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A snowHead
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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: La Parva / El Colorado / Valle Nevado + Portillo + Campo de Ahumada + Termas de Chilan
Country: Chile
Domain: Chilean '3 Valleys' + others
Author: Plectrum

Date: 26/08/06 - 12/09/06
Our holiday: 3 Valleys NE of Santiago, then Portillo and Campo de Ahumada near Argentina border N of Santiago followed by long haul south to Termas De Chilan finished off by drive back north via colchagua wine valley and punta de lobos surf spot on Pacific coast
Website : , , , , www.skiportillo ,
Basics : Flight from London to Madrid, then Madrid to Santiago, then a 1.30 hr 4x4 hire car drive to Farellones staying in the Refugio Aleman. Farellones is just below the main resorts and a good base for all three in the system.
Lift system : in 3 valleys - Good, easy access limited queues, chairs (even a poma) and button lifts a little painful on the groin / butt for snowboarders as some button lifts are steep and long. La Parva is connected to Valle Nevado and La Parva is connected to El Colorado but for some reason El Colorado is not connected to Valle Nevado. You can ski it but there is no 3 valley lift pass just these dual versions. Portillo lifts are hilarious as due to avalanches they need to utilise slingshot 5 man drags! Ski Arpa in Campo de Ahumada was snowcat and Termas De Chilan was archaic chairs.
The terrain : El Colorado piste's are all very similar as you are just skiing down the same profile on different parts of what is a shield volcano cone, quite fast but not challenging. Valle Nevado is fast skiing, possibly the busiest
and has different levelsof piste available from average beginner to advanced. La Parva is my favourite of the 3 resorts as it has what feels like the largest terrain and some really great long runs. I felt La Parva was more for intermediates and above, and there is certainly some very quick runs for the advanced skier. Portillo was small but real fun especially in good powder. Ski Arpa is discussed in off piste. Termas De Chilan was large but really a beginners to intermediate resort, after a dump it could have been more enjoyable but I preferred to relax in the thermal baths offered by this active volcano resort.
The snow : It was great, we were there for the end of the winter equivalent to European mid March to beginning of April and we felt the fabled Santa Rosa dump on our last day at the three valleys and our first day at Portillo where about 20 cm dumped as we skied during the day continuing into the night. Further south we found conditions packed and icy and learnt about how The Ski Club of UK wasn't always getting the correct information as it certainly wasn't snowing when they said it was!!! Our last day here it started to snow / sleet but this was to late for us and the vineyards of the Colchagua were calling us.
Off-piste : We wern't confident to ski without a guide but was told Valle Nevado had an awesome off piste route. At Portillo they have unmarked double diamonds which we did ski, these are short steep but great great fun especially in the powder. The highlight and I would certainly recommend every visitor to Chile checks this place out was SKI ARPA, it is a snow cat skiing experience for groups no bigger than 14, we were in total with instructors 7 .... only on the entire mountain .... at the peak drop off point (3600m) you can enjoy the famous Mt.Aconcagua in the background. The skiing was the most fun I've had in my life and the instructors were superb, made you feel very safe. At Termas there was alot of offpiste potential but it all seemed a little basic /
The resort : Valle Nevado and La Parva were small and pretty, Portillo is self contained and Termas was a cheesy holiday resort. Don't expect the Alpine Apres Ski, these places are designed either for ski nuts at La Parva, rich foreigners at Valle Nevado, Santiago locals at El Colorado, Americans at Portillo, and Rich Chileans and Brazilian families at Termas de Chilan ...... and wise ski sages at SkiArpa!
Food : Local speciality on the pistes are thin cut steak sandwich with guacamole, or a full meat bbq grill!
Accommodation : We stayed in lots but I will only mention HOSTEL ALEMAN in FARELLONES, the host george and the chef Chaquana are very sweet and so the atmosphere in this backpackers hostel is awesome. The beds are army style bunks, the rooms are a bit cold, only one of the 4 bathrooms really output hot water ..... but this was my favourite stay by far as to keep you warm the hostel has 2 large wood fires and Chaquana the chef makes the besty home made bread and hot SALSA sauce I've ever eaten!!!
Costs: Skiing is similar price to Europe, but food, drink and transport is about 1/2 the price.
Conclusion: Great way to spend the end of the Northern Hemisphere summer, much better crack I feel than summer glacier skiing in Europe. The off piste offered by Ski Arpa is a must, for all serious skiiers so peaceful so much fun. I would like to have gone to Las Lenas in Argentina instead of Termas de Chilan but overall it was an unforgetable trip. If I had to choose only 1 resort I'd take La Parva for overall quality and proximity to Santiago.
A 4x4 is costly for 2 weeks (£900) but it allowed us so much freedom to travel 600km down south and back again which gave us many different occassions during the trip especially horse riding in the wine valley and chilling out at the coast where the surfers hang in Punta de Lobos

Various Chilean Resorts Report Feedback Thread

Ian Hopkinson - Contains extended scenes of peril - Me & Mrs H
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