This has been a very poor snow year for resorts close to Santiago and Mendoza. Places like Portillo, Valle Nevado and Las Lenas weren't blessed with several snow storms and their bases were usually below average along this winter.
Although my favorite time to ski South America is mid-August, this year, due to work and bad snow conditions, my girlfriend and I decided to do a September trip to Chile.
Actually the plan was to visit the Atacama desert, in the northern part of the country, and later spend a few days in a friends house in Santiago for some skiing in Valle Nevado.
We were stoked with the desert views, there are endless hiking and Mt bike opportunities, and an amazing variety of landscapes within a short driving/riding distance.
The Atacama desert is known as the driest and one of the highest deserts on earth, the town of San Pedro de Atacama is located at 8200ft above sea level, in a region full of 19000ft volcanoes, Geysers, Salares...etc.
Vale de La morte
While crossing Valle de La Morte and Valle de La Luna on a Mt Bike, I found this not very welcoming sign... I took the other way.
Cordillera de La Sal
Lincancabur Volcano: 19,423 ft
Flamingos at the Salar de Atacama
Sunset at the Salar
Laguna Altiplanicas: these lakes are 14100ft high
Geyser del Tatio: 14500ft high
Machuca Pueblo: 13500ft high
Oh yeah, there was some skiing!
The conditions in Valle Nevado in Early September were spring like, without a very deep base.
But in the afternoon the sun came and made the on-piste skiing soft and forgiven.
Base of the Andes Express
Although the snow was not great, the place was totally quiet, without any lift line.
North facing slopes were in very bad shape...
Of-piste snow quality... as David Hecht described in another TR: "freeze thaw coral reef death snow"
View from Cerro El Plomo from the top of Tres Puntas lift
View from El Colorado resort which is connected to Valle Nevado.
Riding Andes Express
A few bumps from the top of Andes Express (skiers right)
Well, even not getting very good snow conditions, Chile treated us very well again.
Getting to know the desert was a great experience, and Santiago and it's nearby mountains are always a cool ski destination during our winter.
And after all it's skiing, when it's bad it's good, and when it's good it's awesome, right?
Edited by Thiago - 9/20/10 at 2:23pm