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Chile forecast 2015  

post #1 of 118
Thread Starter 
Hello all, first time poster long time lurker. I am planning my first trip to portillo for the last weekend in august/first week in September. As of today portillo has yet to open and they have yet to receive ANY snow. While many have called this an El Nino summer, it has yet to translate to snow. If anyone has any feedback as to whether this spells doom for the end of August it would be greatly appreciated. Apologies if this is posted in wrong forum.
post #2 of 118

mod note: moved from the general skiing forum


I don't know squat about South American weather, but I've been to Portillo in July during a low snow year. We weren't able to ski all the way down to the lake and the snow on the main trails was hard as a rock but so dry that "chalk dust" kicked up when you turned. Strangely opposite of that, off piste the untracked snow was like mashed potatoes. Sure enough it started snowing as I was leaving. As fantastic as the possibility of skiing Portillo in deep fresh appeared it could be, I personally would not hesitate for second at the opportunity to go back knowing it would be low snow conditions.


Watch for cycles of weather. El Nino's kick up trains of storms. If the dry cycles breaks, Portillo will probably get dumped on enough in the first cycle to guarantee good skiing for your trip. I'm not sure, but I don't believe Portillo has ever had "shut out" seasons like some of the really bad California and Pacific Northwest "disaster" years. Maybe that means they are overdue for one. But once you get to Portillo you'll see why it is inevitable that they get a ton of snow. The lower elevations are high desert dry as a bone. The peaks extract any moisture flowing their way like wringing a towel.


Pray to ULLR.

post #3 of 118
I work in Portillo and it doesn't look like we'll open for a few weeks. Could definitely still be epic by August though.
post #4 of 118
Thread Starter 

thanks for the replies. nerve racking as it seems like the country is just in total drought mode with no end in sight, but hopefully two months is enough to catch up. it seems like when it snows it comes down in droves so hopefully a few big july storms and were in business. have toyed with the idea of going south to Chillan should Portillo not be an option as our flights are booked to santiago already but from all the reviews online that seems like a terrible idea/place. 

post #5 of 118

For non Spanish speakers, that says it's forecast to snow next week and it should catch us up to normal.
post #6 of 118
I don't believe Portillo has ever had "shut out" seasons like some of the really bad California and Pacific Northwest "disaster" years.

That is absolutely false.  The volatility of Portillo's snowfall is 50% greater than California's and the incidence of "shut out" seasons far higher. 


Record low snowfalls in the Sierra and Northwest in 2014-15 were generally in the 120-150 inch range with a few low altitude places like Northstar and Squaw's base being about 90 inches of snowfall.  1977 was the only other year that low.


Portillo?  Out of the 38 years from 1970-2007 (the year I was there and obtained the stats):

44 inches in 1998

78 in 1985

82 in 1996

87 in 1981

88 in 1973

109 in 1975

110 in 1979


At the other extreme are 4 seasons over 450 inches and another 4 over 350. Average is 254.


Recent years have not been good.  Portillo had 68 inches between July 6 and Sept. 26 in 2014.  I recapped the 4 years before that in last year's thread. http://www.epicski.com/t/128111/south-america-2014/30#post_1751323


The snow tends to come in huge dumps so people who were lucky to be there the right week had some great skiing.  That included Skeeze last September when Las Lenas was on the verge of closing and it dumped upon his arrival.  In 2011 Portillo got about half of its 190 inches season snowfall during the week before Bob Peters was there.


If anyone has any feedback as to whether this spells doom for the end of August it would be greatly appreciated.

Would you commit $$$ to Tahoe in late February if there was zero snow on the ground at Christmas?  It would seem obvious at this point not to be committing lodging $$ anywhere.  Valle Nevado is close enough to Portillo to get similar weather and tends to get less snow than Portillo out of the same storms.  There is a good chance you will need to go south to Chillan or Corralco in a different climate zone for the best, or even adequate snow. 

post #7 of 118

Usually southern Chile and Argentina resorts are much wetter than the central ones, but they also have more freezing level issues... Chillan and Corralco seem to be in a good climatic region with good elevation, so they usually get lost of snow and not many big rain events (but they do get more rain than the high altitude resorts near Santiago and Mendoza)


I heard Cerro Castor in Ushuaia - Argentina, is having a good early season, but that is pretty far from Santiago.


I'm heading to Corralco for the last weel of August, the key thing is to have low expectations regarding powder days, just expect to meet friendly people, a nice culture and amazing landscapes.

post #8 of 118
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all the honest feedback. Luckily have a little while before I can cancel and get my money. Hopefully this forecasted el nino leads to a big july/august. Given the multi year drought though I guess I doubt it.probably will just put this off a year if the pattern doesn't drastically change soon.
post #9 of 118
It looks like there is good snow in the forecast for the weekend and early next week.
The long range looks wetter as well...
Fingers crossed that July / August will bring the goods.
During the last several years, June skiing in SA was not a reality at all.
post #10 of 118
Thread Starter 
The forecast does look to be improving. But in early June they did forecast a wet summer as well so they blew that one. Question is at this point even if it is normal snow rest of way how long does it take to build a solid base. August 29 is two months away but still seems like a lot a lot of snow will be needed to catch up.
post #11 of 118

Further south, some places already have some snow on the ground, the worst region right now is the central one (Portillo, Valle Nevado, Las Lenas).

But it takes 2-3 big storm cycles to change this scenario, so you still have planty of time. 

BUT, during the last few years, central Andes has been very dry...

post #12 of 118
August 29 is two months away but still seems like a lot a lot of snow will be needed to catch up.

With typical central Andes weather patterns it's not likely a matter of "catching up."  Storms tend to be infrequent but massive.  The sensible plan is to sit tight until there is enough snow on the ground to choose where you want to commit to lodging.

post #13 of 118

Pictures tell the story at Portillo and Valle Nevado.  http://snowbrains.com/portillo-chile-has-no-snow-pushes-back-opening-date-to-tbd/

When they say zero snow, they really mean it.

post #14 of 118
Thread Starter 
Yikes. So if it's not a matter of catching up, how many storms are needed to get a bare mountain like that up and running? Given how dry it is hard to imagine big storms coming.
post #15 of 118
how many storms are needed to get a bare mountain like that up and running?

One, if it's like what Bob Peters had in 2011.   We are not unfamiliar with this phenomenon in California.  As often as not terrain does not open steadily and gradually here.  They are often scraping along at 10-15% on manmade, then one big dump opens almost everything, after a few days of digging out and control work, of course.  But there are years like 2014-15 in California or some of those I listed above in South America where that big dump never really comes.  Thus the advice not to commit $$$ until you see enough snow on the ground.

post #16 of 118
Thread Starter 
Jim, what's the word from portillo? Did they get hit in this storm?
post #17 of 118
Hi guys, this is my first post here, so excuse my ignorance. I am in Chile where I have
lived and skied for decades You can get loads of info on ski areas, weather, current conditions, and more on my TGR thread at http://bit.ly/skichile2015. Not to divert from this forum entirely, I just want to help folks make good decisions and can't post everything twice. Skiing photos from 2 days ago are now posted there. Good base in the Araucania region of Chile, snowing now, big storms rolling in to patch up the base in the rest of the country, if snow forecast is to be believed. Anyone can PM me for specific advice. Cheers!

post #18 of 118
Historically, it has dumped mega snow on the central zone in a short few days and turned the season around, but very rarely after July, so the next 3 weeks are defining. Forecast couldn't look better though (top):

Worth checking the bottom fcst, there could be rain in there, typical when all that moisture rolls in off the Pacific:

post #19 of 118

I keep putting off reasons to go south, so thanks for those pictures and snow forecasts, this was on the tape today, not encouraging and a bit of a crapshoot, and Tony Crocker's warnings ... global warming is here even if Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio think it's nature:


(BN) Water Becomes ‘Blue Gold’ as World’s Driest Desert Expands


Water Becomes ‘Blue Gold’ as World’s Driest Desert Expands (1)
2015-07-06 16:22:42.239 GMT

     (Updates with mining impact in 13th paragraph.)

By Javiera Quiroga
     (Bloomberg) -- The world’s driest desert is expanding south
and sitting in its path is Chile’s capital.
     Santiago, a city of 7 million people 1,000 kilometers (622
miles) from the Atacama desert, is experiencing its driest year
since 1966. Similar to California’s situation with the Sierra
Nevadas, little to no snow has fallen in the Andes mountains
that supply most of Santiago’s water.
     “Climatic zones are shifting south,” University of Chile
geography professor Francisco Ferrando said. “Santiago is
likely to move to a condition of a desert or semi-desert. What
is happening is probably associated with global warming and
there’s no sign of it slowing.”
     Santiago need only look 300 kilometers north to see how bad
things can get as its drought continues for an eighth year amid
record high global temperatures. Farmers in the once-fertile
valleys of the Choapa and Limari rivers that lived for
generations on agriculture are ripping up orchards, losing
livestock and in some cases abandoning homes as wells dry and
waterways slow to a trickle.
     Near the origin of the Limari river, Paloma reservoir --
Latin America’s largest for irrigation -- is all but empty.
Sluice gates are shut, the little water that remains doesn’t
reach the dam and most of the basin is dry, cracked earth. The
image is repeated 30 kilometers away where Cogoti reservoir is
empty. Closer to Santiago, the Culimo dam is dry.
     Around the river valleys, fields are filled with the stumps
of once-productive avocado trees and almond groves. Grapevines
are a thatch of dried stems.

                         ‘Blue Gold’

     In search of water or “blue gold,” Adolfo Cortes has
drilled five boreholes on his 187-hectare (475-acre) farm near
Ovalle. None have produced any useable supplies.
     After 25 years on the farm, Cortes has never seen anything
like it. The 68-year-old has already ripped up 122 hectares of
fruit trees and says the rest will be pulled if water levels in
the Limari fall much further.
     “If it doesn’t rain in July, the year will be lost,” he
said, staring across barren fields that once produced almonds
and oranges. “We need at least 400 to 500 millimeters (15
inches) to normalize the situation, a couple of rainfalls won´t
     Since 2010, Santiago has received only a third of its
average rainfall as the La Nina climate phenomenon blocked
weather fronts from moving up from the south, said Jason
Nicholls, a senior meteorologist with Accuweather Inc. Still, La
Nina may not be the only reason.
     “You have to suspect something else is going on because it
has been so persistent for so long” Nicholls said, referring to
global warming.

                        1,000 Glaciers

     Santiago doesn’t behave like a city about to be engulfed by
a desert. Swimming pools dot wealthier areas, automatic
sprinkler systems water lawns and gardens are full of trees more
suited for wetter climate.
     Up in the mountains towering over the city, the drought has
already had an impact. On Feb. 13, Anglo American Plc Chief
Executive Officer Mark Cutifani said the company lost 30,000
tons of copper output at its Los Bronces mine near Santiago last
year, partly because of water shortages.
     Fed by snow melt from 1,000 Andean glaciers, the Maipo
River supplies most of Santiago’s water. The other river, the
Mapocho, is “collapsed” with barely a trickle entering the
city, according to Felipe Larrain, chief executive officer of
Chile’s largest water utility, Aguas Andinas SA.
     “We have been working on this issue from the first day of
the drought and that is why there have been no water
restrictions,” Larrain said. Still, “the situation is much
worse than we had predicted.”
     Aguas Andinas can keep the taps running in Santiago for
another year if Yeso reservoir in the mountains has 50 million
cubic meters in October, the CEO said. With a capacity of 220
cubic meters, Yeso currently holds 120 cubic meters.

                        Water Rights

     “The company’s policy is to buy all the water rights we
can, everything we can rent or agree with farmers,” Larrain
said. “We haven’t saved on costs.”
     Much of its spending goes to wells that account for about
15 percent of Santiago’s water supplies, an investment that’s
compensating for wells running dry, Larrain said.
     With La Nina switching to El Nino in the region this year,
Accuweather forecasts rains will return to Santiago in July. The
question is how much and for how long.
     Santiago, meanwhile, relies on water from glaciers dating
from the last ice age that won’t last many more decades, the
professor Ferrando said.

For Related News and Information:
Top climate, water, clean-energy stories: TOP ENV <GO>

post #20 of 118
Historically, it has dumped mega snow on the central zone in a short few days and turned the season around, but very rarely after July, so the next 3 weeks are defining.

This impression fits with the scattered data I got from Las Lenas in 2005.  Average snowfall peaks in July and declines each month thereafter.  This is very different from western North America, where at most ski areas, and Utah and Colorado in particular, average monthly snowfall is quite similar for the 4 months December-March. 


I will say that Snow Forecast looks spectacular for the next week+.  It is based upon a computer model in England, and at least in North America does not do a good job with mountain microclimates.  However, for South America there are no local weather gurus at the scene like OpenSnow so Snow Forecast is all we have.  One would hope that for a widespread major storm call like this one, it would work out well for at least some of the ski areas.



 “Climatic zones are shifting south,” University of Chile
geography professor Francisco Ferrando said. “Santiago is
likely to move to a condition of a desert or semi-desert. What
is happening is probably associated with global warming and
there’s no sign of it slowing.”

Sorry, I do not buy that the computer models which do a marginal job of projecting global temperatures have any credibility projecting that specific regional climates will get wetter or drier.  A persistent eastern high pressure Pacific Ridge was responsible for the western North American drought in 2014 and 2015, just as it was in 1976-77 and much of 1980-81.  And we do know that La Ninas are not good for the central Andes snowfall. A warmer climate does mean a higher rain/snow line, so the analogy some in the PNW draw for 2014-15 becoming the normal in 2070 is something to worry about long term for marginal altitude ski areas in the worst case scenarios. 


High altitude areas like Portillo/Valle Nevado should have little concern about the rain/snow line reaching them.  As for drought cycles, see my post #6 above for a long list of super dry ski seasons.  It's a historical fact of life in that region, just as it is in California, and even more extreme.  I'm guessing farmers in Chile did not do well in all of those other years when Portillo had under 110 inches (40% of normal) of snow.

Edited by Tony Crocker - 7/8/15 at 9:52pm
post #21 of 118
Central Chile is in its 9th year of below average rainfall, the average being the last 20 years. The average has been falling for decades. Why this is I will leave to the scientists.

It is true that a few big storms build the base that generally defines the season. I have seen the season become incredible in July. Some examples:

1978 was a disaster year with barely enough snow to open a few lifts in July. About July 23, it started to snow, and blow, and rain, and didn't stop for 10 days. After that we had a 2-5m base everywhere, and there were only a few minor snowfalls afterwards.

1987 had marginal conditions at the end of June. From July 4 to August 15 it snowed 25 days, and the ski areas were open until the end of October.

2002 was a mostly dry year up to the beginning of June. Then it snowed hard for 3 days straight, and there was a 1.5m base at the bottom after, which was by far the best storm of the year.
post #22 of 118
Portillo got a little storm dropping 20cms at the weekend, I am heading up on Tuesday and we should open on the 18th.
post #23 of 118

120" of snow forecast for Chile this weekend?!  Even if half that falls it will be insane considering how barren it has been so far this season.  If anyone can gets pics of this dump post em up!

post #24 of 118

Casey E love your snow report and looks like fun.  Was in Portillo 12 yrs ago and snow was great.  Welcome to epic nice to have you.  A picture is worth a thousand forecasts.:beercheer:

post #25 of 118

Boom! Game on! 

post #26 of 118

Those SnowForecast maps continue to look amazing.  Nonetheless I'm eager to see some on-site reports of how much snow has actually fallen in the ski resorts.

post #27 of 118
Thread Starter 
How's it looking down there?
post #28 of 118

With road access and internet access to the resorts halted, I'm assuming no news is good news around snowfall. I saw a Facebook post Friday from someone at Portillo... it looked like a foot or two of snow had fallen at that point. I'm certainly eager to see if the forecasts materialized and the central Andes actually saw a Santa Rosa type dump to bring life back to a season that hadn't even started yet. I was giving it a few more weeks, but if those dark rocks weren't blanketed with snow by the end of July, snow wouldn't stick in August, even if it fell from the sky. Similar to the last few seasons in Tahoe, the later season snow is useless without base as the sun angle gets higher warms into August.

post #29 of 118
According to many resorts facebook pages, 2-3 feet of new snow was on the ground this morning.

Corralco reported 2 feet this morning, they got another foot earlier this week, and they already had some base before the storm.

Las Lenas Reported 3 feet in the last 24 hours, in the lower elevation.
More snow tonight so it might be a 5 feet storm in some places
post #30 of 118

Ski Portillo is reporting 26" + 

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