The History Of Chacaltaya, Bolivia | The World's Highest Ski Resort That Disappeared Because of Climate Change

The History Of Chacaltaya, Bolivia | The World's Highest Ski Resort That Disappeared Because of Climate Change

Chacaltaya Ski Resort stands at an altitude of 5,375m (17634 ft) above sea level. It’s the world’s highest ski resort, or rather it was… Only memories of the good old days remain at this place. Snow is gone, and so has the skiing. The worst part of all this? It is not coming back.

Ski slope has no snow.


During the last century, Bolivian citizens enjoyed this resort in the heart of the Andes, and only half-an-hour away from the city of La Paz, one of Bolivia’s capital cities. It was a ski area, with only one mechanical lift, placed over a glaciar, also called Chacaltaya. Furthermore, there was a restaurant and a chalet for tourists. Lots of visitors went to the mountain all-year-round. It was a common entertainment for mid and upper-classes, which spent their days there, until coldness or pain in their ears (due to the altitude) made them return home.

Ski instructors while skiing in Chacaltaya was still a reality.

Nowadays, however, nothing can be found at Chacaltaya, but blurred memories and an abandoned building. Back in the 1990’s, scientists started studying the glacier. In 2005, they predicted that it would be gone by 2015. But they were wrong: in 2009, the last piece of ice disappeared, making the glacier melt forever.

Place is ruined, abandoned and there is no snow.

Scientists assure that the speed of its melting is a clear indicator of the Climate Change that our planet is suffering. Last week, the president of the United States announced the decision of pulling his country away form the Paris Accord.

This graph shows how the glaciar melted over the years.
This photos show how the glaciar melted over the years.


Even thought the ski station has no snow, it is still possible to find its two guardians: Adolfo and Samuel Mendoza. They have been living in Chacaltaya for more that 35 years. Back on time, they were ski addicts and mountaineers; today, they are responsible for taking care of a ski resort with no snow, where tourists are so scarce as oxygen. The only thing they keep is the Club Andino Boliviano chalet, founded in 1939 by Raul Posnanski.

Adolfo and Samuel, guardians of the mountain. // photo: BBC


La Paz, home of Bolivia’s power, depends on surrounding mountains glaciers in order to have enough water. That is the reason why Chalcataya’s -and many other glaciers around it- melting, is more than just one less ski resort. It’s affecting many people that relied on it.

Chacaltaya seen from the city of La Paz.


“I used to come here when I was a kid. I played with the snow for hours, until my eyes and ears hurt because of cold and highness” told 63-year-old Felipe Kittelson during an interview for the BBC back in 2016.

Good old days in Chacaltaya, Bolivia.
“People went skiing and sliding during seven or eights months a year” remembers Kittelson. “This hotel was always surrounded by tons of snow, but now there is nothing but rock around it.”

The Movie: “Samuel in the Clouds”

As we told you before, Samuel Mendoza is one of Chacaltaya’s guardians. Pieter Van Eecke, a film director from Belgium, lived and worked in South America for years, obtaining several awards for his “Goudougoudou” documentary. There, he showed Haiti’s devastating earthquake. In this new opportunity, he takes us to Bolivia, to show us first-person Samuel’ life, and how the Chacaltaya glaciar melted. This is the trailer of “Samuel in the Clouds”.

More Photos of Chacaltaya

Chacaltaya on is the world’s largest, most accurate and complete website for skiing and snowboarding forecasts. One of the facts that make better that any other site is the fact that you can find forecasts not only for European or American resorts, but also for the most exotic, remote and incredible ski areas around the globe. Even for those places where back in time, skiing was possible. And ono of those places is Chacaltaya, in Bolivia. Click here for Chacaltaya snow forecasts and weather map.