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.