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Article updated April 2017

Being in Santiago, Chile and being surrounded by snow-capped mountains means you can go skiing during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer! So go on, grab your gear and head to Los Andes for a day, or more, of winter fun!

 

In just an hour you can be skiing on all that snow!

In just an hour you can be skiing on all that snow!


 

Tourist Tip: If you can, print a trail map before you go as they sometimes run out and the ones they have are often huge and hard to use/read while you’re skiing.

What to expect

If you’re used to tree-lined ski trails, this is a different experience, there are no trees here, so be careful especially if you experience a snowstorm during your visit as it can be difficult to determine where the trail ends. The season is unpredictable as they seldom make snow instead relying on natural snowfall, however in recent years that has led to several resorts staying open through October due to late season snowstorms. Even if there’s no snow in Santiago, although just an hour or two away, the weather in the mountains can be completely different. Rain in Santiago usually means snow at the ski resorts, if you go after a recent snowfall, even if they don’t have a huge base, conditions are usually pretty good overall. Because there’s no trees and the sun is often blazing overhead, the days can get quite warm as a result you will often encounter some icy/slushy spots typical of spring skiing. With that in mind, make sure to bring your sunglasses, and plenty of sunblock, don’t forget to reapply to avoid getting a ski burn.

Where to go Skiing in Santiago

 

El Colorado

There are two main areas at El Colorado the front side with easier slopes and more sun, and the shaded back side, Valle Olympico, with more challenging trails. Valle Olympico, with less direct sunlight throughout the day typically has better snow conditions year round. El Colorado is the closest resort to Santiago, located in Los Farrelones, and one of the most popular, on weekends and holidays expect big crowds.

http://www.elcolorado.cl/
High Season: All Weekends, Holidays and July 2-24 (2016 Season)
Low Season: Monday-Friday (2016 Season)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $48.000 CLP (High Season 2016)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $43.000 CLP (Low Season 2016)

 

Riding the lift up the front side of El Colorado!

Riding the lift up the front side of El Colorado!


 

Valle Nevado

Sharing the other half of the same shaded Valle Olympico as El Colorado, Valle Nevado is known to have a bit better conditions all season long. If you want to ski at both resorts you need to buy a special ski pass, there are fences separating them and they will check for your pass. Valle Nevado is a half an hour past El Colorado and can experience different weather, we have been on sunny days and in white out blizzards. But don’t worry you don’t have to shovel when you return to usually sunny Santiago at the end of your ski adventure. Both El Colorado and Valle Nevado are similar in amenities to U.S. resorts and they both offer ski in, ski out accommodations for those who don’t ever want to stop skiing on their vacation!

http://www.vallenevado.com/en/
High Season: All Weekends, Holidays and June 13-September 25 (2016 Season)
Low Season: Monday-Friday (2016 Season)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $48.000 CLP (High Season 2016)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $43.000 CLP (Low Season 2016)

 

The slopes of La Parva

The slopes of La Parva


 

La Parva

A popular weekend hangout for local skiers and boarders, La Parva is easy to get to, also located in Los Farrelones just next to El Colorado, so you can easily move between the two resorts if you wanted to experience one, one day, and the other the next. A lot smaller than either El Colorado or Valle Nevado, it’s beginner, and family friendly, but there are more challenging slopes for the more experienced skiers.

https://www.laparva.cl/newsite/
High Season: All Weekends, Holidays, July 10-28 and August 14 (2017 Season)
Low Season: Monday-Friday (2017 Season)

Portillo

This skiing gem is a bit of a trek from Santiago but all who have been say it is well worth the journey. Located close to the Argentinian border, this is a must-ski destination for serious skiers and snowboarders. Many of the professional skiers from the northern hemisphere spend their summer months training here. Portillo is designed for ski vacations, the hotels will not book for one night, you can do a full week Saturday to Saturday or a Mini-week Saturday to Wednesday, or Wednesday to Saturday, and there really aren’t any alternate lodging options. If you want to do a day trip you can but do note that the weather can change quickly and if you get stuck in a storm which isn’t uncommon you won’t have anywhere to sleep.

http://www.skiportillo.com/en/
High Season: All Weekends, Holidays and July 2 – August 5 (2016 Season)
Low Season: Monday-Friday (2016 Season)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $42.000 CLP (High Season 2016)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $31.000 CLP (Low Season 2016)

Lagunillas

If you’re a true beginner or on a budget you can visit Lagunillas, the closest and smallest ski resort located in Cajon de Maipo.

http://www.skilagunillas.cl/
High Season: All Weekends, Holidays and July 2-24 (2016 Season)
Low Season: Monday-Friday (2016 Season)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $25.000 CLP (High Season 2016)
Adult 1 Day Lift Ticket: $15.000 CLP (Low Season 2016)

Getting There

In addition to your daily lift ticket, you will have to pay for transportation to the resort. Getting to the mountains from the city is really easy, it’s just an hour to El Colorado or La Parva, an hour and a half to Valle Nevado and 2 hours to Portillo. Their proximity to Santiago makes it a great option and one you can decide on at the last minute!

There are daily shuttles leaving from Centro Comercial Omnium (Apoquindo 4.900), located just a few blocks from the Escuela Militar metro stop in Las Condes that will take you to and from all of the resorts, except Portillo which only leave Wednesdays and Saturdays, and Lagunillas. For 1-2 people it’s a cheaper and easier option than renting a car and braving the mountain roads, especially if one or more of you have your own equipment. If you do drive yourself, make sure you have tire chains, if the weather is bad you will be required to use them, they do stop and check cars during bad weather and they won’t let you continue without them. If you’re not sure how to use the chains there are usually people up on the road where all the cars are pulling off to put them on that will help you for a small fee.

There are no reservations required for these shuttles, you can just show up and buy a trip that morning, but make sure to bring cash as they don’t always accept credit cards. You should plan on arriving at the departure place between 8-9am, shuttles start leaving at 8am. There are a lot of small shuttles carrying around 15 people or less and they leave as soon as they’re full so there’s usually not much waiting, it’s the same at the end of the day between 4-5pm to return to Santiago. If you need to leave later or return earlier they can arrange private transport for you but it will cost more. If you need equipment you can rent it there instead of up on the mountain, but get there earlier to arrange everything.

You can also reserve mountain shuttles or taxi’s to pick you up and drop you off at many local hotels for an added cost, if you’re with a larger group it’s not that much more expensive to reserve a private shuttle, compare the costs, it may be worth it for the convenience. Check with your hotel, in addition to these shuttle companies, they may also have special deals they can offer you.

Prices getting to the mountains depend on the transport company but they’re often similar.

SkiTotal lists the price of same day transport there and back (for the 2017 ski season) as:
El Colorado and La Parva: $16.000 CLP
Valle Nevado $18.000 CLP
Portillo $25.000 CLP

Another company that is located in Bellavista is AllToSki. They rent all the equipment and clothes there and they ask you to come by the day before to pick out and try on your equipment. They are about a four block walk across the river from the Banquedano metro stop. The only issue I had with them was the wait time, as not all the other customers were on time or had all their reservations and equipment set up ahead so the shuttle didn’t leave as scheduled.

There are lots of other companies that do day trips and they usually have everything available to rent (if you’re not sure just ask) and they usually offer package deals which can be a bit cheaper than renting on the mountain. This is also a common service for Hostels or Hotels so ask at your accommodation what they have available for you.

If you don’t ski but just want the mountain experience companies do those trips too. Turistik will take you to visit the resorts where you can choose to do hiking or snowshoeing among other activities. If you just want to accompany skiers, you can take the shuttles up and walk around the resorts and town, and hang out at the lodges without a formal tour.

If you’re heading to Lagunillas it’s one and a half hours from Santiago, you can either drive yourself or arrange private transportation, Lagunillas recommends Transportes R y P Limitada who leaves from Plaza Baquedano and must be booked in advance.

No matter how you get there, if you have any issues with motion sickness I highly recommend taking something about an hour before you start driving as the roads twist and turn through the mountains for at least an hour, and on several of our trips up someone was sick. If this is you, you should also bring your own plastic garbage bags, just in case, as the drivers don’t generally have any. Below is a small portion of the road between El Colorado and Valle Nevado to give you an idea of what lies ahead.

 

The windy road up to Valle Nevado!

The windy road up to Valle Nevado!


 

Getting Equipped

Shoe Size: Before you head to the ski shop or the rental counter it’s a good idea to know what your boot size is in Chilean and US measurements. Keep in mind that as usual sizes vary based on the brand and Chile often follows the Argentine or Italian sizing, but not always.

Clothing Sizes: If you need to rent any clothing while outdoor clothing is often S, M, L, it’s helpful to know your clothing size too.

If you’re planning on doing a few skiing trips but don’t have any clothing, you may want to check out our post on buying second hand/vintage clothes. They sell all the winter gear you might need in many of these stores, it might be cheaper than renting, and you can always try to resell them before you leave Santiago. I found a pair of Columbia ski pants that looked new for $20.000 CLP, which is still probably a bit expensive, but we didn’t have time to shop around and it was during the ski season. Compared to renting pants for about $9.500 CLP each time, I preferred the option of having ones I liked, that I knew fit, and was able to clean myself!

Weight and Height: If you’re renting equipment they will ask you what your weight is in kilos and your height in cm to calibrate your skis.

The quality and variety of clothing and equipment rental will vary from place to place, for more options get there as early as you can to pick out your equipment.

Daily Rental Costs at Skitotal (for the 2017 ski season):
Skis, Boots and Poles: $27.500 CLP
Expert Equipment: $31.500 CLP
Snowboard and Boots: $27.500 CLP
Snowsuit: $19.000 CLP
Snow Pants: $9.500 CLP
Jacket: $9.500 CLP
Gloves: $7.000 CLP
Goggles: $7.000 CLP
Helmet: $7.000 CLP

 

Sunset over Los Farellones

Sunset over Los Farellones


 

Accommodation

If you do want to ski a few days and stay on the mountain it’s a good idea to plan your accommodations in advance as last minute availability, especially during weekends and any holidays, may be only hostels and group bunks. There are hotels at the resorts but there’s not too much of a night life up there, so after skiing there isn’t really too much to do in the evening we advise you to bring your own entertainment. A lot of the apartments also offer kitchen amenities so you can bring some food to enjoy meals in your room if you prefer. The restaurants at the resorts tend to be expensive so this is a good way to save some costs especially if you’re a larger group. If you can, buy your food in Santiago as the grocery stores on the mountain don’t have a huge variety of goods and are more expensive.

Additional Intel

If you have time, shop around for package deals, which often can include equipment rental as well. Check the resort websites and follow their social media for discounts, and ask at your accommodation and transport companies as many of them will also offer packages. If you live in Santiago check out the discount sites like Groupon for great deals on lift tickets, usually only applicable for low season dates. (Do note you may need a Chilean CC or Temp/Perm Visa to purchase or qualify.) You can also get discounted tickets for children, students (usually up to 24) and Seniors (usually 65+), at some of the resorts, check out the options for each and make sure to bring your ID.

Languages and Lingo: The staff at the ski resorts and ski companies is often a mix of foreigners and locals who may or may not speak any English. On the mountain all signs are generally in Spanish so if you want to know what they’re asking you or warning you about and there’s no pictures, you should brush up on your ski lingo.

Food: Be prepared to spend some money as the resorts aren’t cheap. Food is expensive and don’t expect fancy food options (think meat sandwiches and French fries rather than chili or clam chowder) you can bring your own lunch or at least snacks and drinks store it in a locker to save on cash. As at many ski resorts you will find the restaurants on the mountain are usually more expensive than the ones at the base lodges.

Lockers: Lockers are available on a first come first serve basis and aren’t too expensive, about $3.000 CLP for the day. They usually fit one big bag, plus street shoes and personal stuff for 2-3 people, and at Valle Nevado they were chilly and kept our sodas cold till the end of the day.

Lifts: If you snowboard, be prepared for a lot of T-bar and pull (button/platter) lifts. These can be quite long, 20-30 minutes, and sometimes the only option to get to some parts of the mountains. I snowboarded the first time but skied the rest, the pull lifts are much easier to manage on skis, though even then we reached our limit after 5-6 long rides in a day.

Tourist Tip: They usually update their prices right before the season starts so check back if you need to get the 2017 costs in advance of your trip.

To learn more about Beth, read her bio!

Note: This article was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.