Ski resorts

There are six main ski resorts near Santiago, four of them around the mountain village of Farellones. All have modern lift systems, international ski schools, rental shops, lodges, mountain restaurants and first-aid facilities. The season runs from June to September/ October, weather permitting, although some resorts have equipment for making artificial snow. Many professional skiers from the northern hemisphere come here to keep in practice during the northern summer. Altitude sickness can be a problem, especially at Valle Nevado and Portillo, so avoid over-exertion on the first day or two.

The first ski resort built in Chile, Farellones is situated on the slopes of Cerro Colorado at 2470 m and is reached by road from the capital in an hour. From the resort there are incredible views for 30 km across 10 Andean peaks. It is a service centre for the three other resorts and provides affordable accommodation and several large restaurants. It also has a good beginners' area and is connected by lift to El Colorado. Perhaps the most popular resort for residents of Santiago, it is busy at weekends.

El Colorado, www.elcolorado.cl. Further up Cerro Colorado along a circuitous road, El Colorado has a large but expensive ski lodge at the base, which offers all facilities, and a mountain restaurant higher up. There are 16 lifts in total, giving access to a large intermediate ski area with some steeper slopes. La Cornisa and Cono Este are two of the few bump runs in Chile. This is a good centre for learning to ski.

Situated nearby at 2816 m, La Parva is the upper-class Santiago weekend resort with 30 pistes and 14 lifts, running from 0900 to 1730. Accommodation is in a chalet village and there are some good bars in high season. Although the runs vary, providing good intermediate to advanced skiing, skiers face a double fall-line so it is not suitable for beginners. Connections with Valle Nevado are good. Equipment rental is from US$20-35 depending on quality. In summer, this is a good walking area, with a trail that leads to the base of Cerro El Plomo, which can be climbed.

Valle Nevado
, www.vallenevado.com.
 Owned by
Spie Batignolles
of France, Valle Nevado was the site of the 1993 Pan-American winter games and offers the most modern ski facilities in Chile. It has been described as a deluxe hotel complex high up in the mountains. Although not to everyone's taste, it is highly regarded and efficient. There are 40 km of slopes accessed by 41 lifts. The runs are well prepared and are suitable for intermediate skiers and beginners. There's also a ski school and excellent heli-skiing.

Portillo
, www.skiportillo.cl.
 Situated at 2855 m, Portillo lies 62 km east of Los Andes, near the customs post on the route to Argentina, and is one of Chile's best-known resorts. The 23 pistes (including one of the fastest in the world) are varied and well prepared, equipped with snow machines and connected by 12 lifts, two of which open up the off-piste areas. This is an excellent family resort, with a very highly regarded ski school, and there are some gentle slopes for beginners near the hotel. The major skiing events are in August and September. Cheap packages can be arranged at the beginning and out of season; equipment hire costs US$30.

Nearby, at an altitude of 2835 m, is the
Laguna del Inca
, 5.5 km long, 1.5 km wide and surrounded on three sides by accessible mountain slopes. This lake, frozen over in winter, has no outlet and its depth is not known. From
Tío Bob's
there are magnificent views of the lake and condors may be spotted from the terrace. There are boats for fishing; but beware, the afternoon winds often make the homeward pull three or four times as long as the outward pull. Mules can be hired for stupendous expeditions to the glacier at the head of the valley or to the Cerro Juncal.

Lagunillas
, www.skilagunillas.cl,
lies in the Cajón del Maipo, 17 km east of San José de Maipo, along a beautiful
ripio
road clinging to the edge of a chasm with stunning views of the far reaches of the Andes. It is more basic than the other ski centres in the region, with less infrastructure, but the skiing is good. It is owned by the
Club Andino de Chile
, and is the only not-for-profit ski centre in the country. There are 13 pistes and four ski lifts. Being lower than the other resorts, its season is shorter but it is also cheaper.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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