I’ve been checking out this site for about a year but this is my first official post. Hello all! My girlfriend Nicole and I took an amazing trip to Chile from July 30th to August 8th. We stayed at Valle Nevado for 7 nights and got 8 days of summer skiing. We also managed to squeeze in 3 nights at Santiago where we explored the city. Did a day trip to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar as well. But, let’s get to the stuff you all really care about
Day One. Nutty. We get into Santiago at 7:30 in the morning and our driver picked us up (we booked him through the hotel ahead of time). After blasting through morning traffic, we began our ascent. Everyone told us about the access road but words can’t really describe how hairy it is. Yeah its 64 switchbacks but it’s not the car sickness that is the problem, it’s the fact that the roads are icy, the drivers pull the E-brake around the turns and every switch back makes you feel as if you are going to tumble down the Andes into a fiery death. Did I mention the multiple memorials for those who have died on the road? We stopped twice; once for chains and once for a traffic jam due to two cars colliding into each other. Heilo- almost pronounced like “yellow”- means ice. keep your ears open for this one.
At the top we checked our bags (which are huge since we brought two pairs each), strapped the boots up and grabbed our carvers. Needless to say it wasn’t much fun, a storm moved in and the conditions were whiteout. No trees to give you a point of reference. That night it snowed about 4 inches at the base but 7 on top.
Day two. Coming from the NE, where we mostly ski Maine, this was the best skiing of our lives. Of course we hadn’t lived the following three days at that point... We brought out the pow tools. I have a rockered pair of Goats and Nicole uses a pair of Kikus. We met up with our friend John who coordinated the same trip as us. Despite living in Miami John does a ton of big mountain skiing as well as heli and cat skiing. He showed us newbs a lot about skiing in that light powder. We looped the Andes express, the only high speed detachable quad in South America, and skied Eclipse to Sol all day as it seemed to be the steepest we could find. Didn’t get sick of it once! It continued to snow both during the day and throughout the night and we picked up another 8in or so.
Day Three. The backside was still closed. We did some similar runs. We also checked out the Chao Smog side of the mountain. Fresh fresh fresh everywhere. Perma Grin. Pisco Sours and seared Tuna at night. Also spotted the Southern Cross. The perfect day.
Day four. Blue bird skies in the morning. Our group had grown to 8 advanced/expert skiers at this point. Many of them heli/cat ski, two were doctors and two were patrol from Jay Peak. The back of the mountain was closed so we stuck to the Andes Express again. Then we found out about Via Olympica… After ducking a rope -with a sign that basically says no one will save you and you will die here- and traversing for a bit we found a huge open valley that stretched from the top of the mountain, around El Colorado, and all the way to the bottom of Nevado. Takes three lifts to get back up but it is well worth it (Note there is a way to do just two lifts- PM for details). Every run was fresh pow turns. It became our favorite place to ski, hands down. Not once did we find another person skiing here and our friends said it felt as if they were on a heli trip. One word of caution, Nicole did hit a rock and smashed her knee up pretty good. She skied through it. We ended our session a bit early due to the complete lack of visibility from the pursuing storm.
Day five. Powder, blue bird skies, bliss and hands down the best day of our trip. They opened up the backside of the mountain where the wind had played some tricks; it stole all of the snow from La Parva and dumped it into the backside of Nevado. Not a sole was there, save our group. Fresh tracks all day. We tried to stick our poles into the snow to get a feel for how deep it was. We almost lost our poles. It was deep. And it was steeper than the front side of the mountain. At the top of the run you had to traverse across some windblown snow and a few rocks, but afterwards? Pure heaven. We attempted some powder 8s but mine ended up being powder elevens (the rockers lets make huge turns if desirable). I found myself in the backseat more times than not; it was a bit different the ice I’m used to at Sunday River/Sugar Loaf ;). I didn't care, I was flying. Everyone had silly Perma Grins slapped on their faces. Sadly the day came to an end and we met up for Après and Pisco sours.
Day six. Windy. Crazy windy. The downside to no trees. They closed down the Andes Express. The powder had flown away and we got a good view of all the rocks we were skiing over just two days prior. The base was pretty awful. The locals mentioned that they had been getting an odd amount of wind this year and that it was their worst year in the last 10. I’m not sure if the groomers had even a 30in as a base. We did some damage to our skies on the rocks. We swapped to the carvers (I use a pair of AC50s and Nicole uses my older AC30s). Being from the east we had a blast laying down some rails. Not sure how much the rest of the group liked it though. We called it an early day. Quiero un pisco sour por favor. Note: if you are taking a trip to Chile this is the only line you need to know. Learn it, review it, memorize it, and don’t forget it. All is good.
Day seven. We grabbed the carvers. We decided to go to El Colorado and it was an excellent choice. Half of our group wanted to try out Via Olympica one last time. We didn’t see them for the rest of the day. Apparently they got stuck on the top of a cornice with nowhere to land but a huge pile of jagged rocks. Oops. We bought a ticket at the bottom of the T bar that faces Valle Nevado. If you look to the left of that the Mirador lift you can see a long steep groom run. I’d highly recommend it, especially if off-piste is not skiable.
El Colorado, a dormant volcano apparently, is marketed toward racers and it much more of a skier’s mountain. Valle Nevado is more of a prissy resort. Think Vail/Aspen/Heavenly. People at Colorado lay rails, not like all of the gapers at Valle Nevado. It’s also significantly cheaper! The front of the mountain is well taken care of and the wind fences are excellent; the groomers were much much better. What they don’t have are fast lifts so stick to the T bars. We took two trips to the backside to ski the steep trail you can see from Valle Nevado. It was a blast. The fastest skiing we did all trip. Next time we come, we are staying at Colorado, for sure. I can’t comment on La Parva since we never made it over there but we heard it is the last place to go in windy conditions. Looping around the back of El Colorado, you get a feel for how massive the 3 interconnected resorts are. We saw a Condor on the way back and with a 12 foot wing span. That thing was no joke. Our bodies were finally acclimated to the dry, high altitude environment so for the last night we partied at the Tres Puntas bar. It was fantastic but I can’t remember much.
Day eight. A sad sad day. The conditions were hard pack so that made it easier to leave. We kept the carvers on and laid rails until 3:30 when we headed back down the access road of death. Although I begged Nicole to go to Portillo, she would have none of it. Regardless the last 3 nights in the city were excellent. If you are interested in things to do in town shoot me a PM.
A few pieces of advice for those doing this trip:
-Don’t go this year, the base is a mess. If you’re going, do you’re powder dance every night from now until the trip ends.
-Ask your driver to stop for water on the way up (podemos ir a una tienda a comprar el agua?). Whatever amount of water you think you need, get double! You’ll be sucking down some serious agua and the bottles there are outrageously expensive. With the high altitude, extra dry climate and extra salty food, we spent at least $50 a day on water. 5 bucks for a regular sized bottle on the mountain and no joke the Pisco is cheaper. You can probably get away with drinking the tap but we didn’t want to risk ruining the trip. That being said I pounded a cup from the bathroom sink once because I was so dehydrated and I was fine…
-It’s not critical but you should know some basic Spanish. Even if it sucks just throw it out there, the locals appreciate the attempt. If you don’t care you can probably get away with just english. Hope you’re good at charades.
-The design of the entire resort is mind numbingly dumb. Everything is tile and obviously the designer was NOT a skier. DO NOT wear your boots in the hotel. Nicole and I both wiped out on the wet tile floor. Yard sale x2. The routine becomes annoying: leave skies and poles in room. Walk down with boots over shoulder , skies, poles, helmet, gloves, jacket. Wear sneakers. Check in sneakers at front, strap on boots. At this point your merino will be making you sweat. A good trick is opening up the window next to the check in room. Gear up, go. Come back at end of day and do reverse. Don’t check your boots in. Don’t check your skis in.
-It was a schlep but bringing two skis was really worth it. The demo shop sucks. We used Double Dakine Consourse Bags. LAN didn’t charge us a penny (ask for the “snow skiers package”). Use your boot bag as a carry on and stuff all of your stuff into the ski bag. Cover you’re edges so things don’t rip.
-Get stoked about the food because it is excellent. This was the most pleasant surprise about the trip. We stayed at Tres Puntas so could only eat at Sur and the buffet. Both rocked.
-Bring power bars because lunch is damn expensive. However, Bajo Zero is a blast. Make sure to try the empanadas.
-Constantly fill up the dehumidifier with water. If the water is too low it doesn’t work. Use cold water at night so it lasts longer and hot water for better effects in the evening.
-EU electric adapters don’t fit. Just ask the front desk for an adapter (pronounced the same way in Spanish). Wifi only works in on the top floor in Tres Puntas. Apparently the wifi is awful at Puerto del Sol.
-Use the Pomas, not the Mirador quad. Your legs are in shape right?
-Stay at El Colorado. If you want to ski Valle Nevado just buy the ticket every day. It’s still cheaper. Plus Colorado is a much better vibe.
-If you don’t want to spend the money on heli skiing there is an alternative. The locals who live in Farellones hitch a ride up to Valle Nevado, go up the Andes lift, and ski all the way back down to Farellones. I was invited by a few locals but I never got the chance to go. This is where speaking some Spanish helps. And trust me my Spanish sucks! Anyway it looks like the trip goes for miles and is filled with chutes and cliffs. Backcountry dream. If you do it, see if you can coordinate a driver to bring you back up at the end of the day otherwise I hear its 100 bucks to get back up
Overall this trip was EPIC. The powder was Epic. And we met some friends for life. I couldn’t have asked for more.