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Guide to Chile: Ski Resorts

Written by Thomas Power | 9th January 2014 |


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Skiing in Chile is a wonderfully glamorous summer holiday for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

You should not go to Chile expecting the massive ski areas of the Alps or the Rockies. Nor should you go expecting it to be cheap as chips.

What you do get are empty slopes, incredible scenery, and lovely Chilean hospitality.

Chile's Ski Resorts

The Andes are at their highest just next to the capital city of Santiago and it is here that you find the two most famous ski resorts: Valle Nevado and Portillo.

Whilst both of these ski resorts are set in stunning mountain scenery, Portillo is particularly beautiful.

Sixty years since it was built, the bright yellow Hotel Portillo nestles in a high, steep-sided valley with a clear mountain lake reflecting the surrounding mountain peaks.

Portillo is still predominantly a skiers resort, it is not unusual to be rubbing shoulders with Austrian or US Olympic ski teams. Actually, more ribs than shoulders since they all seem to be about 8 feet tall.

Valle Nevado, at just 21 years old, is the youngest of the Chilean resorts. It also has the most robust, modern infrastructure and it's only an hour from downtown Santiago. You can comfortably sleep in the city and ski in the day.

Valle Nevado forms one part of the Tres Valles complex made up of this and two other resorts of La Parva and El Colorado.

La Parva is the more interesting and challenging of these ski resorts. You can buy a lift pass for just one resort of you can go for a combined ticket to get into multiple ski areas.

These areas are good for both skiers and boarders. Valle Nevado hosts the boarding world cup most years and they do have a snowpark for boarders to play in. But conditions are also great for skiers.

The last of the main ski areas that we cover in our ski holidays to Chile is Chillan.

This is the most extensive single resort in Chile. Some 400km south of Santiago, Chillan is at lower altitude so has runs both above and below the tree line.

Chillan is set around two volcanoes so is really quite picturesque. Unusually, boarders often outnumber skiers at Chillan. Again, conditions are great for both but the big open stretches of powder tend to really appeal most to the boarders.

Ski Holiday Ideas

There are two options for a ski holiday to Chile just go skiing, or combine it with something else, completely different, either within Chile or beyond into the rest of South America.

If you just want to go to Chile to ski then we suggest that you go for a minimum of seven nights in the resort (this is often the minimum stay in any case).

One week ski holiday in Chile

At a push, you could manage this in just one week off work. Fly Friday evening at around 7pm from Heathrow. You will land in Chile next morning and be on the slopes of either Portillo or Valle Nevado by early afternoon on Saturday.

Ski until the following Saturday when you can come down the mountain, on an overnight flight and be back in the UK on Sunday afternoon.

A package like this, including flights from the UK, transfers, all meals, and lift passes at Portillo in low season of June or September would cost from about £2,100 per person (based on two travelling). About a third of this cost being flights.

Two week ski holiday in Chile

With a bit more time to spend, you can really get into Chile's ski resorts in a bit more depth.

For a two-week ski trip to Chile, we would tend to recommend a combination of two resorts, in an ideal world this would mean a week in Portillo and another week in Chillan.

Alternatively, you can have a week in Chillan then spend the following week staying in Santiago, taking day trips up to both Portillo and Valle Nevado as the mood takes you.

This latter option is the one we offer on our standard Chile ski holiday and allows a good amount of flexibility.

Skiing in Chile and then...

One of the most popular ways to get skiing in Chile is to have a holiday of complete contrast. Your holiday can be split between time skiing and time elsewhere in Latin America doing something completely different.

Our Ski and Walk holiday, for instance, takes advantage of the fact that the Chile ski season coincides with the best time to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

A great honeymoon idea is our Ski and Beach holiday which combines skiing in Chile with time in Rio and the beaches of nearby Buzios.

You do not have to cross South America to find interesting contrasts though. Within Chile is one of the greatest contrasts on earth: from the ski resorts of the Andes, you can be in the Atacama desert within a couple of hours. Our Ski and Desert holiday combines the two perfectly.


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