Summer On Ice
Though not everyone will agree with me, there is an argument that those of you in North America are officially too hot. Clothing sticks to your back, getting around feels like a chore, and the air conditioner is both overworked and overpaid. Summer in the northern hemisphere means winter in the southern one, however—so if you’re ready to soothe your sunburn, we have an escape for you. Skiiers and snowboarders unite, it’s time to go to Chile. This long and narrow Andean country offers many microclimates, depending on what you’re interested in. Snowy forest landscapes or a mountain skiing experience, you can do plenty of mixing and matching with the various ski centres here.
Close to Santiago, Chile’s capital, you’ll find the unique and world renowned Portillo, where the first 200 km/hr speed barrier was broken about 35 years ago. The steep slopes and stunning peaks surrounding this resort are famous around the globe, especially for those who like to get off the beaten track. Fear not if you’re a beginner; there are trails to suit all kinds of skiers, and the resort has a family-friendly, European vibe. Portillo’s pool is famous around the world thanks to a movie where a skier jumps into it, and its proximity to Santiago makes it a nice place to enjoy a few days before or after hiking and horseback riding in the Atacama desert, or a visit to Easter Island. Lodging here is limited, as it’s the only hotel in the area, so don’t forget to book a couple of months in advance.
If you want to combine two skiing areas on your trip, or are partial to mountain skiing towns, add a couple of days at Corralco Mountain and Ski Resort, in Malalcahuello town, about 800 km from Santiago International Airport, or just 90 km from Temuco (the closest domestic airport). This boutique ski centre is ideal for all types of snow lovers. It has just 6 lifts and 29 runs, but it’s perfect for backcountry skiing, and has snow from June until October, giving it one of the longest ski seasons in Chile. While in Corralco, ski on the slopes of the Lonquimay Volcano, explore the area in snowshoes, or hike all the way up to one of many lookouts to see more than five other volcanoes in the area.
Last but not least, for the most adventurous among you seeking virgin snow, check out Barraco Lodge in the Lake District, which offers a unique variety of southern slopes in surreal landscapes. Reaching the lodge is an adventure in itself, as you can arrive by helicopter from Puerto Montt (the closest domestic airport) or Puerto Varas (the area’s main tourist town), or take ground transportation and then a boat across the beautiful Tagua Tagua lake. From here you can try new slopes every day, most of them on volcanoes. If you visit in September and October, you can still try some heliski rides, or cast for trout in the magnificent rivers surrounding the lodge. There are few more unique stays in the country.
The snowfall in Chile this year has been great, with most lodges predicting that the ski season will last through October, but if you aren’t able to escape south on short notice, fear not. Both Corralco and Barraco Lodge remain open all year, with plenty of kayaking, fly fishing, hiking, biking, and horseback riding options continuing through the southern hemisphere’s summer months.
A native of the country, Carola Fresno knows from Chile from top to bottom (and that’s a very long stretch of knowledge), as well as boasting brilliant expertise all across Latin America.