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This past week my wife and I went to Chile to visit our son who is living there and spent Monday the 16th at LaParva ski resort outside Santiago. LaParva is one of the Tres Valles (Three Valley) resorts within 40 miles of Santiago. Go to their website to get the details, but it has a 3,000+ ft, vertical and a balanced distribution of terrain among easy, intermediate, advanced, and expert runs. Below I have some suggestions to pass on to anyone considering a trip down south over the next few months.

We paid for a package deal with SkiTotal, a ski shop on the east side of Santiago. It was $102 ($94 in low season) for gear rentals (skis, boots, and poles), pick-up at our hotel, transport to and from La Parva, and return to the hotel. It was a bit more for a performance rental package. Dealing with the staff at SkiTotal was generally fine. The skis have Park City rental stickers on them, so you are getting a well-used rental. For that reason I went with the performance package. Boots likewise have seen more than their fair share of days on the slopes. About half the staff spoke good-to-acceptable English. One odd things was that after we picked out our gear, the tech asked me what settings we wanted for our bindings; no release form or telling them your ability level, weight, etc. No problems with the “Gringo tax,” which others have mentioned in other threads.

On Monday morning the driver was about half an hour late picking us up at the hotel. By the time we got to the shop, picked up the gear and left it was after 9:00. Due to moderate-to-heavy snowfall, a narrow and winding road up the mountain, a young Brazilian woman losing her breakfast on the ride up, and the driver having to stop to chain-up, it was 12:30 before we got to the ski area. The driver was working hard but there was nothing he could do with a parade of cars stopped ahead of him. In clear weather and few obstructions it should be about a 90-minute trip.

LaParva received about 12 inches of snow on Monday and visibility was poor, about 100-120 ft, with temps around 30 degrees F. After we got a quick lunch we hit the slopes. Of the 14 lifts only 4 are chairlifts; the rest are all surface lifts, many of which serve black terrain. A third of the terrain was closed due to weather. Snow was a wet snow and surface conditions were choppy. We got hit with about half an hour of sleet mixed in with the snow. We skied for about two hours on intermediate and advanced terrain before having to meet up with the shuttle for the return to Santiago.

Some suggestions for skiing in Chile:

For a Day Trip: Leave as early as possible from Santiago. Traffic up the mountain only gets worse as the morning progresses and the likelihood of delays increases. Watch the weather forecast closely. If it is raining in Santiago it is probably snowing up the mountain. Consider going on another clear day if you have the flexibility. The day after our trip was clear and mild. Two years ago we tried the same type trip. It had snowed for 5 days and it took the driver 6 hours to get to Valle Nevado. We had a 20 minute break and then back down the mountain. SkiTotal did refund our money, but who wants to spend all day on a small bus surrounded by huge piles of snow?

Consider a 3-day package if you have the flexibility in order to mitigate weather, traffic and other inconveniences. Ski shops like SkiTotal, KL Adventures, and the resorts offer varying options. All the Three Valley resorts sell an interconnect ticket for about $10 more than a single-resort pass, in essence tripling the amount of terrain. But the conecting trails may be closed due to weather conditions.

Learn some Spanish or find someone who does. Chile is a developing vacation area and the likelihood of finding someone who speaks English is hit-and miss. At LaParva none of the five staff I spoke with spoke any English. I speak Spanish well and my son’s skills are excellent, so we did not have trouble getting around, but if you don‘t it can become complicated.

Shop around. At the ski shop parking lot in the morning there were other shuttle services and taxi drivers looking for business. If the shop gives you a tough time all you have to do is step outside.

Overall it was a good first ski day in Chile. Not sure I would travel all the way down there if I didn’t have another reason to go. Nonetheless, bragging rights at work having that lift ticket stamped "16 July" were worth it.