Well, that was refreshing!!!
I got down there on Mon. 9/8 at 7:30 AM after 14 hours of planes and airports. Drove 2 1/2 hours to Portillo, thankfully the road was clear, as the rental car did not have chains as promised.
Arrived @ Portillo by noon, checked in, had a quick lunch of grilled swordfish, and was skiing by 1:30! As is always the case, I shoulda been there yesterday! That was the best of the best. But I got plenty of leftover fresh by traversing off Plateau, Roca Jack, and the following day by hiking above Condor. There was ample knee deep for anyone willing to seek it out.
One major buzzkill, Inca Lake never froze, so all of the killer off piste that ends there was not an option. Oh well.
I linked up with a group that had just gone heli skiing and raved about it, but by the time my legs (and cojones)were ready, the heli guides were not crazy about the condition of the snowpack. Numerous small slides within Portillo's boundaries bolstered this position. So it'll have to wait yet again.
After I'd exhausted all of my stashes (and my quads)over the 1st 2 days, I decided to sleep in, pick up a pair of Pocket Rockets, and join a lesson group to work on some crud skiing skills.
That proved pretty useful, and I spent the whole next day working on what I'd learned. Skied mostly off-piste off of Roca Jack and Garganta on days 3 and 4.
Day 5 was another easy-does-it day, I tweaked my back in some bumps off Condor and spent some time in the AM stretching it out, then spent the rest of the day in Tio Bob's ( mountain top grill ) and on the groomers.
Fri. nite was cool, I was invited to ski in the torchlight parade. I didn't feel up to it the previous year, as I was warned it would be off-piste, no poles and a flaming torch in your hand, but this year I felt confident enough. About 40 instructors and students rode the Plateau chair up at 8 pm in pitch blackness that you'd scarcely believe. The stars were so brilliant that it appeared you were actually among them as you ascended in the chair. At the top, you reach into a barrel for your torch, a bamboo shaft with a rag wrapped around the end, soaked in kerosene. We then proceeded to light up and take off single file in wide turns, until we reached a point about 3/4 down where we schussed the last couple of hundred yards, flames trailing, to the hotel and the cheering spectators. They do it every week, and I suppose it's lost its lustre for most, but I thought it was a great way to end the ski week, and a memory I won't soon forget.
Sat. was checkout day, and I originally intended to sleep in, pack, and roll out before lunch. But I couldn't resist the lure of a few extra runs. So I packed, loaded the car, and skied for about an hour and a half, shot the rest of my film, then headed out for Santiago.
I had intended to get up to Valle Nevado for a day on the tail end, but was discouraged by some firsthand snow reports from other sliders. So I spent the day exploring Santiago, Vina Del Mar, and Valpairiso (sic?). Vina Del Mar was pretty, but definitely a summer (theirs) destination. Valpairiso was very dirty and not real scenic. It's ocean view was marred by gantries, cranes and thousands of sea containers.
Santiago is worth spending some time on. There are festivals, markets, and historic sites to be enjoyed. Also, fine Chilean wines for about 1.50 US per bottle. Not so fine for about half that!
The snow at Portillo holds up amazingly. By Fri., temps were around hi-50's, but no slush except at the bottom of Juncalillo (the lowest elevation trail). 1st 2 hours of the day were a little harsh, but softened up right nicely after that. It was like late winter skiing Mon. and Tue., and great spring skiing the rest of the week.
Pocket Rockets are cool, I don't care what that nut from Utah sez.
I need longer/fatter skis
Portillo's Apres ski has been greatly improved by the addition of a Sushi bar, and a massive jacuzzi.
Diamox (medication for AMS) is not that effective for me, and the side effects suck.
Going to Chile to escape the anniversary of 9/11=not a good idea. They had their own September 11 in 1973, and they're still pretty upset about it.
Portillo is very small when your off piste options are limited. Next year (God willing) I will try something different, like Valle Nevado, Termas De Chillan, or even NZ.
Escudo, still my Chilean cerveza of choice!
Mike Rogan (ski school director) is still the man!
My espanol still sucks. But I did learn a few new cuss words
If I've left anything important out, please harass me into divulging it. And if anyone has questions about any aspect of the trip, please ask here or in a PM.
All in all, a great trip where new friends were made, and twas a good time had by all.