical icing on the cake: Portillo limits the number of guests to 450 to avoid the long lift lines and crowded restaurants that are the hallmarks of many U.S. resorts.
The summer training ground for many national ski teams, Portillo comprises two sides of a huge valley where the slopes fall steeply from the summits to the more moderate terrain surrounding the shores of glacial blue Lake Inca. The higher reaches of Portillo skiing are serviced by five-person Poma lifts that rocket you 1,500 vertical feet in seconds. (A hair-raising tortuga/ turtle ride on your back can result if you’re unprepared for the abrupt stop at the top.)
The steep runs available off the Roca, Condor, Vizcacha, and Cara Cara lifts will challenge even the most advanced skiers. The Juncalillo and Plateau lifts can satisfy any level but are known for excellent cruising and carving possibilities. And for those who like to take their boards out of bounds, there are ample options as well. Traverse out into “El Estadio” (The Stadium) after a short climb from the Roca Jack, and ski huge bowls or dramatic chutes before carving it back into the ski area boundaries.
The days in Chile can blend into a weeklong continuum of exhilarating alpine ski descents, lazy lunches at slopeside restaurant Tio Bob’s, sweaty hikes to untracked powder in the Laguna runs, wine drinking and interesting conversation in the main living room, lounging by the pool, fine dinners in the dining room, and rowdy, highly entertaining hours in the bar and disco.
This summer, why not forego the usual vacation for an experience that will push your personal limits and challenge what you know about ski adventures? Arrange a trip to Portillo through Lake Tahoe, California-based North American Ski Training Center (NASTC). By pairing small groups with experienced coaches and guides who have received extensive custom training, NASTC strives to fill each participant’s cup with knowledge, passion, and adventure – and to develop a supportive environment that’s void of distractions such as self-criticism and unrealistic expectations. During the Portillo experience, participants must open themselves up to the idea that extraordinary feelings don’t have to be infrequent. In Portillo, they’re virtually inescapable, and the magic resonates with young, old, and everyone in-between.
Next NASTC Chilean Adventure August 16-25, 2013
The North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) will run its 19th annual All Conditions/All Terrain Adventure Skiing Week August 16-25, 2013, in Portillo, Chile. Perhaps it’s because skiing in August is the perfect opportunity to refine your skills for the approaching season, or the fact that the resort has taken care of everything you need for a seamless ski vacation, or maybe it’s the instantaneous bonds that form among our coaches and students … whatever the reason, the August trip is one of our most popular.
At Portillo, you’ll enjoy the finest food and famous Chilean wines, skiing right out your door, the spectacular Andes, world-class personalized instruction, and vacation amenities that include massage, pools, yoga, and movies. The NASTC goal is to guide you to some epic big mountain skiing (whether you are intermediate or expert) and advance your skills by a full level.
Life is simple at Portillo. When you are on a NASTC ski training vacation at Portillo, you need only think about your skiing, sleeping, and eating. Sure, you can think about a lot more – meeting new friends, partying at the bar and disco, working out alongside the Austrian and U.S. ski teams, unwinding with yoga, stretching, or massage, watching a movie, or practicing your Spanish – but the beauty of Portillo is how it embraces the simple life. You eat at the same table with the same waiters four times a day; your room is 30 seconds from the slopes, the dining room, and other hotel amenities; and the warm Latin culture lures you into a relaxed state of mind.
Portillo – the perfect “Ski Training Center” in the NASTC name. At the Portillo facility, we have access to the movie theater for video screening. (Don’t worry, only your supportive NASTC friends will be watching as we gently critique your slope-style.) And the optional morning routine is hassle-free: rise, walk 30 seconds to NASTC’s trainer-led morning stretch, upstairs to a healthy breakfast, and then don your ski clothes and head out to the slopes. Quick, easy, and the ultimate in convenience. You’ll enjoy the opportunity to ski in small groups, benefit from coaching by the best instructors in the world, and talk about your ski day over delicious lunches.
Summer skiing ties your seasons together. Feel like you never left your boards (or your newfound skills) when you jump back on the snow in December. A full week of honing your skills under the watchful eyes of top NASTC trainers will work wonders for your skiing and confidence level. One memorable NASTC week will give you insight into and solutions for your equipment issues, too, and leave you with a solid action plan for continued improvement during the upcoming season. For an eye- and mind-opening Chilean experience, bring your lofty goals and insatiable appetite for fun.
Getting to Chile
Getting to Chile is a painless, overnight flight and at most a three-hour time change. Travel times from the following U.S. cities to Santiago average:
Dallas (9 hrs)
Los Angeles (10 hrs)
Miami (8 hrs)
New York (10 hrs)
San Francisco (12 hrs)
If you live on the East Coast, the time change is nil: Chile is in the same time zone as New York City. For those coming from the West, the biggest adjustment you’re looking at is a three-hour time change – negligible when you compare it to the eight-hour hit you take traveling to Europe, which can require a couple of days just to get over the jet lag. When heading to Portillo, you land in the morning, shuttle up to the mountains in three short hours, enjoy lunch and a nap, and hit the mountain for some skiing.
For more information about NASTC Ski Camps visit the website at http://www.skinastc.com.
Chris Fellows is Co-founder and Co-director of the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC). A ski instructor and examiner for over 25 years, two-time member of the PSIA Alpine Team, Education VP for PSIA-Western Division from 1998-2000 and PSIA-W Board of Directors since 1995. Chris has served as a ski school staff trainer at Squaw Valley, Mt. Rose and Heavenly; attended the prestigious Austrian Bundessporteim in 1989 and again in 2008 by special invitation. Chris is the author of two books and. Chris started NASTC in 1994 with wife Jenny and Mike Sodergren. Chris also enjoys rock climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry and is a professional member of the American Mountain Guides Association; Chris grew up in MA; moved to Tahoe at age 24 and continues to live in Truckee, CA with wife Jenny, sons Colter & Heath and, daughter Monique.