Skiing in South America is where a challenge meets magic. Skiing in South America is where thrill and adventure collide.
There are few places on the planet that can make your heart beat faster at the mere thought of riding there. From Patagonia to the Andes and all the jagged and rugged terrain in between should be calling you to experience the mountains.
Okay, it may be an absolute mission to get there and in some of the spots, it may not even may so simple to arrive in resort or hire equipment etc. but being able to think back and reflect on your many memories would be pretty darn special.
Traveling around southern America, whether it be for skiing, snowboarding, or whatever other extreme sport, it’s safe and there are many unique experiences waiting to be discovered. There are a couple of things you should note:
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From the warm and exotic North to the alpine South, Argentina has a diverse range of climates, spanning from the warm, tropical climate of the North, to the temperate climate of Buenos Aires and the Pampas, then to the baltic cold and windy climate of the Patagonia mountains, and finally to the subpolar climate of Tierra del Fuego. You can experience something similar to that of California. Cold and unforgiving mountains then only a short drive away, you arrive in the balmy city. You also have the opportunity to enjoy that dreamy mix of surf and snowboard in one adventure. You can expect the cold mountainous climate of the Andes, arid in the northern and central part, plus the cold and snowy climes of the south.
Chile follows a really similar climate layout as Argentina as of course, they are neighbours, joined by a border, and the stunning Andes mountains. In Chile, there is a wide variety of climates too: warm and balmy in the North, charmingly Mediterranean in the center of the country, blustery in the south, and of course cold and mountainous in the Andes.
With Chile being located in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are, of course, reversed. That means you can enjoy the Winter season in the northern hemisphere, then jump on a plane and have 365 snow!
Of course flying is undoubtedly the best option from Europe. This is afterall an adventure so why not make a truly epic trip from the travel. Head first to Miami in Florida where direct flights are available with Norwegian Air plus Virgin and some other popular European airlines. You can even catch a few waves in Miami and enjoy the heat before heading South to Argentina or Chile.
Santiago airport is the best and most convenient airport. It’s a big international airport which operates publish transport lines to central Santiago or you can even jump on a private transfer a la ski resort buses in the alps. It’s easy, cheap and convenient.
It’s a slightly different situation with Argentina. The main airports such as Buenos Aires aren’t generally any where near the ski resorts. However this is a free pass for an adventure. When searching for flights you will have to go via Bueons Aires where there is ample public transport and car hire. You can road trip to the mountains or stay a few days and explore, then head on a connecting flight.
Where: The Andes, Valparaíso Region, Chile
Getting there: Santiago Aiport is around 3 hours drive away from the resort. Shuttles and private transfers can be easily booked. Or hire a car to drive.
Ski-Able Terrain: 20km 14 lifts
Elevation: 2,580 and 3,310 m
Portillo is an exclusive winter holiday experience like no other. It is not so much a resort, but an all-inclusive ski in ski out hotel on the mountain, so you eat, drink, sleep and party in one huge complex. The Hotel Portillo makes it easy for you and your crew, you simply book an inclusive holiday with all meals, 7-day lift pass, accommodation and transfers, so all you have to do is strap in and head up. The slopes surround the hotel, but cater towards the intermediate skiers and boarders. If you are looking for a challenge however, Portillo will be your go-to destination, as it offers an extra 10km of backcountry for the experts to shred.
Ridestore recommends: Sign up to the guestlist at Tio Bob’s bar to ensure you get entry to the Friday night partying.
Where: Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Getting there: The nearest airport is Santiago and driving is only around 1 hour and a quarter which you can easily self drive or hire a private shuttle or transfer.
Ski-Able Terrain: 40km 14 lifts
Elevation: 2,860 and 3,670 m
Valle Nevado is part of the Tres Valles ski resorts along with El Colorado and La Parva, and the largest and arguably the best of the three. It’s not quite the Three Valleys in France, but collectively these resorts make up a great ski area for South American standards. As one of the larger resorts in Chile, it means it has a great resort centre with lots of activities, bars and restaurants to keep the whole family happy. The runs are also long, cruisey and wide to make for epic days on the mountain, regardless of ability. The family can also enjoy great snow conditions, as with the high altitude comes lots of pow all season long.
Ridestore recommends: If you are looking for something more challenging there are Guided backcountry tours between El Colorado and Valle Navedo.
Where: The Andes, Bio Bio region, Chile
Getting there: Fly to Santiago and get a short internal flight to Concepción airport and from there you can get a bus, train or drive.
Ski-Able Terrain: 35km 10 lifts
Elevation: 1,600 and 2,700 m
Nevados de Chillán was formerly known as Termas de Chillán because it is famous for its natural thermal hot springs which are found all over the resort. After a long day hitting the slopes, you can soak in the hot springs, relax the muscle and take in the incredible surroundings. On the mountain, you will find a very interesting set up which makes for varied and exciting skiing, with couloirs, natural half pipes and gullies. The resort is also blessed with epic snow conditions all season, which means you can make the most of the tree skiing, which you don’t get in most other Chilean resorts.
Ridestore recommends: Stay in La Trancas which is a town only 7km away with cheaper accommodation and food and more options.
Where: Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Getting there: 71km from Santiago Airport and is only one hour drive and can you can also get cheap shuttles from Santiago city to resort.
Ski-Able Terrain: 50km 23 lifts
Elevation: 2,350 and 3,333 m
El Colorado is also one of the Tres Valles ski resorts but doesn’t get as much credit as the other two. Although, this is probably for the best as that means quieter slopes, less queues and more fresh tracks for us in the know. El Colorado is allowed made up of two ski areas, Villa Farelonnes and Villa Colorado which makes for a large ski area for South American standards. The ski area may be large but is more catered towards the beginners and intermediates. The town itself is small but with easy access to the village of Farelonnes, there is plenty of restaurants, bars and clubs to keep you entertained for your getaway.
Ridestore recommends: If you are in need a challenge then head to the terrain park to test your skills on the rails and kickers.
Where: Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Getting there: 56km away from Santiago, you can hire a car but the cheapest and easiest way is to prebook a private shuttle.
Ski-Able Terrain: 38km 13 lifts
Elevation: 2,653 and 3,574 m
La Parva is also one of the Tres Valles ski resorts, so a popular destination for the locals from Santiago city and tourist day-trippers. It is well known for its connection with the other two resorts, as a pass can be bought for you to shred two resorts in a day. Like many of the other resorts in Chile, the slopes cater to the beginners and intermediates better but if you get a guide you can make the most of the extensive backcountry and some crazy steep off-piste. As the skiing is all above the treeline, you can expect good snow and some deep fresh powder days. Down in the village, the experience has a more upmarket boutique feel than El Colorado, as the wealthy Chileans have claimed La Parva.
Ridestore recommends: La Parva is one of the only ski resorts in Chile to offer night skiing, so be sure to make the most of this unique experience.
Where: Neuquén Province (Argentina)
Getting there: Chapelco is ca very reasonable distance to Bariloche airport at just 2 h 47 min (150.2 km) away. there are many shuttle bus serves running and hire car possibilities at the airport.
Ski-Able Terrain: 45 km and 11 lifts
Elevation: Between 1,230 and 1,970 m
With stunning views of Volcan Lanin and the turquoise Lake Lácar, the resort offers something very unique. The kinda dramatic backdrop one might expect from the Andes.
Chapelco is the perfect spot of mixed ability groups of families. There is a relatively modern lift system with a gondola and a quad chair letting your access some pretty gnarly free ride terrain. Then on the slopes, you have a really even split between beginner, intermediate and advanced slopes, a little something to play on for everyone. You also have access to mellow kids slopes as well.
Ridestore recommends: Check out Chapelco SnowPark. It’s home of the Roxy and Quicksilver Snow Jams, boxes, rails, and kickers!
Where: In the province of Tierra del Fuego and located on the slopes of Mount Krund.
Getting there: The nearest airport is Ushuaia airport at 42 min (32.7 km) away. However with it being a small airport, why not fly to Buenos Aires first, enjoy a day or 2 there then arrive at Ushuaia with a connecting flight.
Ski-Able Terrain: 29.1 km and 8 lifts
Elevation: Between 195 and 1,057 m
Cerro Castor is a great well-rounded resort. If it weren’t for the insanely amazing views of the Andes, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you were in the Alps. With all the modern lifts, the mountain restaurants, and comparatively good infrastructure. Plus you also have excellent links to the Chillan resorts of the border which makes for a really varied visit.
Ridestore recommends: Visit the nearby city of Ushuaia as its a taste of authentic culture and super fun for young people.
Where: In the San Carlos de Bariloche area of Río Negro, Argentina.
Getting there: It’s the same situation as Cerror Castor (as they are rather close) where you have to fly into Bariloche airport which is 45 min (31.3 km) away. However it might be easier to go via Buenos Aires.
Ski-Able Terrain: 120 km and36 lifts
Elevation: Between 1,030 and 2,180 m.
Cerro Catedral is a super modern mountain. After millions of dollars worth of investment on the mountain infrastructure, Cerro Cathedral is ready for visitors! Cerro Catedral is one of just a few South American ski resorts to truly have a village at the base. The resort is an intermediates heaven as well with 60% of the resorts runs catered just for you.
Don’t worry you advanced riders, you can potter round in the dense and lush trees for a little Argentinian forest skiing or explore the higher and more expose terrain.
Ridestore recommends: Expert riders will enjoy the range of chutes and bowls. Go find them!
Where: Located in the Western part of Mendoza Province.
Getting there: This can be tough as it’s a little out of the way. Head to Buenos Aires airport then get the (not so frequent) internal flight to Malargue Airport (LGS) which is around an hour from resort. Your hotel or indeed the resort tourist board can assist with transfers.
Ski-Able Terrain: 52 km and 13 lifts
Elevation: 3,430 m
The mountains are very much calling you here to Las Lenas with some truly unforgettable backcountry and freeriding. Why not try you hand at cat skiing and enjoy those freshies, completely uncontested. Don’t worry though, for intermediates and beginners, the slopes are nice a leisurely and super well looked after. They also have the little luxury of ski in ski out accommodation options as well.
Ridestore recommends: Las Leñas has a vibrant and youthful après-ski scene and nightlife.
Where: Neuquén Province, Patagonia, Argentina. Eastern slope of Mount Caviahue
Getting there: Neuquen Airport (NQN) is technically the closest with no direct European flights. The most exciting option would be to fly to an international airport and road trip. There are local buses but it’s best to have freedom as an option with you being so out of the way in Caviahue.
Ski-Able Terrain: 25 km and 11 lifts
Elevation: 2,068 m
Caviahue Ski Resort is a great little spot, often overlooked my its more well known counter parts but we are glad of it. Not only is the resort more reasonably priced and never crowded, the views across the horse shoe shaped blue lake are really stunning.
You also have the unique experience of Watching the volcano. You also get to hear it rumble during the night which is an epic experience.
Ridestore recommends: Head to the mud hot springs of the snowy town of Copahue
Where: Mendoza Province (Argentina), Situated between between Santiago in Chile and Mendoza in Argentina
Getting there: Santiago airport is only 2 h 55 min (185.1 km) away with plenty of public transport available.
Ski-Able Terrain: 25.5 km and7 lifts
Elevation: Between 2,579 and 3,194 m
Los Penitentes has 2 pretty substantial points going for it. Not only are the accommodations and ski passes cheaper than average, the views are breathtaking and you access to unfiltered Argentine culture. Okay, so three things but those 3 points make for a no-frills experience of skiing in Patagonia.
Our friends at powder hounds said it best when they wrote “Penitentes is for adventure travelers. If you like ski holidays that are packaged up in a nice bow, this is not the place for you.”
Ridestore recommends: Eat and drink local, this is your chance to experience some real Argentine culture.
Where: Neuquén Province, Argentina
Getting there: San Carlos de Bariloche Airport is just 1 h 30 min (85.6 km) away. Car rental is expensive but readily available, otherwise, transport takes you to nearby village Villa la Angostura allowing you to get to resort from there.
Ski-Able Terrain: 12 km and 16 lifts
Elevation: 1,730 m
Cerro Bayo is a real up and comer. With plenty of hip and happening mountain restaurants and places to grab a drink after a long day riding. Believe me, you will need it as well, considering the lack of queues you will get more bang for your buck with run after run! The resort offers gorgeous views and the jagged surroundings are awe inspiring. Sadly there is no on the mountain accommodation. So there could be some ski boot trudging around. Stay in the nearby town of Villa la Angostura. The mountain shuttles run regularly.
Ridestore recommends: Try out the terrain at the top of Telecabina Cumbre, it gets pretty gnarley!
What is the best time to go skiing in South America?
The ski season in South America typically runs from June to October, with the peak season happening between July and September. This is when you'll find the best snow conditions.
Are the ski resorts in Argentina and Chile suitable for beginners?
Many of the ski resorts in Argentina and Chile cater to a variety of skill levels, including beginners. Resorts such as Valle Nevado in Chile are particularly family-friendly and provide terrain suitable for beginners. Always check the specific resort for beginner facilities and ski schools.
There you have it folks. A brief little round up of the resorts and the experiences that are just waiting for you in South America. Take yourself out of your comfort zone, away from the Summer heat, travel to chase the snow and at the end, you will be met with friendly faces, unbelievable mountains and more powder that one could possibly wish for.
Hey Riders, note from your gal Angelica here. All details are/were correct at the time of writing through research of skiing in the South America however, I haven’t yet had the chance to visit all these fantastic destinations. All advice is my own. However, maybe you have some better information to offer or any addendum or changes to make, in which case, feel free to email me on email@example.com, and we can consider adding them in!