I like Portillo a lot. Am going back again this year. Have skied Portillo and Valle Nevado the last 3 summers with NASTC (North American Ski Training Center), which is always great fun / great instruction/ great people. NASTC is owned by PSIA National Demo team member Chris Fellows and his instructors are all Demo Team or former Demo team members. http://www.skinastc.com
if you want to investigate. This year the Portillo trip is August 26-Sept. 4. Level 6 skiers + up, but most people (not me!) are really advanced -- 8's +
Hank, I'm sure Xdog and others will answer your questions more fully, but to address a couple of them:
Never have had trouble getting up the pass from Santiago (have only traveled via shuttle from the airport), but DID have trouble getting down once. When it snows, the police close the road, as you know -- it's one highway with something like 28 hairpin turns in a row to the top. I was very glad someone else was driving.
A few years ago, what was to be a 4-day blizzard was starting -- and we had to be evacuated out of there a day early (along with the U.S. Women's Olympic team), in small jeeps, going 5 miles an hour down the mountain (passing a giant jack-knifed truck that had gone off the road into a ditch) -- and made it out just as the police closed the road.
Food is quite good. . . as are the big cookies at "Once's" (Spanish for 11's -- their version of tea time. Why 11's, I don't know, 'cause it's really 4 or 5 pm). And depending when you go, you could book yourself for Chilean Wine Week.
Best part is apres-skiing, soaking outside in the big heated swimming pool, with a glass of wine, looking up at the stars.
Santiago is definitely worth a day or two -- and you'll want to go to the Sunday afternoon artisan's market . . .I'm blanking on the name, but can look it up for you.
You do the market, go home and pack and head for the airport, since most flights back to the U.S. seem to leave around 8'ish.
The problem with Portillo, though, is when they don't have enough snow, they have to close down a huge hunk 'o the mountain -- where most of the expert terrain is.
Last summer we were in Valle Nevado, which is bigger and while there hadn't been new snow in a long time, there was moe variety and places to ski. That same week a friend of mine went to Portillo and was bored after a few days because the whole Juncillo (am I spelling that correctly?) side was closed due to lack of snow.