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Chillan, Chile August 2011

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 


Aug 2011 Chile - Chillan Trip

I just got back from Chillan in Chile and thought I would share some of the information about the place since I had such a hard time finding anything out before I went.

It is important to know that the reason I went there in the first place was in search of good snow and hopefully some powder. I did not get what I wanted and that will have influenced my opinions.  I have skied in Valle Navado a few times and really enjoyed it but this year like last year was very dry and it did not look promising. So, on some recommendations and the fact that it was further south, a few friends and I booked hotels in Chillan. (Pronounced Chee – an.)

We tried to fly down from Santiago but the local flights are unreliable and we ended up getting the train. Although this is a 5 hour journey the trains are really nice and have food service and beer so it is a pleasant way to get over the long flight from the US.

I had read some horror stories on the web in Spanish about the place and was concerned but open for a good time. Here is the deal as far as I could figure out.

The resort was leased out to an operating company that had installed lifts but that lost the lease for some reason. One of the hotels, the largest and most expensive, the Grand Navados de Chillan won the new lease to operate the resort. This was not a happy deal for the previous lease holder and he apparently took all the lift down including the towers and stacked them all at the base of the mountain. For at least one season I was told there were no lifts at all. This operator did install some lifts, a quad to get you up from the parking lot to the base TATA. They also installed a double lift from the base to a point high on the mountain - OTTO. The lifts are not your standard high quality Dopplemeyer jobs, these are local made orange 1970’s style lifts. Very, very slow with wooden slat seats and little in the way of safety. They also installed a few T bars and pomas but access to the mountain is somewhat limited. On weekends the lift lines get long, up to an hour for the OTTO lift.

After some amount of time there was some kind of a forced change of operators and another local hotel, the Navados De Chillan (not the Grand of the same name) took over operation of the resort. They are adding at least one lift but it is the same old design double seat slow orange type as the OTTO chair.

So, the current situation is there are limited lifts and the ones they have are crap, very slow crap. The lift ticket is US$60 on the weekend and US$40 on weekdays.

The lifts close a lot! Chillan gets really high winds, we saw 100km/hr winds while we were there and the OTTO lift was closed for 2 of the 6 days we were there.

The result of the high wind is that the snow gets either slabbed out or blown away. You could get a powder day but it sounds like a rare deal. One local on very skinny skis told us there was no point in having fat skis in Chillan since the snow was nasty most of the time. I don’t think he had any reason to say that other than he was telling it how it was.

The last thing to mention is that like most places outside the states, safety is not taken very seriously. I watched a snow mobile driven by one of the resort employees fly up a ski run with a lady on the back who looked like a joy rider out seeing the mountain. The driver did not make it up the steep slope and came down at high speed backwards and then rolled the sled throwing himself and his passenger off onto the ground. I am not sure how he did this but it was scary and if I had been on that side of the run (I was skinning up since the lift was closed) he would have killed me.

OK, this is long enough, Chillan is not a modern resort and may not be the big SA adventure you are looking for so be careful.



post #2 of 7

Thanks for the beta!  I would hope to get down there someday, so I have been reading all I can about the options & what it is like.  I have found that real information from the resorts themselves is really difficult to find or figure out.  The best is word of mouth from people like you.



post #3 of 7

is this my flying Scotsman friend?  

post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

It is, I thought it would help to sharesmile.gif. You did not miss anything in SA.

post #5 of 7

Hi, thanks for the report.  I was in Chillan in 2008 and was given slightly different information than you have. 


Here are a few notes on my experience.


We flew into Santiago and didn't do the train ride.  Opted for the plane to Concepcion, a one-hour flight.  Then were picked up by a shuttle van and driven to the resort.   


First, the nice part:  the week my friend and I were there was pretty great skiing.  Lots of snow and powder . . . but yes, also lots of wind and on certain days, rain at the bottom, snow at the top -- and sometimes total white out.


We found the place to be gorgeous and the longest run in South America, the 8 mile Tres Marias, which you access from the top of the Fresca lift (I hope it's still there!)  was magical.  Yep, that Otto lift was hugely slow and the lines horrendous.  But at that time there were other faster lifts and we tried to avoid Otto as much as possible.    


Our first day we met Vicho Vera, former Chilean National downhill champion and 4-time Olympian skier...he was 75 years old, and still skied like the wind.   He was the "ambassador" at the Gran Hotel.....for fun skied with us all day for a week and took us everywhere and dished the dirt.    The Gran Hotel was then and still is called, I believe the TERMAS de Chillan Resort.   


What Vicho said was:  


TERMAS had owned the concession for something like 25 years.  Vicho was head of the ski school for almost all of it.  The problems arose because  Termas operators were apparently resting on their laurels and hadn't done much to improve the joint.    A new consortium came in -- offering a huge amount of money and promises to the Chillan government --  and won the concession.    They renamed the resort NEVADOS de Chillan.    But old-timers still call the place TERMAS de Chillan.


Since then Termas has been in court suing the other operators over ownership and how that consortium was awarded the concession.   Accusations flying back and forth.


The TERMAS operators own(ed) the lower lifts eminating from the Gran Hotel and some others.  The NEVADOS peeps owned other lifts.    Every time a lift would break, one or the other would refuse to fix it.    When we were there one of the nice lifts was down for the entire week and we had to use a poma lift.   "Tomorrow" they'd say.  "Tomorrow" it will be fixed.   Never was.  


Then there was the ski school.  The NEVADOS people won the rights to the ski school and it was (maybe still is) a shambles.   The instructors weren't (maybe still aren't) certified and watching them work, they looked pretty damn amateurish.


Meanwhile, the Termas people had their OWN ski school, which was limited to beginners and the beginner slopes and lift that's next to the Gran Hotel.  You booked thru the Gran.  Different outfits, different people.   The Gran  instructors weren't allowed on the upper slopes.


But nobody told you this --  Vicho told us and I'm sure plenty of people found themselves screwed when it came time for lessons.  


As for a trail map, lots of luck in getting one.   The Termas and Nevados people pointed fingers about who was supposed to produce them and as a result, you never saw any.     You couldn't even get a daily snow report or weather.  Neither the Termas website or the Nevados website would post the info, accusing each other of witholding data.  


The legendary thermal waters got caught up in the lawsuit as well.  The GRAN Hotel used to be the hotel with the thermal swimming pool.   They also owned the smaller Hotel Pirigallo.   When the rights were lost to the resort, Termas also lost the the Hotel Pirigallo,.  The Nevados people got it, renamed it the NEVADOS DE CHILLAN HOtEL and somehow the thermal waters were re-routed to it and are no longer at the GRAN.  


The Gran Hotel still brags that it has thermal waters, but what we learned after a lot of sleuthing is that it has STEAM waters.  Still lovely to bathe in, but if you want the true Thermal soak, you need to stay at the NEVADOS.


Nevertheless, we stayed at the GRAN and liked it very much.   Modern, clean, friendly staff and great food -- especially the desserts!    


One day with Vicho (who has since left Chillan), we bumped into the Nevados owner (gotta admit he was extremely charismatic and handsome), and it was interesting to watch them dance around each other in a wary cordiality.   


It's sad to read your report.  Sounds like not a whole lot has changed in the past few years -- and in fact, may be worse.   I wonder if it will ever get solved..





post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for another POV. I am sure you are right in your information as it sounds like you had a good source (at least as right as anyone will be able to figure out as a non-local). The sad truth that since you were there the Fresca lift is gone or well hidden under snow at the base. I did not mention the hot spring war but you are also correct there, the water comes in off the mountain by pipe and now it only goes to the Navados hotel. The Gran has a hot pool but the chlorine apparantly confirms the source as city water, the stuff at Navados is brown and muddy which also confirms it is off the hot spring.

As far as I could tell the Gran no longer has any ski school or can sell tickets to the lifts. Apparantly the war continues out of site of the public as you say.

The most memorable part of the Gran is the deserts, which is great if the lifts run and you can ski but I packed on a few from too much of one and not enough of the other.

I don't want to say that the place is really shite but I for one will not go back, even with a little snow Valle and La Parva are still my favorite so far (and they have the same kind of deserts at Puerta Del Sol!).


post #7 of 7


Did you get any sense from anybody whether this is just going to be on-going legal wars -- or will there be a resolution?   Were there many non-South Americans there?  We barely saw any.  


Hey, great minds think alike about the desserts!  Just got back from Valle Nevado on Saturday (our flight got in to JFK right before they shut down the airport for Hurricane Irene).  And yes, those high-calorie treats at the Puerta del Sol are pretty damn good -- although I still dream about the Suspira Lemona ("Peruvian Sigh") and the Lucuma desserts at the Gran.  


I've never skied in Argentina. . . . I wonder what the desserts are like there.... 


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