One of the four leading ski areas in the southern hemisphere, there are just over a dozen Chilean ski centres stretching along the Andean mountains from north to south in the country.
The ski season here typically lasts from early June to late September.
Chile’s ski resorts have built a reputation for great powder and spectacular heli-skiing with several resorts marketed particularly heavily in North America as summer skiing destinations.
One difference from other southern hemisphere ski nations is that there are several major ski areas within a comparatively short drive of the capital, Santiago so visitors can combine skiing in Chile with a city break or business.
Most of Chile’s ski areas were established after the second world war, but the oldest, El Colorado, still the closest to Santiago (45km/28 miles), built its first lift way back in 1936 – one of the world’s first dedicated ski lifts. People had however been able to ski Chile for more than four decades before, using the then newly-built Argentina-Chile railway line in the 1890s as a ‘ski lift’.
At the other extreme, although linked to El Colorado by lifts and piste in Chile’s version of the famous French ‘3 Valleys’ is Valle Nevado, which has a more cutting edge design very reminiscent of the more stylish French purpose built ski areas. It opened in 1988 and has been arguably the most innovative Chillean ski area over the past few decades and continues to expand both on the slopes, quite frequently adding new lifts and runs, and resort facilities.
The third ski area in this ‘3 Valleys’ is La Parva which was built by Europeans in the 1950s before being commercialised by Americans and then run by Chileans since the late 1980s. Originally Chile’s highest resort it was also home to the country’s first quad chairlift.
The most famous of Chile's ski resorts, its original ski area and later destination resort, is Portillo in the north of the country. Particularly popular with North American guests, it has a kind of private club ambience from the early years of ski vacations, although with all modern conveniences. All catering and facilities are focused primarily in the resort’s main hotel complex. Today there's one employee for every guest resulting in high service standards.
Host of the 1966 World Alpine Skiing Championships, Portillo has easy and intermediate groomed slopes plus some of the toughest skiing in the southern hemisphere, with heliskiing an option, giving views of the Western Hemisphere's highest mountain - Aconcagua.
In the south of the country Termas de Chillan mixes a five star hotel and warm thermal springs with one of the country’s six leading ski resorts. On the downside the area has had problems with seismic activity including earthquake damage in the past decade, on the upside there are 10,000 hectares of heliskiing terrain around the main resort.
Villarica-Pucon located on the slopes of the still active Villarica volcano which gives it the highest ski area in southern South America, has similar problems. Lift towers incorporate rubber bungs to absorb minor quakes from volcano, and ash which sometimes issues from the summit tends to drift away from the ski slopes on the prevailing winds. read more...
Chile: latest snow conditions round-up
Summary of forecast snowfall and ski conditions for resorts in Chile. Fresh snow is forecast at 12resorts. Powder is reported at 0 resorts and 0 are reporting good piste conditions.