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Southern Hemisphere skiing

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

I was wondering if anyone could give me some info on ski areas in the southern hemisphere during our summer here. Was thinking of taking the family to Chile this year in July. Anyone been there or know of a better place?

 

Weve done New Zealand in the past but live on the east coast now and dont want to travel that far.

 

Anyone have any info they can share?

post #2 of 27
post #3 of 27

Portillo is a great resort and you won't have to worry about crowds.  Plenty of after ski entertainment for the kids as well.  July might be a little early as August is usually the best month for snow conditions.  Which week in July are you going?

post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 

Dates are flexible as I havent booked anything yet. Portillo is one place i did look into tho.

post #5 of 27

South America doesn't have ther snowmaking infrastructure to ensure coverage.  I would wait until they have a base, before booking. Going in August would be your best bet.

post #6 of 27

I was considering a trip down south this summer / their winter myself.

 

I did some research; the general consensus is that there are no ski resorts down south that compare to the best in the northern hem overall (i.e quality of service, infrastructure, reliability etc combined).  Then there is the extra cost (money, time and hassle) of going all that way (often with connecting flights).  And in the case of South America; surprisingly expensive in everything from flights to accomodation.  New Zealand seems more acceptably priced, with more accomodation, modern lifts, snow making etc (at the main commercial resorts), better organised but a very very very long flight.  (that said, no more money than flying to South America, which is almost half the distance!).  I am from Western Europe.      

 

From (Aug - Mid Sept) the southern hem is home to the best ski resorts in the world, as even the major glacier resorts in the north hem, are usually not worth the bother much after July.  Freeriders generally don't any joy from glaciers regardless as they is little steep terrain.  For me I like them for their onpiste training camps but I like to freeride too.   

 

The resorts people seem to favour the most in the southern hem are (in no order of rating);

 

ARGENTINA
Las Lenas
Bariloche
Ushuaia

CHILE
Portillo
Valle Nevado

NEW ZEALAND
Treble Cone

 

I thought I could afford a trip this coming season but I thought wrong.  Was hoping on South America but shocked at the cost.  Wish New Zealand was a bit nearer.   

 

Apparently New Zealand gets less snow than the Andes but Treble Cone state 5.5m with a peak snowdepth of 3.25m.  If they are correct figures, thats not bad.  Apparently Treble Cone is one of the more reliable resorts for snow, plus it has the best vertical and some pretty fun looking terrain.  

 

Of course Las Lenas freeride looks rad, but the unreliability of lifts, irregular snow, wind and high prices are a bit put off for me.

post #7 of 27

Treble Cone stating 'average snowfall of 5.5m and snowdepth of 3.25m' - this looks like a stretch to me, maybe halve those numbers. When it's on it is really on and would be some of the best skiing here in the Land of the Long White Cloud. 

post #8 of 27

P8300044_3.jpg

 

Las Lenas.  Definitely a big gamble, but if it's good it is off the scale spectacular.  Besides the lift served they have some of the most easily accessible and amazing side-country on the planet, much of which is skiable right back into the area.

 

99208-Argentina-Lance-copy.jpg

 

Upper pic is the infamous Marte Lift, the lower is a little piece of one of the many 4,500 ft. vertical backside runs that require a 10 minute hike and a shuttle back from the bottom, or you can visit them by cat skiing right from the hotel.  Even if the conditions suck you are skiing upside-down with condors, so it is a bucket list trip for sure.

post #9 of 27

I just checked those stats again.  

 

Can't find any mention of snowfall data on official website (my mistake) however a number of websites state those figures (5.5m snowfall /2.35m peak depth).  That said on findthebest.com - ski resort comparison, they state 106inches (269cm) which ties in more with your estimate of roughly half the figure.

 

Yeah, definately looks like fun when its on.  Also the vistas of the lakes is really very scenic (provided weather permits good visibility I bet).

 

How are the pistes after sometime without snow, do the machines help to keep everything filled in / enjoyable?  

post #10 of 27

Really nice pics!

 

I heard about the CAT but can't find any info on that.  

post #11 of 27

Typo; I meant to type 3.25m snowdepth (related to Treble Cone post)

post #12 of 27

Quote:

Originally Posted by lex007 View Post

 

I heard about the CAT but can't find any info on that.  

 

I not sure what the deal is with the cat, but I talked to people who did a day skiing on the backside and had a great time.  The classic is for the cat to take you up to The Necklace, a big face with huge rocks that skis right back to the area.  When Marte was closed the cat was taking people from the restaurant by the base of lift up the runs and around the side in a loop up to the top (terrain to the left of what is shown in the picture) if you had a lift ticket. When I was there a few years back the cat was only doing backcounty day trips occasionally, but that might have been because not enough people were paying to do it on a regular basis.  I believe the Marte lifts averages being open only about 50% of the time due to wind, fog and avi danger.

 

If I ever go there again I will definitely be taking an AT setup with skins.  The surrounding terrain is epic and easy to get to, and we just had to give the patrol our passport numbers and they gave us a colored ribbon to tie on our poles and then we could go off area wherever we wanted. Probably a little too loose, but I did not complain.

post #13 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by lex007 View Post

I just checked those stats again.  

 

Can't find any mention of snowfall data on official website (my mistake) however a number of websites state those figures (5.5m snowfall /2.35m peak depth).  That said on findthebest.com - ski resort comparison, they state 106inches (269cm) which ties in more with your estimate of roughly half the figure.

 

Yeah, definately looks like fun when its on.  Also the vistas of the lakes is really very scenic (provided weather permits good visibility I bet).

 

How are the pistes after sometime without snow, do the machines help to keep everything filled in / enjoyable?  

Like I said when TC is on it's really on but when it's not . . . their base is really low and the lower slopes struggle to keep any snow, even manmade. It's not the place to go if it hasn't snowed for awhile. The Saddle Basin usually has good reliable snow but everywhere else can be quite variable.

post #14 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by lex007 View Post

I was considering a trip down south this summer / their winter myself.

I did some research; the general consensus is that there are no ski resorts down south that compare to the best in the northern hem overall (i.e quality of service, infrastructure, reliability etc combined).  Then there is the extra cost (money, time and hassle) of going all that way (often with connecting flights).  And in the case of South America; surprisingly expensive in everything from flights to accomodation.  New Zealand seems more acceptably priced, with more accomodation, modern lifts, snow making etc (at the main commercial resorts), better organised but a very very very long flight.  (that said, no more money than flying to South America, which is almost half the distance!).  I am from Western Europe.      

From (Aug - Mid Sept) the southern hem is home to the best ski resorts in the world, as even the major glacier resorts in the north hem, are usually not worth the bother much after July.  Freeriders generally don't any joy from glaciers regardless as they is little steep terrain.  For me I like them for their onpiste training camps but I like to freeride too.   

The resorts people seem to favour the most in the southern hem are (in no order of rating);

ARGENTINA

Las Lenas

Bariloche

Ushuaia

CHILE

Portillo

Valle Nevado

NEW ZEALAND

Treble Cone

I thought I could afford a trip this coming season but I thought wrong.  Was hoping on South America but shocked at the cost.  Wish New Zealand was a bit nearer.   

Apparently New Zealand gets less snow than the Andes but Treble Cone state 5.5m with a peak snowdepth of 3.25m.  If they are correct figures, thats not bad.  Apparently Treble Cone is one of the more reliable resorts for snow, plus it has the best vertical and some pretty fun looking terrain.  

Of course Las Lenas freeride looks rad, but the unreliability of lifts, irregular snow, wind and high prices are a bit put off for me.
Great info! Thanks -
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2meke View Post

Like I said when TC is on it's really on but when it's not . . . their base is really low and the lower slopes struggle to keep any snow, even manmade. It's not the place to go if it hasn't snowed for awhile. The Saddle Basin usually has good reliable snow but everywhere else can be quite variable.

That's a shame, good to know however.

 

Thanks for update.   

post #16 of 27

No worries.  

 

I did a little more research.  Overall I think Valle Nevado / La Parva (Tres Valles) is one of the safer bets.  Seems to be one of the most snowsure + good visibility record (still some youtube posts look a bit sketchy on snow cover lower down).  Ski area itself looks similarish to a resort in the Alps, but lacking in much challenging terrain (both on and off).  That said apparently there is some good side country between Valle Nevado and La Parva down to a road where a guide can arrange vehicle collection. The surrounding back country looks world class.  This can be accessed via heli from the resort.  But its not cheap.  Plus side is you can apparently call on it short notice, if and when you fancy a drop and you know the conditions are good.

 

 

post #17 of 27

Portillo is also in the Santiago region.  Apparently shares similar snow reliability with Tres Valles.  The area is a lot smaller however and run as an exclusive resort whereby there is only one hotel and all guests are expected to stay in periods of at least one week and arrive / leave on saturdays.  Its pricy, and the ski area is rather limited.  Although it does have some steeps.  

post #18 of 27

Some eye candy of Valle Nevado backcountry via heli;

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCTuYde9AAc

 

Looks great

post #19 of 27
My wife and I each has a free 7 day pass at Valle Novado. Should that be a good incentive for us to make a trip down there or what?
post #20 of 27

Hi nochaser,

 

A free 7 day pass X 2 will really help reduce your costs.  Plus California is about a thousand miles nearer than for me so likely less cost on flights.  

 

I havn't been to Valle Nevado (or any southern hem ski area before).  The feedback I have read is that Valle Nevado is one of the more snow sure ones (but still not in the same league as top Northern hem resorts for snow reliability).  The ski area is the biggest in the southern hem; all three ski areas - Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado form a domaine (Tres Valles) of over 100km of pistes (which is a decant number).  But, the area is tame, apprently most runs are in the green / blue range, even if some are marked red, the general consensus is they are somewhat over graded.  That said, the skiing looks bigger and better than the best of Glacier ski areas (which are also of a mostly intermediate gradient).  Skiing an intermediate gradient can be fun, not challenging but can work on technique and put in some nice carves.  Plus, there are some slalom / race clinics run there, which could be good because again, you don't really need a steep slow to train on gates.  If its a powder day, there is a lot of offpiste potential, again very 'beginner / intermediate', but if it were me and I was there, I would try and adopt an attitude of linking smooth mellow turns, which can be fun too.  Also, if powder, there is some more challenging looking sidecountry and clearly the potential of the backcountry, via heli is very good, plenty of expert lines, or mellow bowls if you prefer a smooth mellow ski.  

 

I am not going south this summer.  But, in future seasons, if I do, I would most likely consider Valle Nevado.  Wish there was something like Valle Nevado, with a few more steeps but it is as it is.  You could probably get some more challenge Bariloche, but its further and more complicated to get to.  I don't know of the snow reliability, visibility record is likely lower than Valle Nevado (although there are some trees).  Personally I think Valle Nevado looks like the better mountain, just less challenging but with great backcountry.  If you can squeeze in a little heli (provided conditions are good), that would really improve the quality of the trip, really get to see and be in those big Andes mountains, which not so many people get to do / say they have done.  

post #21 of 27

I have read though that even with Valle Nevado, its advised to leave booking until you can see there is a reasonable amount of snow on the ground.  If it were me I would observe over the next few weeks.  Potentially hold out on booking until late June / early July (and possibly even later than that if not looking so good).  Head down August time, some say, late Aug / early sept but for Valle Nevado, I would probably want to avoid sept as by then temps have got quite warm again, so even if snowdepth, snow could be quite heavy / slushy in afternoon, or patchy even.    

post #22 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by lex007 View Post

Some eye candy of Valle Nevado backcountry via heli;

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCTuYde9AAc

 

Looks great

 

 

That's an all Aspen crew.  Wish I could have made that one, they said it was really, really good.

post #23 of 27

Yeah, looked fantastic.  And to score that during our summer must of been a real buzz.  

post #24 of 27

Much here to comment upon....

 

I have skied in Southern Hemisphere resorts in 6 different seasons.  TR's here: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=6

All of these trips have combined skiing with other vacation activities.  New Zealand is easy to combine with tropical destinations in Australia, Fiji or Tahiti.

 

Feature articles from those trips:

Portillo, Arpa, Valle Nevado group: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2008/07/24/great-skiing-options-in-chile-lie-close-to-santiago/

Las Lenas: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2006/07/17/las-lenas-a-ski-resort-guide/

Overview of New Zealand skiing: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2006/12/31/kia-ora-new-zealand/

Club and public areas near Christchurch: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/2011/06/17/new-zealand-skiing-snowboarding-canterbury-hutt-olympus-broken-river-porters/

 

 

Quote:

The resorts people seem to favour the most in the southern hem are (in no order of rating);

ARGENTINA

Las Lenas

Bariloche

Ushuaia

Las Lenas is in a class by itself for terrain quality in the Southern Hemisphere, reminded me some of Grands-Montets at Chamonix.  BUT

 Quote:

I believe the Marte lifts averages being open only about 50% of the time due to wind, fog and avi danger.

Also lackadaisical management. And the correct percentage of time open is 40%.

 

Quote:
CHILE

Portillo

Valle Nevado

 

Chillan is conspicuously missing from that list. I have not been there.  MadPatSki liked it better than Portillo or Valle Nevado and Chillan gets more snow.  It is also lower, so can get rain and has some management issues like Las Lenas.  

 

Quote:
NEW ZEALAND

Treble Cone

While I agree that Treble Cone is overall perhaps the best single NZ ski area, there are many others worth checking out if you travel that far.  In the immediate Southern Lakes region are Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Cardrona.  Collectively the areas I reviewed near Christchurch might have more appeal for advanced skiers.  I obtained snow data on my 2006 trip for Coronet Peak (95 inches but world class snowmaking), the Remarkables (134 inches) and Mt. Hutt (191 inches).  

Quote:
a number of websites state those figures (5.5m snowfall /2.35m peak depth)

5.5m = 216 inches.  That might be possible in the upper parts of Saddle Basin, but probably not for the frontside.  That proportion of snowfall to peak depth is reasonable, but from snow reports TC gets the base over 2 meters in maybe half of seasons.  Saddle Basin is south facing while the front is east facing, which accounts for much of the disparate conditions.

Quote:
the Land of the Long White Cloud

Yes there are glaciers up there and the west coast is a rainforest.  Unfortunately the lift served skiing is all on the drier leeward side of the Southern Alps; thus the snowfall tops out in the 200 inch range.   And the altitude is low enough that it can rain.  My guess is that Turoa/Whakapapa on the North Island get more like 250 inches, but they are on a volcanic peak that gets a lot of wind/weather closures.

 

I like NZ a lot and have been there 5 times.  But it should be viewed in the context of overall tourism rather than just skiing.   Have a car and be flexible.  With no trees you can't see anything on bad weather days, but you can find something else to do easily.

 

Quote:
 The feedback I have read is that Valle Nevado is one of the more snow sure ones (but still not in the same league as top Northern hem resorts for snow reliability).  The ski area is the biggest in the southern hem; all three ski areas - Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado form a domaine (Tres Valles) of over 100km of pistes (which is a decant number).  But, the area is tame, apprently most runs are in the green / blue range, even if some are marked red, the general consensus is they are somewhat over graded.

Comparison of in-season reports indicate that the Valle Nevado group gets less snow than Portillo (254 inches) or Las Lenas (271 inches).  I have extensive data from the latter areas and estimate Valle Nevado snowfall about 175 inches.    I agree that Valle Nevado is mostly in the blue/green range.  La Parva's terrain is more interesting but it faces west into prevailing winds and had some coverage issues when I was there in an average snowfall season.  Even though it's smaller, Portillo is a better destination for advanced skiers.

Quote:
That said apparently there is some good side country between Valle Nevado and La Parva down to a road where a guide can arrange vehicle collection. The surrounding back country looks world class.  This can be accessed via heli from the resort.  But its not cheap.

That side country is between El Colorado's lifts and the Valle Nevado access road.   It takes 4 lifts plus a private car shuttle for each lap.   I'm sure the heli terrain can be great, but I don't like your odds of it being worth the cost in a ~200 inch/season resort week booked far in advance.

Quote:
You could probably get some more challenge Bariloche, but its further and more complicated to get to.  I don't know of the snow reliability, visibility record is likely lower than Valle Nevado (although there are some trees).

Bariloche's own website claims 240 at the top and 60 inches at the base.  The lowest third of the mountain is often not skiable and must be downloaded.  Bariloche is also low, partially sun-exposed and subject to rain.  The snow reliability history is what has kept me away from there.  MadPatSki has been there twice.  Terrain and extensive lift system are very good if there are decent snow conditions.  While in that area MadPatSki has also checked out Cerro Bayo, Chapelco and La Hoya.  He has been lucky with powder both times at La Hoya though it's half a day's drive (or bus ride) from Bariloche.

 

Quote:
South America doesn't have ther snowmaking infrastructure to ensure coverage.  I would wait until they have a base, before booking. Going in August would be your best bet.

The more relevant issue is extreme volatility of snowfall, 50% more than the Sierra and twice as much as the Rockies.  Furthermore late July is the South American holiday season when prices are highest and crowds greatest.  The lift infrastructure at most of these places does not handle big crowds well. Post holiday early August to early September is the best time frame, and waiting until there is a base before committing $ is indeed prudent.

 

MadPatSki and I have divergent opinions about these places.  He has been to South America 5x in continuing a monthly ski streak, now at 92.   

Quote:
the general consensus is that there are no ski resorts down south that compare to the best in the northern hem overall (i.e quality of service, infrastructure, reliability etc combined).

I agree.  Therefore IMHO most people should be considering these places in addition to, rather than in place of, destination ski trips to the Alps, Japan or western North America.  One of my particular ski vices is checking out new places (my ski area count is 180), so that has contributed to my 7 southern trips.   But note that I have combined them all with other attractions.  The bar is higher for repeat visits, and Las Lenas is the only place impressive enough for me to consider for a second dedicated ski trip, even there recognizing that it could be a bust if the weather is not cooperative and Marte stays closed.


Edited by Tony Crocker - 5/21/13 at 1:43pm
post #25 of 27

Well there you have it.  Even Valle Nevado not looking so good based on snowfall stats.  

 

Is Las Lenas more volatile to extremes of snowcover?  The reason I ask is, based on video footage on youtube etc, there are a number of vids showing very poor cover (both in ski area and surrounding mountains) was a big put off for me.  Then combined with very limited trails, Marte issues, high winds, high costs, hassle to get to, old lifts, poor management, made me red flag (for myself), even though I have, on a number of occasions drawled over the good footage of freeride skiing in good conditions.   

post #26 of 27

Valle Nevado has plenty of good snow cover clips, with a few showing sketchy conditions only lower down.  

post #27 of 27

Valle Nevado is a very flat ski area and Las Lenas is very steep.  So much more coverage needed at the latter.  La Parva has more pitch than Valle Nevado and I did see coverage issues there.

 

No question Las Lenas is a high risk high reward ski area.  And the high rewards at Las Lenas come mainly for advanced/expert skiers. The Valle Nevado group is probably the best southern destination for intermediates.  But for snow, infrastructure, slope maintenance, etc. it's still far from Vail or Mammoth.

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