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2016 Nevados de Chillan Trip Report

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 

Alrighty, time for the next adventure! This time it's Chile.


  It's been 2 years in the making but I'm finally heading down to Nevados de Chillan this summer for 2 weeks. I'll be flying out of Denver on Monday and heading down to Santiago before transferring on to Concepcion, on the coast. Then it's about a 2.5 hour drive to Las Trancas where I will be staying at the Cabanas los Hualles for 2 weeks. I'm really excited to finally be heading down there, it's been a long time coming.


  For those of you not following the season down in South America, then most of the really good snow has been hitting the more northern resorts closer to Santiago. Nevados de Chillan has been having a quiet season so far; they'd had a few storms early but certainly not the same amount as up north. The resort even had to push back it's opening date a couple of times due to a lack of snow. Finally by the start of July they had enough to open and the base has been getting a little deeper.


  The next challenge has been the increasing volcanic activity in the area. A volcano very close to the resort has been venting and producing a lot of steam (not sure if there is ash as well). There's been so pretty intense video's circulating around the interwebs but the resort is 100% open and none of the locals seem too concerned. So, the adventure continues as planned.


  The really good news is that the snow was looking pretty average but a big storm has just hit the area and in the next 6 days at least, the optimistic forecast is calling for at least a meter of new snow. The storm comes in warm but will get gradually colder. My first ski day will be on Wednesday and it should be a decent powder day, if the forecast comes through. Fingers crossed!


  I'll try and blog as much as possible during the trip. Hopefully the trip goes well and we get the goods, but either way, this will be a great chance to explore a new corner of the world. Hasta luega!



post #2 of 36

I would be flexible if I were you.

Quote = https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/chillan/news.html:
the Chilean authorities have increased the exclusion zone near the volcano (which is part of a popular skiing area) from 2 to 3 km radius around the crater.

So no touring above the lifts, which I suspect would be on your agenda in a normal year.  I had read a week or two ago that some upper lifts were closed, though I can't find that info today.


Chillan gets the most snow of any lift served resort in South America with quite expansive terrain and I'd love to check it out sometime.  But it's snow reporting is essentially nonexistent, horrible even by South America standards. I'd be concerned in the current situation, and be ready to relocate on short notice if the upper lifts are indeed closed.


At least you have options this year. Portillo and the Valle Nevado group are having decent seasons, and I suspect that applies to Arpa cat skiing too.

post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 

Greetings from Chile!

 I finally made it here and have sorted out my communications challenges, so hopefully now I can continue the blog at more regular periods......


 Monday 15th August – Tuesday 16th August (Travel Day)

  The adventure began on Monday as I flew from Denver to Houston. There were no problems on the flight and I had a nice easy 4 hour layover in Houston to waste some time. That would allow plenty of time for my bags to make it onto the all-important international connection to Santiago. That was just under 9 hours overnight, a pretty easy stretch compared to flying to India or Japan. Unfortunately the flight was nearly an hour delayed on departure (big rainstorms in the Houston area had caused water to enter the front door of the plane and they were having to mop up some flooding inside, that’s the first time I have ever seen that, flooding on a plane!). I managed a couple of hours sleep and felt ok. I was lucky in that I had a seat on the left side of the plane so as we approached the coast of Chile, with the sun coming up, the views of the snow-capped Andes were absolutely epic. It definitely got me excited for the trip!


  We landed in Santiago without any problems. You then have to go through immigration which was an absolute breeze but after that is when the fun begins. The next step is to grab your bags and go through customs. The baggage claim area is really small and with several international flights arriving at a similar time, the baggage claim was an absolute sh*t show (pardon my Spanish). To compound the problem, the screens were showing the wrong information on where to pick up the bags so I went all the way down to the wrong end of the claim, then I finally realized the problem, I had to turn around and go back up to the other end and fight my way through the crowds entering the area. I felt like a salmon swimming upstream against the current. Thankfully I grew up playing rugby and was able to make my way back up through the crowd and where I needed to be without too much of a drama.


  My bags arrived and then I had to go through customs and another x-ray machine. There was a big queue and thankfully an airport employee decided to take pity on me and totally help me out. He was amazing. He got me through the queues and past the x-ray in a jiffy and through customs. He was dragging my ski bag for me whilst I carried my other bags to the lift. We needed to go upstairs another level and then check in for the next flight to Concepcion. Again, he bypassed the queue (I didn’t feel too bad about this as I did have priority access) but he got me straight to the front of the queue. Without him, I don’t think I would have made it onto the next flight. This guy really saved my bacon so I gave him a nice $40 tip. He was stoked! (as was I!). I checked in, got rid of my 2 big bags and then headed through security and off to the gate. I had about 30 minutes to spare and then I was on the plane and in the air.


  It was just a quick 1 hour 10 minute flight to Concepcion. I had a bit of a view of the Pacific ocean (was on the right side of the plane but had an aisle seat) and then we made a pretty bumpy landing. I got off the plane and then headed to the baggage claim where again, it was another super tight area and a rugby scrum to get to the bags. As I entered the area I saw a guy with a sign for the Cabanas los Hualles (where I was staying), so I knew my driver was there. Again, both my bags were there and I as I exited the claim area, Ramiro my driver was there waiting to meet me. We had a nice big Hyundai vehicle with plenty of room (just me on the drive up) and we left the airport.


  My first impression of the area was it was very green and reminded me of being back in north Wales or Scotland. The roads were nice and modern and there was definitely less culture shock of going to India or Japan. It felt like a pretty mellow, easy start. It was about an hour to get to Chillan where we stopped so I could cambio some dollares into pesos. Then it was another easy hour drive up to Las Trancas and the Cabanas los Hualles.


  When we got there, we were greeted by the owner, Francisco Penafiel. I wasn’t expecting him to be there but it was great to finally meet him after more than a year of emailing and Skyping. He’s a good friend of a very good Chilean friend of mine from Telluride (Igancio Aedo). Ignacio had recommended me to stay at Cabanas los Hualles and had made the introduction to Francisco, which was amazingly helpful. I don’t always have the luxury of a solid local contact when I start a new program so it was a really nice luxury to have someone like Ignacio and Francisco onboard helping out. That would make the transition to running a new program out there a lot easier. Francisco gave me the tour and helped me into my room in the lodge.


  The Cabanas los Hualles are in the little town of Las Trancas. Las Trancas is about a 15 to 20 minute drive (depending on the conditions) on the way to Nevados de Chillan. There are a lot of other little Cabanas type operations around and there are several restaurants and ski hire shops all along the road. There are several restaurants in walking distance from los Hualles. I walked up the road to one called Oliva’s for dinner and sat at the bar and had a couple of cerveza’s and a really nice thin pan pizza. The bartender Jaime was really friendly and spoke very good English. I kept me entertained and I stayed for a few hours. I headed back early and got my head down for an early night. I was pretty tired through the lack of sleep from the previous night so I slept like a log.


Prepping the skis in the garage in Denver, nearly 100 degrees outside. Meier Skis out of Denver gave me some new boards to try out for the trip (thanks guys!). It felt really weird to be getting all the winter gear out in the middle of summer. It's been 7 years since I last skied in the Southern Hemisphere (my last season in Australia back in 2009) but I'm sure I'll get used to it again pretty quickly.......



About to start the Houston to Santiago leg. It's definitely happening now!



After almost 9 hours (felt like it went pretty quickly), we are about to touch down in Santiago.



Flew with United on the 787 Dreamliner, the one with the really bendy wings.....



As the sun came up, I had my first view of the Andes. Glad I got that seat on the left side of the plane (admittedly that was a fluke, but will remember for next time!).



The view got better and better as the sun rose. A pretty hefty storm was hitting the mountains and the winds up high were ripping. Big snow coming hopefully!



I don't normally post selfies, but when I do, it's of massively helpful people. This gentleman on my left help me get from the baggage claim, through customs and upstairs to LATAM check-in desk in record time. Without him, I would not have made my flight. Muchas gracias amigo!

post #4 of 36
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

I would be flexible if I were you.

So no touring above the lifts, which I suspect would be on your agenda in a normal year.  I had read a week or two ago that some upper lifts were closed, though I can't find that info today.


Chillan gets the most snow of any lift served resort in South America with quite expansive terrain and I'd love to check it out sometime.  But it's snow reporting is essentially nonexistent, horrible even by South America standards. I'd be concerned in the current situation, and be ready to relocate on short notice if the upper lifts are indeed closed.


At least you have options this year. Portillo and the Valle Nevado group are having decent seasons, and I suspect that applies to Arpa cat skiing too.

G'day Tony,

  Thanks for the message. Apologies for my slow reply, been dealing with some technical issues (ie no access to my laptop, see later in the new blog post) so not been able to properly reply. The volcano has been seeing an increase in activity recently and I too have seen the pretty intense-looking video of the previous eruption 8 days or so ago. It definitely made me think twice about going, that's for sure, but the person who is coming with me was still pretty keen to go and having talked to some locals who don't think it's a problem and seen that the mountain is still operating as normal, then we made the call to still come, as did CASA and Powderquest, who are all here as well. Currently the biggest concern is the lack of snow and the low-tide, rocky conditions. We really need more snow. It's snowing hard today and it should keep going tonight, so it's getting better.


  I can see the potential of the place after just the first day and can see that on a good season, the terrain they have here is amazing. There is so much good stuff around and I have only seen a very small area. The good news is that there is so much good stuff that is accessible without much effort and you don't have to go up to the summit. Speaking to my friend and our local guide,he says the best stuff you don't really have to hike to and it's lower down. Currently the stuff up high has been exposed to the winds and is a sheet of ice, so I don't think we are missing much up there.


  Speaking to Francisco about the nature of the volcano here, it has been erupting, but really only venting. What is coming out of one of the craters is predominantly steam and only a relatively small amount of ash. In Nevados, unlike some other volcanoes, like Pucon for example, the underlying magma feeding this volcano is pretty far under the ground. The lava reservoir starts about 4km down. If the volcano does properly erupt, then that eruption takes longer to reach the surface (48 hours) as it has much further to travel.


  Apparently the magma reservoir for other volcanos that are considered more reactive and dangerous, is much closer to the surface. The lava is already pooling very close to the surface and is ready to erupt and flow without much warning. In Nevados, there is a lake close to the active crater (or even IN the crater, I'm not 100% sure on that one) and they are able to register temperature readings from the lake and in the local thermal springs to see how active the volcano is getting. Not that I'm a volcanologist, but that is what I have been told by locals here. So far the volcano has been quiet since I've been here. We'll see what happens.


Kind regards,




post #5 of 36

Fantastic first post on the trip! Can't wait to read more. Hope you get lots of snow and no lava!

post #6 of 36
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by One21Fifteen View Post

Fantastic first post on the trip! Can't wait to read more. Hope you get lots of snow and no lava!

Cheers One21Fifteen. They had 60cm's last night and it's snowing hard today. Tomorrow it's going to snow a bit more and then Saturday is due to start clearing up. We didn't ski today (waiting for Paul to arrive, the other member of the group) but we'll be out tomorrow for sure. Should be a lot better! Thanks for following along.


post #7 of 36

Nice to hear the details that the volcano is not a threat to the ski area.


I was also aware that Chillan in 2016, unlike most seasons, has received far less snow than Portillo/Arpa/Valle Nevado, which also might inform the allocation of your ski time in Chile.


Las Lenas is accessible to you too, if your travel vehicle is authorized to cross the border.

post #8 of 36
Thread Starter 

Here's a quick little video showing you what the drive from Concepcion to Las Trancas looks like......



  It took about 2 hours and is a straight shot from Concepcion. The scenery is very green and reminded me of being back in England or Scotland. It feels like a pretty mellow start to a trip compared to our adventures in India or Japan and I think I like the idea of starting our trips in Concepcion, rather than Santiago. We had a quick little stop in Chillan after an hour and then it was just another hour to Las Trancas. Pretty easy going all round. I'm sure if I'd have taken the bus it would have been stressful but a taxi is very convenient and reasonably priced ($125 USD approx) for my own private, 9 person vehicle.


- Matt

post #9 of 36
Thread Starter 

Wednesday 17th August

  I had a decent sleep of at least 10 hours and awoke feeling refreshed and a lot less zombie-like. Breakfast was on at 8am in the cafeteria so I got ready and headed over. Francisco was over there and had everything ready to go. Normally he would have his staff open up and get everything ready but some locals don’t like to get up too early and he often ends up having to serve breakfast and do the early morning checkouts for them. He seems like a very switched on guy and a hard worker himself. I had a nice meat and cheese sandwich, some scrambled eggs and a couple of glasses of OJ. Francisco was going to be my guide for the day, so after his staff finally showed up, he was able to get ready and we drove up to the mountain. It had snowed overnight a little bit so we were excited to see how much they’d had up high. The forecast had been calling for a lot of snow over the next few days, but with all weather forecasts, I didn’t want to get my hopes up.


  The road had not been plowed and at the start, it was pretty easy going. The chain hire guys jumped into the road and tried to flag us down to stop so they could put chains on us, but Francisco has his own chains and 4WD so he ignored them and we kept on going. The plan was to head up to the highest on mountain hotel, the Alto Nevados to meet up with Greg Doyle and Lyndell Keating (an Australian couple who own Powderhounds.com) and go for a ski. There was also a nice American couple who we’d said we’d ski with too. As the road got progressively steeper, we could feel the road surface getting slippery. Francisco had been making good progress until we had to stop at the boom gate just below the hotel to pay for parking. As soon as we lost momentum, we couldn’t get going again. We span out and starting to slide slowly backwards down the road. We came to a stop and had a few more goes at going forward but couldn’t get anywhere so it was clearly time to put the chains on. A couple more vehicles also came to the same fate; as soon as they stopped at the gate they also lost it and started sliding backwards towards us. We had 2 vehicles nearly hit us and Francisco and I did all we could to push them away from us. Definitely time to get the chains on and get out of the way. We quickly got the chains on and was able to power up the hill away from all the carnage, to the carpark.


  As luck would have it, I saw a couple just skiing down from the hotel and I recognized Greg and Lyndell from the outfits I had seen them posting pictures of on Facebook. I had never met these guys before but thankfully I have a keen eye for ski fashion and I ran over to the run and grabbed them. They waited as we put our gear on and then it was off to the ski runs. They were only calling for 2 decent lifts to be open (2 x t-bars that went up higher) as the winds were ripping and the visibility was low up high. This was my first look at the mountain and all I can say is potential. The place looks really big (I could only see a fraction of it) and the terrain looks pretty tasty. They have some amazing sidecountry by all accounts. All we had open to us was the new Enlace t-bar and then the old Nono t-bar to get us up high. Looking at the snow, then there definitely needs to be more; then I can see how special this place could be. It’s all volcanic rock so it really needs to fill in for the coverage to be good. There was a lot of rock ridges exposed with snow in-between, in the gullies. There was about 10 inches of fresh up high, but it was hard to know what lurked below. It felt potentially very sharky to me!  


  Francisco, Greg, Lyndell and I took the two t-bars up to near the top. We did a quick cruiser back down to the Nono t-bar and went back up again. The American from the lodge couple were at the top of the t-bar so they tagged along with us. We did a top to bottom run and went all the way down to the bottom of the Enlace t-bar and that really got the legs working. I was keen to see how my skiing at the Snobahn indoor training center was going to help and I think straight away, my legs felt a little stronger than normal and the feel started to come back sooner. After a couple of runs, I was feeling pretty good. We kept lapping and by about the 3rd lap, Francisco suggested that we make a push to the skier’s left and into the Freeride Area. There was a pretty obvious traverse we could take in the direction of the middle station of the Otto chair (not running due to the weather). In this zone there is some great terrain, nice and steep with plenty of chutes and bowls. We had to be mindful here as underneath the 10 inches or so of fresh, there was a really hard ice layer so bonding of the snow in this area might be questionable. We took more caution and skied lines one at a time, but managed to find some great snow.


  We stopped for a late rest at about 1:40pm and after a quick Gatorade, went back out for one last run. Greg and Lyndell were done so it was just Francisco and myself, plus the American couple. We pushed skier’s left again, but this time stopped a little shorter and found a long gully right next to the Otto chair that only had a couple of tracks down the middle. We stayed high up on the right side and skied some nice faces back down into the gully. That was the best skiing of the day. Francisco and I called it quits early and the couple kept skiing. We headed back do to the lodge for a bit of a break before heading back up to the mountain after 6pm to try and meet with Greg and Lyndell for a couple of drinks and dinner at the Hotel Alto Nevados. They came down to meet us at the bar and then we had a really nice dinner with them. The buffet there is pretty good and not too crazily priced at about 20,000 pesos or about $30 USD. I would imagine that will be one of the more expensive meals we will have, but it was pretty good, with lots of steak, fish with appetizers and dessert too, it was pretty good. We got home just around 10:40pm and I went straight to bed. It had been a great first day and a chance to see a bit of the mountain. We definitely need more snow, but at least when the weather calms down a bit (which it is forecast to on Friday), and then we should be able to ski the 3 Marias area which has more snow and great terrain apparently. Fingers crossed for more snow.


I have my own private room at the Cabanas los Hualles in Las Trancas. This is one of the brand new lodge rooms. I'm very comfortable and like the new rooms a lot. I think I can survive the next 2 weeks here!



Enough storage room for the gear.



El bano...... enough room in here to swing a cat! Next, the important part, the skiing!


- Matt

post #10 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thursday 18th August

  I headed to breakfast at the usual time. Francisco said that they weather was looking really bad so we made the decision to hold off skiing for the day. The snow and weather would be better tomorrow, so we decided not to waste a lift pass on a potentially poor weather day. At Nevados, you can buy a weekly pass, but you only get credited if you use a day. So, if you don’t ski a day, you don’t use a pass for that day. It’s a pretty flexible system and you don’t waste money on down days (which I suspect might happen a bit here, being a volcano in the middle of nowhere).


  I had also been having major problems recharging my electronic devices and I was keen to try and resolve that. In this area, they also use 380V as well as 240V and none of my electronics had been able to charge. That meant I have been unable to use my laptop (the battery is really old and no longer holds a charge; I have to run it straight off the mains for it to work), my cell phone has not been able to re-charge and all my cameras are also dead. Plus with my laptop down, I could not upload all my POV camera footage so that would be full after only a couple of days use. I had only brought one converter which I had had no problems with using in Japan and India, plus Francisco had given me another local converter with the 3 prongs, so I thought I would be good to go. None of my electronics would register any kind of a charge when I tried to plug them in, so for 2 days I have been without any of the gear I need to blog and get content properly which has been very worrying (the sad nature of what I have to do when I come on these trips, I’m also here to take plenty of photos and video, plus blog about the trip, without being able to do all of that, it’s a major loss….).


  Francisco and I figured out that I might have to go to one of the restaurants across the road and then try and plug my electronics in there, in order to get them to work. I had also spoken to the nice American couple here as well and they had said they were not having any problems with plugging in and charging their stuff so they said they would lend me their adapter and see if that would work. They also said that their equipment (laptops and phones) were also pretty new, so it might also be that my older electronics were not compatible with the local power supply. Crazily enough (and a massive relief to me), their adapter actually worked and I was able to plug in my laptop (hence I can now catch up on all the writing now). Hopefully just having a better quality adapter was all I needed. That’s something to be mindful off for anyone reading this. It was pretty frustrating for me and a bit of a mystery for a while. Happy to hopefully have it resolved now (the couple are leaving me their adapter and I will give them money for a new one as they leave tomorrow which is a very nice thing to do). Never experienced this before and have learned to make sure I have only a quality adapter (I have a step up/down voltage converter at home in the US but didn’t bring it here, didn’t think I’d need it).


  That was a big win for the day. Paul arrived around 3pm so I was there to show him around and help him settle in. Paul is an ex-ski patroller from Mount Rose who lives in Reno, NV. He strikes me as someone who is super enthusiastic in general and very passionate about skiing. He’s detail orientated and likes to learn. I think we’ll get on like a house on fire. We went through the avi safety indoor presentation and then around 7pm, walked up the road about 5 minutes to Oliva’s bar and restaurant. My new friend Jaime was working behind the bar so we bellied up and had a couple of drinks and some really good food. Then it was back to los Hualles for a somewhat early night.


This one was a bit blurry unfortunately, but this is my new friend Paco, the mountain dog. She was sitting up on the chairs surveying her kingdom, but of course as soon as I came over, she went and moved..... never work with kids and animals right??!!



A couple more shots of where we are staying. This is the cafeteria where we eat breakfast and sometimes dinner.



Paco taking me for a walk to patrol the compound......






The road passes up through the Las Trancas valley. It is a steep valley that rises up dramatically with mountain peaks. This was the first time I got to see the view. Finally the surrounding mountains are starting to look wintery.



The lodge where we are staying. Paul and I each have a room on the ground floor. The other 8 rooms are above us.


Dbostedo, I think I will have to hold off on posting any ski picks for this trip report until the sun comes out..... thankfully that is supposed to be tomorrow! I don't tend to take as many picks when I'm on the mountain and skiing as you know, but I do have the POV cam going most of time, so there is plenty of footage of the skiing that I will release later on..... maybe I'll be nice and take some tomorrow for you?

post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 

Ok sports fans, in order to get this blog live, it's going to be a bonus two for one special day. Time for another blog post and then we will be fully caught up. Looks like I'm not having that early night then.....


Friday 19th August

  This was Paul’s first ski day and only my second. It had been snowing overnight but it looked a little clearer towards the mountain. Francisco would be joining us later in the morning, so it would just be Paul and I at the start. That was totally fine as he just wanted to cruise and get warmed up. We’d also be making our own way up to the mountain (Francisco had driven me last time), so he had organized a private shuttle company to come pick us up at 10am. The cost was 7,000 pesos for a return trip (about $10.60) and was very convenient; with pick up and drop off at the Tata quad near the main on-mountain hotels. I’d not ridden the Tata chair before and was excited to see some of the lower mountain and the beginner terrain. That lift, as slow as it is, is pretty convenient as it drops you off right at the bottom of the Otto chair, the chair that services some of the higher end terrain and the Freeride Zone.


  This was the first time riding the Otto chair too. We’d skied some of the Freeride Zone underneath the lower half of the Otto chair on the first day, but I’d not ridden the actual chair. They say it’s the longest and slowest chairlift in South America and I would definitely agree with that. It’s an old, cramped double chair and is seemingly never-ending, but most importantly, it does give access to some great terrain. It’s definitely worth toughing it out, but it can be pretty chilly up there. It was great to see up higher (still haven’t seen all the way to the top yet!) but we really needed to get warmed up after that long first ride. We went left at the top and headed in the direction of the Nono t-bar. The snow was already looking so much better and the runs had really filled in. There were only 2 obvious rocks in the run now so I felt better letting the skis run a little.


  I still felt that I needed more time to get the feeling back on my skis also, so we ended up doing a couple of laps on the Chueco run next to the Nono t-bar. By the 3rd lap I was really letting the skis run and was confident to try some pure carved turns. The new Meier skis were feeling good and I was starting to trust them at higher speeds. Paul was also feeling more and more confident with each run, so we did a long run down the Benno run to another chairlift; the Wenche triple. The snow on the groomer was really good and again, the coverage was vastly improved. I was really starting to enjoy the skiing and was feeling pretty positive about the mountain and the potential to have a decent operation there in the future. There is something for many different levels of skier and boarder in Nevados de Chillan and I was really enjoying the fact that we were in Chile and enjoying great skiing in August. It’s a pretty cool thing to be doing!


  It was nearly noon and we were both feeling a little parched so we decided to stop in at Tio Willy’s cafeteria for a quick powerade. In the meantime I had managed to call Francisco and he was on the mountain on his way up the Tata chair. He was nearly at the top and would meet us back at the bottom of the Otto chair. We headed up together and the wind had noticeably dropped. More people had been skiing the top of the Freeride Area and patrol were at the top of the lift. We went over to ask if we were ok to ski it as there was still a closed sign to the right, at the top of the Otto. They asked us if we had on a beacon and were carrying the rest of the gear (which we were) so they said we could drop. We skied a couple of nice faces with some fresh, dense pow. The skiing was great. We skied the zone all the way down to the bottom of the Otto and then continued lower to the Wenche triple. We went up that and then straight to the Nono t-bar. The t-bar was stopped and there was a group of people and snowmobiles stopped a couple of hundred yards up in the middle of the track.


  Francisco could hear from the lift operator’s radios that there had been an avalanche in the gully on the lookers left side of the t-bar track. This is in a permanently closed area that is a very steep prominent, exposed ridge that looked massively wind-loaded with a nice big developing cornice above it, with rock bands that ends in a massive, deep terrain-trap gully. If somewhere was going to slide, then that would be the prime spot. After about 20 minutes, the crowd up high started to disperse and we saw a team of patrollers pulling an injured person down in a sled. The t-bar started up and we were allowed back on. It was hard to see what had happened until we got opposite the spot where patrol had been working. We could see two spots that had slid, not massive slides but it looked like they would have taken you over some rock bands potentially. We saw several sets of tracks leading straight down on the upper side of the gully, through 2 slide areas. Potentially the slides could have been remotely triggered from above as the riders undercut the steep and wind-loaded slope above. What scared me the most was that I thought I also saw 2 sets of tracks leading over the cornice where the first (bigger) slide had happened. If that was the case, if someone had chosen to take that line, then that was possibly some of the worst decision making I have seen, if that is what happened (I hate to speculate and arm chair quarterback, but if that was what I saw, then it’s clear some people here do like to roll the dice in a big way, there’s just no justifying increasing the risk in such a massive way). You couldn’t have chosen a worse place to drop in. I really hope that the person/people are ok (no updates about the slide have been posted). I know the patrol were pretty p*ssed and let people know at the bottom of the t-bar just before we were let up again. Rightfully so…… Definitely going to be mindful of what other people are doing in our proximity in the backcountry.


  After that, the weather started to deteriorate, so we did one more run in the Freeride Area and skied down to the Hotel Alto Nevado for a spot of lunch. Paul and I had these awesome prosciutto and brie sandwiches, they really hit the spot. Francisco had to head out, so Paul and I decided we needed to head down to the bottom of the mountain and figure out the way down to the carpark where our driver had dropped us off and our next driver would be picking us up. It was very easy to find our way down to the bottom of the Tata chair and we got there with about an hour to spare. I decided to put Paul through some more on-snow beacon training to take up that last hour. We got back to los Hualles and then went for a walk down to check out some of the ski shops and bars/restaurants further down the access road. We found the best ski shop about a ½ mile down the road (Francais ski shop) and then had a beer at a little sushi place just down from our cabanas. I had organized a private chef to cook us dinner that night and we finally got to try some proper Chilean food. My timing for this dinner was great as it turns out it was Paul’s birthday. We started with a nice soup and then for mains, we had this pot with steak, chicken drumstick, boiled egg, onion topped with cheese and corn. It was so good! Finally some authentic Chilean food and it was great. Francisco bought out some little chocolate balls with a candle to wrap up a tasty meal and an awesome day. Tomorrow the sun is supposed to come out finally, so it should be an epic day.


I awoke to find a decent amount of new outside on the ground. This is the view from my room.


Excellent conditions on the main road. No one is in a rush here to plow the road.



Winter is back!



Paul and I on the way up to Nevados in our new little van.



El Jeffe! Francisco rugged up and ready to brave the Otto chair, the longest and slowest chair in the southern hemisphere!



The beginner area and the view up the mountain, next to the Otto chair.



There is some tasty terrain up there. The Freeride Area is the area to the right of the Otto chair. Thanks to all the new snow, it was like skiing a new resort compared to my first day on snow. Now I really see the potential of this place. It's awesome!



Heading up higher, the snow is starting to fill in. I didn't hit any rocks today. We still stayed in the middle of the gully's but coverage was a lot better than 2 days previous.


I was after a taste of some proper Chilean food and I finally got it tonight. This dish was super tasty; a sweet corn topped hot pot of beef, chicken, cheese, onion and other yumminess.



Celebrating Paul's birthday in style. A great day! Sunny weather is in the forecast for the next week. Time to get some quality turns in.....



post #12 of 36

Looks great so far... thanks for the pics!

post #13 of 36
Quote = Mattadvproject:
This was the first time riding the Otto chair too. We’d skied some of the Freeride Zone underneath the lower half of the Otto chair on the first day, but I’d not ridden the actual chair. They say it’s the longest and slowest chairlift in South America and I would definitely agree with that.

The Otto chair climbs 2,300 vertical over 8,200 feet in length.  Compare to Las Lenas' Marte climbing 2,567 vertical over 5,577 feet length.


Marte is only open about 40% of the time.  Otto's reputation for weather closure is bad too, but I doubt it's as unreliable as Marte.   Nonetheless you do get a lot more bang for the buck on the days when Marte is open due to the continuously steep fall lines of 2,000+ vertical.


I read these reports with much interest because Termas de Chillan is the most interesting Southern Hemisphere area I have not skied.

post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 

Saturday 20th August

  The plan was to get out as early as possible, given that it had kept snowing all the previous afternoon and it was the weekend, so we thought it might get busy. The forecast was for it to be sunny with high winds up top. I was pretty excited about the chance to finally see the mountain in all its splendor and with the snow conditions improving all the time. We had managed to convince our driver to come early for us at 8:30am. We were the only ones in the car and the road was clear but you could tell it was going to be icy. Sure enough as we got further up the road and the road got steeper, traction got worse and finally we had to stop to put chains on. Thankfully the driver was pretty skilled and we were moving again 5 minutes later. I had asked if we could be dropped off at the carpark near the Hotel Alto Nevados, so we could go straight to the Otto chair. It’s always a challenge trying to explain things in my pigeon Spanish but he got the gist and dropped us where we needed to be. We went straight over to the Otto chair and amazingly enough, were first in line. I couldn’t believe it; it was just after 9am (chair was due to open at 9am), plus it was the weekend and a potential powder day and we were first in line. It doesn’t seem like the locals are super keen here which is totally fine with me!


  It was just Paul and I initially as Francisco had to wrap up things at work. He would join us later. The skies were clear and the views were amazing. We were finally seeing the Andes at their finest. We scoped lines on the way up and checked for potential new red flags. Everything looked good apart from the winds up high, but as we neared the top we could see that there hadn’t been a lot of new wind loading in the Freeride Zone, so our plan to ski the untouched face to the looker’s right of the chair seemed reasonable. I had wanted to do some 3rd person filming and film Paul with my proper video camera, but I wanted us to be able to stay away from the crowds on the first run, so I just filmed with the helmet cam. Paul was feeling good to go so we headed right off the top of the chair and traversed over to the start zone. It was completely untouched and looked really nice. I dropped in first and skied the line all the way down to the flats and our safe spot. The snow was awesome, about 20cm’s of light dry, wind buffed pow, fast, predictable and easy to ski. I signaled to Paul and he dropped in, figure-eighting my turns. He came to a stop next to me and we were both laughing uncontrollably. We couldn’t believe we just got to do that. What I way to start the day!


  We kept on going down, skiing untouched lines all the way until we made it to the big bowl to the skier’s left of the Otto mid-station. There was definitely not as much fresh snow down here and you could feel the old tracks underneath. It was still good skiing and we both felt comfortable letting the skis run a little. We skied all the way back to the Otto chair and jumped straight back on it. It would be interesting to see how many people had hit the zone after we had and what would be left untouched. We got to the top again and we could see that the next bowl to the left of our first run still had a large opening of untouched snow on the skier’s left side. We would have to traverse further over and then walk through a nasty rock band to get to it. We took our skis off and carefully stepped through. We then had a narrow and very steep entrance to negotiate before we could head left under the protection of some large rocks. I went first and the ice underneath took me by surprise. I washed out on a turn to the left and started to slide but thankfully I was able to self-arrest quickly. I got up and headed all the way across to the left. When I stopped and had eyes on, Paul came across and stopped next to me. We had a nice open face in front of us with a decent run of untouched snow. I skied down and stopped about half way down so I could set up the camera for Paul. The snow was awesome, even deeper than the first face.  This time Paul made his own tracks as I filmed him. He stopped next to me again and I put the camera away and off we went. Someone had been yelling to me from the chairlift as I was filming so we decided to wait a little bit. Sure enough, Francisco came ripping down the closest face. We had the band back together again! We skied down past the Otto chair and over to the Wenche chair. The plan was to head over to the Tres Marias area for the first time. I was really excited to do this as it’s a huge area and a whole different side of the mountain.


  After the Wenche chair we jumped straight onto the Cornicia chair to head higher up. We could better see where the avalanche had taken that person out the day before and could see the large hole where they had dug them out. We could also see fresh tracks in the exact same areas where the 2 slides had occurred. People just seem to learn around here. More reason to go somewhere quiet away from the masses….. After the Cornisia chair we had a fun little ski down to the Mirador chair, an old double chair that would take us up to the highest point of the resort at 2,500m or 8,202ft (remembering that the top of the Chillan Nuevo Volcan tops at 3,186m or 10,452ft, when it’s open). The new 3km exclusion zone starts before the top of the Mirador chair at tower 10, but didn’t affect where we were going to ski. The wind was definitely ripping and the wind-chill was pretty high as we headed out on the Tres Marias run. It’s an amazing looking run, with a lot more snow in that area. There were still some sharks around so we had to be careful. The run still had tons of pow and it was really fun, with short, steep pitches, long run outs and dips and gullys, windlips and tons of other fun features, all the way down. There are some short pitches and potential terrain traps you have to watch out for, but no large exposure at least. It’s a 10km run all the way down to the bottom of the Tata chair and the lower beginner area. Supposedly it’s the longest run in the southern hemisphere (Tony C, I’m sure you can fact check that for me ; ) We had an absolute blast, it was fun all the way down. Mellow, but tons of fun! For the less experienced powder rider, this would be an absolute paradise. I don’t know of any run like it. I can’t wait to take more people out here.


  It took nearly an hour to get down. It was only noon by the time we got to the bottom. Francisco was keen to do another lap before the Mirador chair might get shut down from the wind. So we took the Tata, Wenche, Cornisia and Mirador chairs back all the way to the top. It took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to ride all the lifts back to the top again. This time the plan was to push a little further skier’s right and find some fresher lines. It’s a little harder for Francisco on his snowboard to push to the right, but with the use of one ski pole, we were able to make it 1 main ridge over. On the way across, we came across a group of 3 people, 2 skiers and 1 snowboarder. They had no gear on and looked a little hesitant. We overtook them and headed towards our objective. We stopped a couple of minutes later to discuss the plan. The other group approached. They waited next to us. It all seemed a little odd. I asked Francisco to ask them if they knew where they were going, but the lead skier (who was French) said “no” in perfect English, but “they were just going to follow us.” I said I thought that wasn’t really appropriate given they did not know the area, have the right gear or even know what our plan was (maybe we would be skinning or hiking out?) They had not asked where we were going and just assumed they could easily follow.


  We were heading quite far out, so if something happened to them, they could be in trouble. The French guy seemed upset that we didn’t want them to follow us and he took off saying he would go his own way. The two others could not keep up with him and we quickly overtook their group. We could not get this guy to see sense, so we pushed on. We got ahead of them but you could see them still following our tracks, no matter how much we twisted and turned. Even when we had to sidestep or walk, they still came the same way. It was obvious they were still just going to follow us. There were several opportunities to go a different way but they kept coming. We found a nice untouched zone that we wanted to set up and film, but then they appeared from round the corner again. I was concerned that they would drop in on us, so I had to shelve the plan to film the others as we needed to keep moving and stay away from these guys to stay safe. Sure enough, without even a thought, the French guy dropped in on the steepest face as we discussed our plan(if it was going to slide; then would have been the sweet-spot right there and was the exact spot to avoid) without a thought. Ugh….. His two friends were still at the top. Our plan had been to avoid the steep part (which ended in a decent terrain trap and was the same aspect as the ridge that slid near the Cornicia chair)) and stay on top of the ridgeline. There were still great turns to be had there and it was a safer option in general. Thankfully the other two in the group waited for us to ski our line and then we got out of there. I don’t know what they were thinking, I felt a little bit sorry for the more tentative two as they were being led by a guy that clearly didn’t have much of a clue himself and much concern in general, for their collective safety. Not trying to judge others but this seemed to be a case of the blind leading the blind. The backcountry is dangerous enough without people adding to it……


  Thankfully that was the last we saw of them. We rejoined the final groomed section of the Tres Marias run and headed all the way to the bottom. I hope they made it out ok and didn’t get lost. They were in the backcountry and responsible for themselves, so I hope they made the right choices. Francisco had to head off for the day so Paul and I had a late lunch at the restaurant near the Tata chair. It had been a great day, I don’t know if we will top that one, but we’ll try. We finished the day with some multiple burial beacon practice. Tomorrow will be just Paul and I, so we might focus on a little bit of skier improvement, until the crowds disperse in the afternoon. Until then!


First in line for the Otto chair!



Paul next to the Otto chair and the view up the mountain.


The view down in the Tres Marias area. It's huge and so much fresh lines to be had.



The view down the Otto side into the Freeride Area on our second run. Thanks to Paul Chiavini for the photo.



Heading into the Tres Marias area, Francisco on the left and then me in the middle in the red, plus a couple of Euro randoms...... pic: Paul Chiavini.



Paul took a photo of our tracks in the background. 2nd run, Freeride Area. pic: Paul Chiavini.



Heading up the Otto chair for the 2nd time. Those are some sharp volcanic rocks.



Paul (blue) and Francisco (black) heading up the Cornisia quad chair. You can see the top chairlift, the Mirador lift in the background.



The Buena Vista restaurant. Will have to eat in there next.



Looking back from the Otto chair. What a view! Love the Andes.



On a clear day you can see all the way to the Pacific ocean apparently.



Paul on top of the world, heading to the Tres Marias off-piste.



Francisco in the Tres Marias area, a 10km off-piste run. My idea of a good time!



The smile says it all. What a great day. Absolutely loving Nevados de Chillan. I can only imagine who amazing this place is when there is a lot more snow.


- Matt

post #15 of 36

Great trip report - thanks for sharing!

post #16 of 36
Thread Starter 

Sunday 21st August

  Paul and I were going solo today as Francisco was headed up to Santiago for a couple of days to see his mum, so I was officially calling the shots. The weather was supposed to be sunny with high winds (46km) but with increasing temps in the 50’s. Paul had stayed up pretty late so he was feeling a little tired so I thought it better to have a cruisy day. There had been no new snow overnight and none was in the forecast till at least a week. We decided to do a few warm up runs on the groomers next to the Wenche chair and Nono t-bar. We were up high by about 9:45am and apart from the local race squad, there was no one else around. Paul was open to a little instruction so we worked on his fore aft balance to try and get him off the front of his boot a little and then a bit of lateral balance work to try and get him to balance on the outside ski without him pushing it away. We went through a series of drills designed to create self-awareness and improve technique. We did a nice progression on the groomers which helped him focus on improving his skills.


  We spent a couple of hours working on that before we headed up high to the Mirador chair (it was blowing a bit if a gale over in the Otto area so stayed on the Cornicia side to stay out of the wind) and off into the Tres Marias area. I wanted to see if we could find the same line we skied the second time with Francisco the day before. It was pretty easy to find, we could still see some of our tracks. There was one or two times where we had to go and scope the line and then turn around and go left more, but we were pretty much on-target the whole way. We even managed to miss out a section where we walked, so we got to the bowl where we’d had the really good turns the day before a lot quicker.


  It was turning into a bit more of an educational day, so I wanted to dig a pit and run through some stability tests with Paul and help him further with his backcountry knowledge. I was intending to ski the steeper face that we had avoided the day before, so digging a pit in a safe spot higher up, would be a somewhat indicative of the line I was thinking of skiing. I started by showing Paul how to use his probe to feel for different layers in the snowpack and to then to find where the deeper snow was which would be  more suitable for digging the pit. We found an area that was about 205cm deep and we marked out a 150cm wide area. The first 30cm or so was pretty easy going; that was the new (now more consolidated) fresh snow from several days previous. Then we hit a really hard ice crust about 3cm thick with another ice crust below that. There was a light ash layer on top of the first ice crust (from the recent volcanic eruption about 11 days ago, that’s a first time I’ve seen volcanic ash in a snowpit). There was a space about 5cm inbetween the two crusts that was full of small, poorly bonded facets about 2mm in size. Then we had a really stiff 50cm layer with more ice veins running through it and another ash layer. Finally the bottom 80cm or so was rounded snow grains, 1mm in size and pretty stiff, 1F (1 Finger stiffness), gradually getting softer from hard 1F to easy 1F towards the bottom. It was pretty complex. Overall, even though this was not the deepest or biggest pit I have ever dug, the ice crusts and then really hard layers below, made for extremely hard work, one of the most physically demanding pits I’ve ever had to dig. It probably took us more than an hour and a half to dig all the way down to the ground (chiseling through all that ice was really tough and definitely highlighted to Paul why we want a strong shovel and why those plastic shovels are not the best), but a great lesson in how time consuming in general it can be, to dig, especially when conditions are challenging.


  My initial interest was what would happen with the ice crusts towards the top and the 5cm of facets sandwiched between the two layers. We’d seen inbounds avalanches on a slightly different aspect in the resort (skier triggered, on a steep wind-loaded slope). It was unclear to me, without going and looking around in the area of those slides, if similar conditions had existed over there and therefore, if the slab failed on top or below the ice crusts. Stability tests in our pit would reveal more for our location. I set us up to do a shovel shear test, 2 compression tests and then an extended column test. Unfortunately I had left my rutschblock cord in India in my other snow geek kit (my bad, but it would have been useless on that ice anyway as it is just knotted paracord) so I went with a modified propagation saw test (the back and far side of the block had not been isolated and was not the required 100cm in length, so this was admittedly not an accurate test at all and was more of an experiment as we were too tired to do anything else). The shovel shear test caused the new snow layer to break above the ice crust layer, then the ice crust layer and rounds all came free. None of the layers produced very clean or dramatic shears (a good thing). Then we went with 2 compression tests. I did the first and then I got Paul to do the second. I had a gradual failure after 23 taps but not a clean shear at all, the layer failed but gradually compressed and crumbled as I kept pounding on it and the block did not shear off clean at all. Paul got a similar result. Both times it was the facet layer between that failed but without any clean shear. The layer definitely failed but it was unlikey to propagate in my opinion. I did the modified prop saw test in the weak facet layer and no result was found (I think it was unlikely we would have seen any propagation if we had done the test the correct way). So overall, our testing for that particular spot suggested that a slab would be hard to trigger and propagate, but we should still take the necessary precautions to limit our exposure to avalanches and continue to make smart choices. Nothing new there in my opinion!


  We filled in our hole and then talked about options for skiing. I was going to ski the steep face in front of us, but I suggested that Paul go around and try making a big slash turn on a natural wave-like face further down to the right that had a big shadow and some nice looking snow on it. I would set up the handheld camera and get a shot of him skiing the line. I dropped in on the steeper face and found about 15 really nice turns, before pulling up the left up on a bare patch of earth, out of the direct line of the slope. This was a good place to film that was safe and out of the way and gave me a great shot of the wave. It was Warren Miller time for Paul. The key for him (in order to make it look good and spray a bunch of snow for the camera!), would be the speed. This was the first time that he had skied a specific line for the camera and he seemed a little unsure. He dropped in, hugging the ridge for several turns before dropping over a little roll-over. He realized at the last minute that he needed more speed and I could see him adjust and point it straight. He hit the wave in a good spot and did a good job of dropping his hip into the turn. Because the snow was shaded and nice and cold and dry, he kicked up a pretty decent spray and I got the shot. It came out pretty well. With a bit more speed he would have absolutely nailed it, but it was a valiant try and he did great for the first time skiing a little film line like that. I showed him the footage later on and it looked pretty cool! He was stoked.


  After that, all that was left was to ski down to the bottom. It was 2:45pm when we made it to the bottom of the Tata chair, so we had some lunch and relaxed a little. I was pretty spent. Lunch was really good; I had another one of those Chilean hotdogs with the spicy sausage and special sauce on it and it hit the spot. Our lift back to los Hualles was scheduled for 3:30pm so we didn’t have long to wait. The sun was still high by the time we got back, so we pulled some wooden chairs into the sun on the cafeteria patio and had a couple of Heineken’s to celebrate another fun day. It been more of an educational day, but we’d gotten some good turns in at the start and end of the day, so all was Bueno. The weather is supposed to be warmer again with lighter winds tomorrow, I think we’ll head back to the Otto side and ski more of the Freeride Zone again. When Francisco returns on Tuesday, we’ll start to do some touring in the Tres Marias area and hopefully take a packed lunch to the refugio that we have seen in the distance. That will be really memorable.    


This cat is normally used to shuttle skiers up to the summit of the volcano, but since the summit is currently shut down with the extended 3km exclusion zone, the cat is currently out of work.



Early morning at the Tata chair (when I say early morning, it's actually 9:30am, so not really that early.....)



Paul helping to brush out the main face of the snow pit, so we can more easily see layers.



Early into the brushing of the pit and you can already see several layers. You can see the two volcanic ash layers pretty clearly. The ash layers were associated with the ice crusts. I suspect that the darkened ash would have retained more heat from the sun, rather than reflecting it like pure white snow does. The snow may melted a bit and then froze up, causing the ice crusts which were then covered up by more snow, or it could just have been the 2 rain events that they had had? Not sure either way, but I know that there are some very firm layers in there!



The weakness cave! The facets in between the 2 main ice crusts we so soft you could just brush them away. You can really see how poorly-bonded that layer is.

post #17 of 36
Thread Starter 

Monday 22nd August

  Again it was just Paul and I, so no local insight from nuestro amigo Francisco, again I’d be one holding the remote. The forecast was for even warmer temps and lighter winds (max 5 to 10kmph). We got dropped off at the Tata chair by 9:30am and already it was feeling really warm. We jumped straight onto the chair and headed up higher. The plan was to cut some laps in the Otto area. I also wanted to get a lot of footage of Paul skiing, so I had my handheld camera with me also. It was a sea of glistening ice in the area around the bottom of the Otto chair as we loaded. I felt sorry for any beginners taking lessons this early. The wind was definitely feeling stronger than 10kmph and as we got closer to the top of the Otto and we could see a little bit of localized snow movement (nothing coming off the peaks though). Some patrollers came down to the lookers left of the chairlift as we neared the top, they made the snow look pretty good as they carved turns down the freshly wind-buffed run. Our plan was to head right at the top and ski the first main face. The right side had some fresh wind-buff and I skied to the bottom of the first pitch and filmed Paul. The run was a little choppy but at least the snow had some give. We headed down the Freeride zone, looking for more spots that had picked up any windblown snow. The skiing was challenging but fun. We got to the bottom and headed straight back to the chair.


  For the second lap we’d head further across to the skier’s left and ski the next face over. This time, because of the improved stability, we’d traverse across a steeper roll over to get to the far side (one that I had previously bailed on), right on the edge of the resort boundary. We made it across safely, one at a time and I’m so glad we did as we could now see across to the area outside the ski area. Oh my goodness, the terrain looked amazing. There were several big, mellow bowls and hardly any tracks in the sun-ripened pow. There was a nice place to drop in with an opportunity to make 10 or 12 really nice turns. There was an obvious point that we could cut back to, to keep us heading back towards the resort. We dropped in one a time and found some really nice untouched snow and then made some turns, before cutting back to the ridge. Easy stuff! Then we had a couple more bowls to cut across. That gave us some more ideas for skiing the next day (or so we thought). We easily found our way back to the resort and took several bowls in the Freeride Area down to the bottom. We jumped back on the Otto chair.


  The plan was to head over to the Mirador chair to do a run over there and we stopped to take a selfie next to the sign that said “selfie zone”. As we headed further down the trail, we could see that the Mirador chair was not spinning. This was strange given that it was really nice weather (wind had dropped by this stage), so we couldn’t see why they would have the chair closed. Maybe the Mirador chair was down or maybe it doesn’t run mid-week? We didn’t know why, hopefully Francisco might be able to shed some light on that when he returns. Anyway, we had already started skiing in the direction of the Mirador chair until we saw a groomed trail leading uphill out of a gate. It looked like it would lead out towards the area we had skied previously but would take us up higher. There was a sign saying end of ski area boundary, but no closed signs. We decided to take the hike and sure enough, it had us up at the start of the backcountry area outside the ski area, a fair bit higher than where we had dropped in previously. We decided to take the longer version of what we had skied previously and the turns we great. The snow was soft and untouched. This time we skied it much further down and wrapped around to the right. There were other bowls to be had and the temptation was too great, so we’d have to keep skiing down further. We skied several nice lines, cutting right, back to a ridgeline each time, trying to keeping the resort in sight.


  We finished with a really long steep face in the shade. This was a really fun line, definitely the steepest sustained pitch we’d skied the whole trip. I sent Paul down first as I watched from above. I was getting mindful of how hot it was, even in the shade, the ambient temperature was very warm. This was a steep zone and not somewhere you wanted to be in the wrong conditions. We kept traversing across a couple of bowls and we could see the ski area close-by. A couple of the last bowls were in the sun and you could see from the progressively larger pinwheels, that the slopes were starting to get too warm and were destabilizing. It was definitely time to get out of there (it was nearly noon by this stage). We quickened the pace and finally got to the last ridge. We’d made it back. I told Paul that that would be our last run through the lower sections for that time of day. It would be too dangerous to go back there as too much snow was starting to move, but what an eye opening experience seeing all that terrain out there.


  We headed down and went to the Hotel Alto Nevados for an early lunch. We were in there for more than an hour and it was closer to 2pm before we were done. I had said to Paul that we could hike back to the same zone, but if we just skied the upper, mellower part where the snow was also colder, we could ski another lap. We would avoid the bottom steep zone and bug out early back to the ski area. That would be a really fun, safe and quick lap. So we headed back up the Otto chair, skied around the side of the high point and then did the quick and easy 10 minute hike. This time we would ski the top section in one go (the last time we had done it in two parts) and I would ski behind Paul and film him with my helmet cam. I gave him a little more room at the steepest part at the start before I dropped in. I caught him after several turns and we enjoyed some fast sweeping turns (33 in total when I counted them in the video) before we got to our ramp and the start of the traverse back to the resort. We made it back quickly and without a hitch. It was too easy. It was such a fun line and some of the best bang for the buck skiing I have ever done. The amount of effort it took to get in and out, for the amount and quality of turns, was really high. We were both pretty stoked and this added a whole new level of quality turns for Nevados. This place continues to blow me away. Paul and I plan to skin up higher tomorrow and go for an even longer run in that zone. If we do it, it should be great.


  We made it down to the bottom of the Tata lift by 4pm for our ride home. The snow on the lower part of the mountain is really starting to melt with the high temps. Tomorrow we’ll try and organize a pickup at the carpark at the bottom of the Otto chair. Back at the Cabanas los Hualles I helped Paul cut his new skins, ready for tomorrow’s adventure. Then we had a great meal at Oliva’s, what has become our go to restaurant in the area. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Until then! 


Looking back at our tracks in the backcountry just outside the resort. Such amazing terrain, right on the front door step. This was about a 12 minute, flat hike to get to this. Then we found a shortcut that cut the hike down to 4 minutes.....



I don't know, we took a selfie in the "selfie zone" and it didn't come out very well. I think the pictures outside the selfie zone came out better!



See, I took this picture of Paul just outside the selfie zone and I think it's much better!



This one too! Didn't even need a sign for this one..... the new (left) and old (right) volcanoes in the background.



Looking west.



Gotta love the Andes!



The zone we would later start touring into. Endless lines...... with many great options for higher avalanche danger days.



I need to ski that.....



Volcan Chillan Viejo (Old Chillan Volcano).


- Matt

post #18 of 36
Thread Starter 

Tuesday 23rd August

  I finally got more than 6 hours sleep so I was feeling pretty good. Sadly Francisco had business to attend to, so it was just Paul and I again. The plan was to try and get a quick lap in the backcountry and then skin up and do some touring. Paul had never skinned before and he was keen for me to show him how to use his new gear. Nevados is absolutely prime for first time backcountry skiers and people who want to learn how to skin. I was also looking forward to trying my other new pair of Meier skis (The Doc, which is 108mm underfoot). They also have the new Marker Kingpin touring bindings on them (the 10 DIN, demo version, so I’d have to take it a little easier on them as I normally ski on an 11 DIN and I had these on 9) and I have been wanting to try these really badly (more of that later). The Tata chair area was really looking bad after all the warm weather so we got our driver to drop us off at the Otto parking lot.


  It was about 9:30am when we got there and the place was pretty much deserted, apart from a couple of cars in the parking lot. We jumped on the chair and discussed options on the way up. I had spoken with Francisco about taking what I thought would be a shortcut for the hike from the top of the Otto chair to the start of the backcountry. He said as long as you were seen to be carrying the right gear, then you should be good to go. I said to Paul we should try and take the (potential) shortcut.  We got off the chair and as we were taking off our skis, ready to hike, a patroller came over and started to talk to us. He spoke a little English and asked us where we were going. I said out the gate and he said fine, as long as we had all the gear (which we did) and we would be responsible for ourselves (which we also were). Off we went. The direct route took us to our drop-in point in about 4 minutes (as opposed to 12 minutes the other way). I’ve never had such an easy hike to get to such an impressive zone.


  The plan was to ski the same long line non-stop from the top and then take pretty much the same traverse out as the previous day. There was still plenty of snow to be skied and we took a new, mellow gully to the left of our tracks from the previous day. The snow was really nice, untouched and soft, lots of fun. We skied it together all the way down to what we thought would be our exit. Paul was not liking the traverse out as it had some exposure, so we decided to stay in the main gully (we hadn’t gone that low before). It had a very steep entrance and would need some jump turns. We were feeling good about the snow, so I jumped in first. It had some really wind affected snow for the first two turns, but then it became more consistent as it progressed, but you had to be careful as there was some sheet ice to avoid either side so you had to ski it real tight, or else you might slide out. It was only about 7 or 8 turns and you had a nice runout at the bottom if something went wrong, so a good challenge but without major consequences.


  Paul dropped in and unfortunately on about his third turn, he came too far across the run and hit the ice. He went down, popped a ski and started to slide. Thankfully, being an ex-patroller, he’s good at self-arresting and managed to stop himself pretty quickly. He was disappointed that he lost it but happy that he stopped himself quickly. The lesson learned for him was that he needed to better stay in the guides tracks, when it’s tight like that (his words). Then we had a nice long ski down, the main chute. It was untouched but with variable snow all the way through; hardpack in the middle and softer snow to the right. It wasn’t the best snow and the skiing would have been better if we had stayed up higher, but it was pretty impressive terrain and the views were amazing! After a while we needed to start heading higher so we could avoid the technical waterfall section about 2/3 of the way down the gully. There is a big rock that announces the presence of the double fall section, so you have plenty of warning.  We got up higher and took the steady travers, crossing several bowls one at a time, before we reached the last ridge and the start of the ski area. We skied back to the Otto chair ready for more. That was a pretty good warmup run!


  We got to the top of the Otto chair and headed straight to our hike. The patroller was there again and gave us a friendly wave. We made it to the start of the zone but this time, the plan was to keep walking higher up so we could gain access to a ridge that would take us across to the start of the mellow face we would be skinning up. We got to the ridge and put our skis out, ready to traverse across. There was this pretty amazing looking cross, set on top of a rock cluster. We took some photos and kept on going. Then we had a bit of a downhill where we had to just go straight, so we could keep speed to get up as high as possible up the face we needed to skin. There was a flat spot where we could put our skins on and Paul could get into his touring adaptors (he was using the new  Daymakers which look interesting and seem to work a lot better than the old Alpine Trekkers). We fitted our skins and I put my Kingpins into tour mode. This is done by pulling a lever into tour mode (the ski breaks are automatically pulled up and out of the way) so the heal piece is pulled backwards and your heel is free to move. The heel piece has 2 flip down risers for climbing so you have 3 height options and they are really easy to flick up and engage with your pole. The front of the binding has a 3 spring, pin system that is super easy to step into and also has a ski and a hike mode. This was my first time using the system and I was really impressed. They hold a solid edge and ski very precisely. I had no loss of performance on hard snow and they tour great, so I think I will have to get me some of these. This is the binding I have been looking for, for the kind of skiing I like to do…..


  Anyway, I digress, back to the skiing. As this was Paul’s first time skinning, I had to show him a few things. The terrain was nice and mellow, ideal for learning. I showed him how to glide and not to lift the skis, then we did some open uphill turns and then onto some VAV turns and how to use the climbing aids. We even had a little downhill section so he got to practice that too. It was a really easy skin to our objective and probably only took about 20 minutes all up. It was nice to be skinning again and Paul learned a lot. We had a choice of open and mellow chutes to ski, so we chose the furthest one to the skier’s left. We’d tick off the others in the following days. The skiing was fun. We found a little cornice gap to jump over onto a steep face into a big wave and subsequent slash turn. It was a fun feature and even Paul wanted to try it. He’s starting to look at terrain and features in a different way now and is getting more aggressive. We skied the rest of the open chute making big fast turns all the way to the bottom. We stopped to look for our egress and I was thinking we would have to skin up to a higher egress we had used before. I didn’t like that too much as we would be skinning up potential slide paths. Then I saw a lower traverse that would at least take us back towards the resort to a flatter area for skinning. When we got around the corner, it still looked like we might be able to make it back to the resort without skinning, but it would require a couple of tactical short side-steps.


  Sure enough, the further we traversed the higher we got and it started to look like we were going to make it. We crossed a big bowl and over to a far ridge and we had made it. That meant that we had found a really nice skin-to zone that didn’t involve any work to get back to the resort. This was another important discovery and took the bang for the buck meter up another level. We celebrated by skiing all the way down and back to the Alto Nevado hotel for some lunch. We had a break for about an hour and then went to head out for another quick lap. Unfortunately the Otto chair was not loading (not sure why?) so we headed down to the Wenche chair and up the Nono t-bar. The Mirador chair was running so we headed up to the top. I decided to do a little work with Paul on his lead change of his inside ski and then take that it some work on pure carving. We had a nice run all the way down to the bottom, working on a pure carve progression before getting down to the bottom by about 3:55pm. Our drivr was waiting for us at the carpark so we headed back to the lodge. We had the private chef cooking for us again and we had an amazing shrimp paella and then this amazing desert with ice cream, some kind of hardened cream puff with soft cream inside and a lovely berry sauce. It was a great way to finish off a fun day. We have more chutes to cross off tomorrow, then we will have a cultural day on Thursday visiting Chillan and the local wineries. It is supposed to snow Thursday night so hopefully we will have a nice powder day for our last day skiing on Friday.


We've been skiing in this zone for 3 days now. Paul and I probably account for 2/3 of the tracks in this zone. It's amazing. We just keep going back in and skiing a new, fresh line each time.



This was a cool old cross we found on the way out to our touring spot.



This was Paul's first time touring and he did it like a champ!



Skiing out of our line in the "Zone of Infinite Radness", my new nick-name for this area. We had just come from the gully in the top right of the picture.

post #19 of 36

So far this is one of those TR's that increases my desire to check the place out sometime!


MadPatSki has been to South America 4x and overall says Chillan is his favorite.   Nice to see the Otto chair has been cooperating most of the time.


FYI MadPatSki just landed in New Zealand where I have skied 4x but this is his first trip there.

post #20 of 36
Thread Starter 

Wednesday 24th August

  Paul had a bit of a sore shoulder so we decided to take it easy and not ski. Francisco suggested we visit a local waterfall about an hour up the road, so he drew us a handy little map. After breakfast we headed out. It was about an hour until we found the turnoff up the road. We got to take some nice photos on the way up along the road and found the turnoff next to the pyramidal dome houses that we would need to take. Then you walk next to a hostel and then you are in a beautiful old forest, with some amazingly wide old Oak. There is a small stream that is crystal clear, that you follow along and then you start to hear the waterfall. We found a sign that says “cascada” and it pointed us straight uphill up this very steep and muddy track, with plenty of roots growing out of it. It was about 20 minutes of scrambling and then we reached the bottom of the falls and the plunge pool. It was a pretty awesome view; the falls must have been at least 70 or 80 ft high and very beautiful. I took the rocky trail down for a closer look and more photos. It took about an hour and twenty minutes all up, for us to get from the hotel to the bottom of the falls. Not too bad at all. We hung out for a while before heading back down the way we came.


  On the way back along the road, we saw this really healthy looking German Shepard do running down the middle of the road towards us. As he got closer, he slowed down and came over to check us out. Paul is not a fan of German Shepard’s but I love them, so I called him over and he came over slowly. He gave me a sniff and then relaxed a bit and I was able to give him some attention. He was a lovely dog. He came with us for a while and then we had to say goodbye as we went into a restaurant. We had some lunch at a new place (Restaurant Riding) and then got back on the road. We still had another 40 minutes or so of walking and we stopped in several places to take more photos. I feel like I have a good feel for the little settlement of Las Trancas. Everyone is so friendly as well, pretty much everyone makes eye contact and smile as you walk past and it’s obligatory to say hola! The locals are very friendly, even to a couple of gringos like us. I love it.


  As we were nearing home, off in the distance we could see a dog chasing a car coming towards us. The car was going at a decent pace and this dog was keeping right up, sprinting flat out. Sure enough it was the same German Shepard that we had seen earlier. I’ve never seen a dog move that fast, no wonder it was in such good shape. The dogs around here like to self-exercise; it’s pretty impressive to see. It ran after the car for quite some time and we quickly lost sight of it. Funny stuff! We saw our buddy Jaimie at Oliva’s Bar and we walked over to have a quick chat. Then we were back at the hotel.


  We were due to have another home cooked meal. The food has been fantastic, cooked to order by our own private chef. Tonight was really special, filet steak cooked to perfection with a blue cheese, garlic cream sauce. It was awesome. I ate the heck out of that! The desert was a lemon cream pie, too sweet for me but Paul loved it. I think the diet will have to start when I get back. We are heading to Chillan tomorrow for wine tasting, BBQ and then hopefully some truffle hunting. That should be an awesome day! 


Breakfasts have been awesome! Some scrambled egg, fresh and hot bread, salami, turkey and cheese. Me gusta!



The local school rocks the old school Rossi 4S's. Love it!



Little shop on the way up to the mountain, on the way to the waterfall.



Cool little ski house.



Old growth oak in the forest on the way to the waterfall.



Pretty impressive root system.



This way to the waterfall.



1 hour and 20 minutes from the Cabanas los Hualles gets you here. A pretty cool spot!



Let's increase the risk factor. Why not.....



This is where the water supply for Las Trancas comes from. Water is gathered in these tanks and then piped to town.



That chute is still skiable! The mountains surrounding Las Trancas.



Turn left here to get to the falls. The view is pretty darn impressive!



This feels pretty south american to me....



My new friend. Must be time to get a dog when I get back to Denver.......



The view from the restaurant at lunch. Also pretty amazing!



The little church on the way back to Las Trancas.



Nearly home......



Possibly the coolest dog in Las Trancas, hanging out with the jam band.



Our buddy Jaime, the bartender from Oliva's, the restaurant just up the road from los Hualles.



Filet and a creamie blue cheese sauce, with rosemary potatoes. I've already requested this as my first meal when I return in 2017.


  It was nice to have a day off skis and check out somewhere new and local. The meal at the end of the day really topped it off nicely.


- Matt

post #21 of 36
Thread Starter 

Thursday 25th August

  A storm was supposed to be hitting Nevados that afternoon so we decided to finally take our official day off and cultural day in Chillan. Francisco was going to drive Paul and I to Chillan where he had to do some errands first (a good chance to see a little bit more of Chillan) and then we would go to a winery and do some wine tasting and then have a Chilean BBQ. We’d go truffle hunting if there was time too. We had breakfast and then hit the road at about 10:30am. It is only an hour drive to Chillan, so plenty of time and no need to hurry. Francisco needed to go to the bank first and there was a parking spot in front but it was tight. We had some help from the parking assistant (he helps you maneuver into place) and using his backup camera, he managed to park after about 5 minutes of maneuvering. I didn’t realize how tight it was. We had about 3 inches to spare either side. The parking guy was really impressed and people had stopped to film it. Hopefully that will be on YouTube somewhere!


  It took an hour or so to get all the errands done and then we were back on the road again. We were scheduled to go to the Santa Berta winery for a private tour. The place wasn’t even open, but thanks to Francisco and his connections, we were able to get our own private tour and showing. It is a very impressive place! The winery is in the middle of nowhere, hardly sign-posted and definitely under the radar for most tourists. It is a former monastery that is now a winery and is a big complex. We got to see the main courtyard, the production facility, the old chapel and then the tasting room (where we tried some of the wines). After that, we met the head wine maker and then bought 5 bottles from the store, one we would drink for lunch.


  Then it was off to San Carlos, a small, working-class town about 27km further north. Here we were going to meet chef David Vivero, another one of Francisco’s friends and owner of a newly opened restaurant in town. The restaurant was closed but David was going to open especially for us, for a private lunch. His building is close to the flour factory (also owned by David) and seems like a pretty unlikely spot for a fine-dining restaurant. There were some buring torches outside and chef David was there to meet us. He is a really friendly guy and gave us a tour of his property. He was still renovating the property (after it sustained massive damage in the 2010 earthquake) and he showed us the new reinforcement work that all local properties have to have done. He is nearly finished with the renovation and there is just one room that he is still working on. The rest of the rooms are dark and somewhat sparse, but it adds to the ambience. He has a 200 year old stove where the magic is made and this is the key to his locally inspired, authentic Chilean cuisine.


  He started off by pouring us a special drink that he makes. It is fermented grape juice with roasted wheat flour. It looks like hot chocolate but tastes like nothing I have ever tried before. It was pretty wild! Then we had our starters; an amazing meat platter with hams, salami’s, pickles, olives, cerviche and fresh bread. The food was amazing, the cerviche was exceptional and the meats were all really tasty. I was already full after just that, but then we had our mains to come. David had been cooking the meat all day in his old oven. We had the lightly smoked beef, with sausage and roasted vegetables. It was so good, some of the best food I’ve ever had and such a testimony to exceptional local cuisine. So good! The guys had a desert (none for me as I was full and I don’t have a sweet tooth at all) and then thankfully, we went on a walk.


  David took us on a tour of his family’s old flour mill. It is about to be restored and they will be turning it into a museum. There were several floors full of old machinery and equipment. I didn’t really understand what everything was, but then he took us on a tour of his new factory and a lot of the old machinery made sense. Here we got to see the modern versions of the old machinery in action. Then he took us around his family house, right behind the new factory. That was pretty cool to see as well. It was getting late by the time we left San Carlos and unfortunately we had run out of time to go truffle hunting. Not to worry, it had been an amazing day and we got to do some pretty unique things. These side tours will definitely be added to our program in 2017. We headed back to Las Trancas around 7pm and it was raining heavily and was 3 degrees by the time we started climbing up the valley. Hopefully it would snow hard and we would have a powder day for our last day on snow. What a day though!  


Francisco is the master of parking. The was not much behind his car either.......



The Santa Berta winery, definitely an under the radar place. Thanks to Francisco, we had our own private showing and tasting.



A pretty impressive front gate.



The winery was a former Jesuit monastery.



Beautiful old horse buggy that is still used today.






Inside the wine production facility.



The winery has it's own chapel.









Inside the tasting room.






Susanna, our local English-speaking guide at the winery, Susannah.






The tasting room is the showpiece of the entire operation.



Paul was in his element. He loves wine and the Santa Berta was his favorite brand of Chilean wine. He was pretty happy when he found out that was where we were going.



Francisco picked up a few bottles for himself.



Susannah, Paul and then Brian, the head winemaker.



They've won a few awards too. Hopefully you'll see them in the US soon. Brian was about to head to the US to try and sort out distribution to the North American market.



Spot the owl! There were two of them next to the road as we left the winery.



David Vivero greeting us at his new restaurant in San Carlos. We were in for a treat!



His 200 year old oven, still in use.



Roasted meats and vegetables, freshly baked bread.



Being from an Italian background, Paul is no stranger to motor scooters.



The dining room.



Our starters. Various meats, bread, cerviche, olives/pickles and then the real twist, a special drink that they would serve to the workers in the flour mill. In the jug you have fermented grape juice and then in the bowl, you have toasted wheat flour. You take a glass, put a generous spoon of flour in there and then pour in the grape juice. Stir it rigorously and you have yourself a very traditonal, old recipe workers drink. I've never tasted anything like it.



The main course was really tasty. There was roasted beef, sausage, potatoes and vegies. The beef in particular, with a very subtle smokiness, was really good.






Such a cool restaurant, with amazing food and ambience, out in the middle of nowhere and off the radar to most tourists. A very special day indeed! Can't wait to take more people there in 2017.



David's families old flour mill. This was another cool part of the day, seeing all the old machinery used to make flour.



Old flour grinding machine.



This place will eventually become a museum.



The view of San Carlos from the old flour mill. Unfortunately my camera ran out of memory space so I didn't get any stills of David's house or the new flour factory.


- Matt

post #22 of 36

Very cool narrative about a part of the world few get to see. 

post #23 of 36
Quote = Mattadvproject:
The winery is in the middle of nowhere, hardly sign-posted and definitely under the radar for most tourists.

Way under the radar.  It has a website (Spanish only) but Google turned up zero reviews.  How did Paul find out about Santa Berta before the trip?

post #24 of 36
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post

Very cool narrative about a part of the world few get to see. 

Thanks dustyfog! It is a great part of the world, that's for sure and the best trip I have done recently. I met several people on the way to Santiago and all were heading to the resorts closer to Santiago. No one had even heard of Nevados do Chillan (could also be that it changed it's name from Termas de Chillan). I like the fact that it is somewhere different and not many people know about it. Thanks for following the blog!

- Matt

post #25 of 36
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

Way under the radar.  It has a website (Spanish only) but Google turned up zero reviews.  How did Paul find out about Santa Berta before the trip?

G'day Tony,

  As far as I know, Paul did not know about Santa Berta until we got out there. Paul had wanted to try the local wine brands (he is a passionate wine aficionado) and he just stumbled on the Santa Berta brand by chance. We were going to a bar and restaurant just up the road called Oliva's and had been recommended to try some by the bartender Jaime. He really enjoyed it and made a point to remember the name. Again it was just blind luck that Francisco had the contacts and already had it in mind for us to visit the winery. Needless to say, Paul was very happy when he found out we were going to be visiting his favorite local winery. Thanks for reading along and commenting Tony.


- Matt

post #26 of 36
Thread Starter 

Friday 26th August

  Our last official day of skiing in Nevados didn’t quite pan out the way we wanted it to. We had been hoping that the rain we had driven through the previous night was going to be all snow up high. When we got to the Otto chair, there was definitely some new snow around, but only 1 or 2 inches. It looked like up high there was some deeper pockets, but when we went to do the hike from the top of Otto, ski patrol shut us down. One of the patrollers told us it had rained all the way to the top overnight and it was extremely icy in the backcountry. They didn’t want us to go out the gate. Fair enough. We did a lap inbounds instead to test the conditions.


  Sure enough, the snow was solid underneath with only a little bit of new snow. It wasn’t good at all. So much for the forecast and the 6 inches they were calling for, that would have been a nice soft cushion, but it wasn’t to be. We skied all the way down to the Otto, picking our way down through several different bowls in the Freeride Zone. We took the chair back up to the top where we saw that the Mirador chair was running. We decided to do a few last laps up top where the snow might be better. We ended up doing a couple of laps and at one point, we stopped so that I could take some footage of Paul using his skins (one of his daughters who set up his trekking adaptors, wanted to see some close-up footage of them in action, so I filmed Paul climbing up the hill a couple of times). We worked a little bit on technique as well, before stopping for a coffee in the Buena Vista coffee bar (we hadn’t been in there before and the views were amazing, plus Paul loved the coffee).


  By about 12:30pm it was lunchtime and we wanted to have a nice long last lunch, in the Alto Nevados Hotel. We had a nice lunch and I finished off with a couple of beers to celebrate. It was a shame that the last day of skiing hadn’t quite gone according to plan but all in all, we’d had a great trip and had many good turns, so we wouldn’t let sub-par day bring us down.

  We were off the mountain by 2pm so I had time to start the packing. Then at 7pm we had our last los Hualles meal and it was a good one: homemade lasagna with sundried tomatoes. Yum! We polished that off quickly and then it was off to finish the packing. Our driver was coming for us at 2pm to take us back to Concepcion. That meant I could enjoy a lie-in and catch up on some work. 


Saturday 27th August

  We had a nice breakfast at 9am and then it was time to finish the packing and take care of some last-minute errands. I filmed a quick little clip of Francisco and then at 1pm, we went up to Oliva’s to have lunch and to say thank you and goodbye, to Jaime. Then our lift arrived and it was off to Concepcion. We checked in at the Ibis and then the driver took us up the coast to a little town called Dichato and we had some fresh seafood for dinner. From the mountains to the ocean, we had really come full-circle! Then the driver took us back to Concepcion and I wrapped things up with Paul. I was going to be leaving a lot earlier than him so I filmed a quick little interview of his experiences and then it was time to hit the hay.


Sunday 28th August

  My flight to Concepcion was due to leave at 10:20am. I made the mistake of getting their too early (around 7:45am) and the check-in desk wasn’t due to open at 8:30am. I’ll remember that one for next time! The flight departed on time and I had a nice view of the coast and back towards the mountains. I’m pretty sure I could see Nevados and I definitely saw the Antuco volcano on the way. About 30 minutes in we hit an area of strong turbulence. The plane was thrown around pretty aggressively and it was a little scary. I didn’t cry but I did let out a little whimper as I tried to crawl under the seat in front of me….. I’m not a fan of clear air turbulence! Then another 20 minutes and we were on the ground. I had to grab my bags and now I have 10 hours before the next flight to Houston. I think that’s where I will end this story (in terms of the daily writing). I’ll be posting some of the better video next, so once I’ve settled back in at home, I’ll start that. Until then! Thanks for following the adventure so far!


- Matt


Some more photos looking into the start of the Tres Marias zone. Endless powder and backcountry lines await.



Looking further right into Tres Marias.



The full panorama of the Tres Marias zone.



The refugio. We'll definitely have to head out there for a lunch next season.



Our man with the van, called Juan! He supplied our daily transfer to and from the mountain each day.


Our final dinner at the Cabanas los Hualles. A lovely lasagne with sundried tomatoes. It was really good.



From the mountains to the ocean! Our journey  came full circle.



Fresh seafood in Dichato.



The view of the ocean from the restaurant.






Just a bull going for a walk in Dichato. Nothing to see here.......

post #27 of 36

In terms of skiing: 6 good days, 1 bad day and 3 down days, that's a good batting average for a South America ski trip.


For Chillan in 2016 it was clearly the best week of the year so far, and possibly best of the entire season unless there is another big storm.

post #28 of 36
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post

In terms of skiing: 6 good days, 1 bad day and 3 down days, that's a good batting average for a South America ski trip.


For Chillan in 2016 it was clearly the best week of the year so far, and possibly best of the entire season unless there is another big storm.

Yes, something like that, it was a great time, all things considered. The first day I had was not a great day on the snow just because the coverage was poor, the weather was bad and not a lot was open (volcanic rock is extremely sharp as it turns out.....). I took the next down day just because I had no one to ski with and the weather was still pretty bad (speaking to others who skied that day they said it was pretty good as it turned out). I'm happy to say that when I came back (my second day on skis and Paul's first), the conditions were vastly improved and it felt like skiing at a different resort. That really set us up for the rest of the trip thankfully.


  It was still disappointing to not get some of the forecasted totals during the big storm (at one stage, snow-forecast.com was calling for nearly 2m). We definitely did not get close to that, but what we did get really improved the base and changed the nature of the skiing (and my outlook of the resort). Then we skipped a day when Paul's shoulder was giving him some grief (the hike to the waterfall was a nice change of scenery) and then we had the cultural day. I definitely want to keep the cultural day in the future as it adds a lot to the experience. So, I don't think we necessarily had to take all the down days (only 1 was really necessary, Paul was on the fence about his shoulder and I could have stepped up and gone skiing by myself but not a fan of solo skiing), so the average number of actual ski days could easily have been higher.


  I think the last day of skiing could have been better, but it was the end of the trip and we didn't want to push it. If we had of gone into our backcountry zone, then I think we could still have found some soft, wind blown sections amongst all the rain-affected hard-pack, but why risk it? Patrol weren't happy with us going out the back and I wanted to respect their wishes, as did Paul (who is an ex-patroller himself) so we stayed in bounds. It wasn't a big deal as we'd had an excellent trip and there was no need to push (quit while you are ahead right?).


  Overall though, you still have to say Nevados was having and might still have, a really poor season. Francisco was saying that it was the worst season he'd seen for 20 years. Obviously though, every resort has it's bad season, but what was so positive to me, that even in such a low tide season, there was still amazing skiing to be had. I think you can see that a little bit from the photos, but you will definitely see that in the video that I will start to post soon. That gives me a lot of hope for the future and I'm am very exited about the prospect of skiing Nevados with more snow. It has amazing terrain (some of the best I have seen, for what I like to do) and it has a lot to offer the adventurous skier and boarder. Plus it has the cultural component that we look for too. The people are friendly and there seems to be little pressure on the backcountry skiing and there is backcountry terrain for all levels.


  People talk about the antiquated lift system and I agree on that to a certain point. There are 10 lifts, with only 1 quad and 1 triple chair, none of which are high-speed. The Otto chair is long and slow. Could they replace some of these older, slower chairs? For sure, but I can tell you that after you a couple of high speed laps in the Freeride Zone under the Otto chair, the extra rest isn't a bad thing and maybe the lack of traffic using the lifts, keeps the zone in better condition? That could be speculation on my behalf, but I remember having a similar talk with people in Telluride about the pros and cons of replacing the old Chair 9......


  When I first got to Nevados I didn't understand why you had all these t-bars that ran parallel to a lot of the existing chairlifts. I didn't really see the point until I experienced skiing during the inclement weather days. If the wind shuts down the chairlifts, then you still have the surface lifts and you can go to the same places the chairlifts can take you (the Nono chair takes you pretty high if the Mirador chair is closed down and similarily you can take that same t-bar and access a lot of the Freeride Zone if the Otto chair is down, so you have good options. When you first put up the message about the potential lack of terrain due to the expansion of the exclusion zone around the top of the new volcano, I was concerned, but without having experienced it myself, I didn't know what to expect. The general lack of snow was also a big concern. Once I got to see the place and see how much more terrain there is than I thought, the worry disappeared. There is so much good terrain here, I can't stress that enough. I still have a lot more areas that I need to tick off next season and I know I am just scratching the surface. Then the little bit of new snow came in and we were all good. I had said to Paul when we were there that we might be there for exactly the best conditions of the season, as a result of that storm.


  Interestingly enough they are planning a pretty big expansion for next season and beyond. They are building a new chairlift to the refugio in the Tres Marias area and they towers are already in. They should complete the installation of the cables and the chairs this summer and then they will have a whole new lift-accessible area. Then they are putting a new t-bar in there that would likely double the size of the ski area. I have mixed emotions about this though. It's already easily accessible from the top of the Mirador chair and in my opinion, doesn't really need any lift infrastructure. That's me being selfish though, maybe it will open up new lines further out in the Tres Marias area? Who knows. There's still plenty of skiing in other areas and plenty of powder to go around. Time will tell!




post #29 of 36

Fabulous trip report to an out of the way place, thanks for sharing! I just have no concept of the details of South American skiing, so I really enjoyed seeing pictures of the towns, foods, and sights in addition to the skiing.

post #30 of 36

Maybe with correction it's 5 good days and 2 mediocre to bad days, still probably a better batting average than the 4 weeks I've been in South American ski areas.


I think your week was very unusual.  Chillan's problem is more likely to be lift/terrain closures for weather than lack of snow.   Nobody knows for sure how much of an issue that is because the resort's snow reporting is essentially non-existent.  In Chillan's favor is that the skiing is much less dependent upon Otto than Las Lenas' is upon Marte.  For Marte we know the stats, open 40% of the time, provided to me a former employee who also did snow safety work at Kirkwood.


A return ski trip to South America is not that high on my priority list, but Chillan will be the top priority when I do that.

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