From skiing on the slopes of a volcano to dropping down the legendary La Chimenea couloir, Chile’s Andes Mountains is the ultimate summer skiing escape for powderchasers. Here at SnowPak we’ve done the legwork and picked out five of Chile’s best ski resorts!
- Closest ski resort to Santiago
- Lowest lift ticket prices in Tres Valles
- Great for beginners and intermediates, with the best terrain park in the area
- A more authentic Chilean experience without all the resort trappings
- Can be crowded
- Not a lot of advanced terrain
- Slow and old lift infrastructure
Located in Chile’s Tres Valles (three valleys), El Colorado is connected to nearby resorts La Parva and Valle Nevado. It’s also linked with the small slope at Farellones below (and you can ski both on the same ticket). It’s the closest resort to Santiago, and enjoys a reputation as something of a “locals’ mountain”. This sees plenty of crowds about so ski there midweek to avoid the weekend warriors!
Beginners and Intermediates Rejoice
While advanced skiers and riders don’t have a lot of terrain to play with, the wide runs and gentle slopes are perfect for beginners and intermediates. Coupled with the relatively low prices and convenient lodging options, El Colorado also makes for an excellent choice for families with less experienced skiers and snowboarders. Seasoned shredders, on the other hand, are able to enjoy the best terrain park in the region!
Authentic Chilean Atmosphere
While the all-inclusive resort experience is widespread in South America, you won’t find it here at El Colorado and Farellones. Farellones is an actual town, not a purpose-built complex, and – if you can get by with less bilingual staff around – you’ll enjoy a more authentic local experience. If you’re travelling on a budget, this is a destination that will let you experience “summer skiing” in the Andes without breaking the bank, and it’s still close enough to La Parva and Valle Nevado to go check those out, too.
Getting there: 1.5-2 hours drive or bus ride from Santiago
- Chile’s most famous ski resort
- Rarely crowded
- All-inclusive “cruise on a ski hill”
- A tradition of world-class hospitality
- A wealth of extreme terrain and steep slopes
- Limited groomed runs and beginner terrain
- Inflexible packages
- Unique ‘slingshot’ lifts to some of the advanced terrain can be challenging to use
When the legendary film-maker Warren Miller’s ranks Portillo on his worldwide list of top ten ski resorts, you know this is the place to go for gnarly terrain. It’s farther away from Santiago than the Tres Valles but once you’re there, you’ll be surrounded by incredible scenery, with the ski area hugging the shores of Laguna del Inca. You’ll even be able to see Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas!
World-Famous Extreme Terrain
Portillo’s extreme steeps make it a heaven for advanced and expert skiers. The only drawbacks are the unique ‘slingshot’ lifts that get you up there. The innovative system is a necessity because the terrain can be avalanche prone but once you master the slingshots, your efforts will be rewarded with some world-class lines. There are a limited number of groomers and beginner slopes, but the good news is that crowds are rare here as Portillo restricts the number of single-day lift tickets it sells in addition to tickets for guests in the hotel!
Iconic Andes Ski Experience
At Portillo, there’s no ski village, just the iconic yellow hotel and the skiing – but the hotel has everything you could possibly want. You’ll find restaurants, bars, a pool with one of the best views anywhere, a gym, and much more. There are about as many staff members as there are guests so you can expect an unparalleled level of service. Like most South American resorts, Portillo offers all-inclusive packages include lodging, lift tickets, and meals. Historically the packages here were only available for a week at a time, but now you can also get three- or four-night “mini week” packages.
Getting there: 2 hours drive or bus ride from Santiago
- Great intermediate terrain
- The most skiable terrain in Chile
- Most developed base-area, designed to cater to international guests
- The highest elevation in the area, so snow stays fresher longer
- Relatively expensive
- Small terrain park
- Beginners’ terrain is difficult to access
Another resort in Tres Valles, Valle Nevado features a purpose-built base area designed to welcome international visitors. There are plenty of multilingual staff members as well as activities to keep everyone entertained. All of the lodgings is ski-in / ski-out, which along with all the other features makes for a wonderful family-friendly destination.
Big terrain with bluebird skies
With about 890 ha of skiable terrain, Valle Nevado is Chile’s largest resort. Thanks to the local geography and its higher elevation, the resort often has the best snow in the Tres Valles which is kept fresher longer than the neighbouring resorts. In between all that snowfall is plenty of sunshine – Valle Nevado enjoys sunny weather 80% of the time, chances of glorious bluebird days are high! All of that acreage and powder serves up a wide variety of terrain, sure to please skiers and riders of all ability levels. Just note, beginner terrain isn’t the easy to get to; while backcountry terrain is quite accessible, even without the available heli-skiing trips!
Modern Infrastructure and Amenities
All of that terrain is accessed with South America’s most modern lift system; no old and slow lifts or tricky slingshots here! The base area was purpose-built for the resort and like Portillo, offers all-inclusive packages that include lodging, lift tickets, and meals. The accommodations are all ski-in/ski-out, and options include three different hotels as well as apartments, so there’s something suitable for a range of budgets.
Getting there: 2-hour drive or bus ride from Santiago
- Your chance to ski on the slope of an active volcano
- Natural hot springs
- Variety of terrain with unique features
- Great backcountry skiing
- Not as easy to get to compared to other resorts
- Some chairlifts can be affected by wind holds
- A few of the lifts in need of an upgrade
Nevados de Chillan, formerly known as Termas de Chillan, offers the unique experience of skiing on the slopes of Chillan Volcano! While you carve turns down the fall line, above you the mountain could very well be spouting steam! Lifts here are currently being upgraded but there are still some outdated, slow ones and those who are willing to make the trip and are patient will be well rewarded with the incredible terrain here.
Nevados de Chillan caters well to skiers of every ability level, and the eons of volcanic eruptions and lava flows have resulted in some fascinating natural features like bowls, gullies, and natural half-pipes. It is also one of the rare ski areas in Chile with any skiing below the treeline and the excellent backcountry skiing is easily accessible from many points on the mountain and via snowcat or helicopter. All of that terrain is typically buried under more snow than anywhere else in South America – over 1,016 cm in an average year. To top it all off, the trees help protect it from the wind (and less adventurous skiers), making Nevados de Chillan a real winter wonderland.
Variety of Vacation Options
You can stay in one of the resort’s on-mountain hotels, which all have ski-in/ski-out access and the convenience of all-inclusive packages including meals and lift tickets. For a broader range of accommodations in an authentic Chilean mountain town, you can stay in Las Trancas. It’s just over 6 km away, and offers more dining and nightlife options than at the resort. Either way, be sure to take advantage of the natural hot springs, thanks to the volcanic activity here!
Getting there: 5-6 hour drive or bus ride from Santiago or 2.5-hour drive from Concepcion Airport
- Best advanced/expert terrain and off-piste skiing in Tres Valles
- Easy access from Santiago
- Connected to Valle Nevado and El Colorado / Farellones
- A comfortable and exclusive setting
- Limited beginner terrain compared to El Colorado and Valle Nevado
- Accommodations can be expensive
- More exposed to sun and wind than the neighbouring resorts
- Some double fall-line runs
La Parva is a favourite amongst the best skiers in the Santiago area and our top pick in Chile! The village is cosy and can make for a first-class getaway, though that means many of the accommodations can get pricey. It’s not far away from Farellones, however, so more budget-minded travellers could stay there and still visit La Parva for the steeps.
Playground for Advanced and Expert Skiers
La Parva’s La Chimenea (“the chimney” – which is precisely what the couloir looks like) is legendary... and absolutely not for the faint of heart. It, and a neighbouring line named after the late extreme skier Shane McConkey, make for great spectating for us mere mortals. Meanwhile, the Zona de Freeskiing, easily accessed backcountry, and other advanced and expert terrain – far superior to that of neighbouring resorts – still provide plenty of thrill if you’re not quite ready for the mountain’s most harrowing chutes! The numbers may make it look like intermediates don’t have many options, but what terrain they do have is some of the best in the area. The only downside to La Parva’s terrain is the limited options for beginners.
A Quiet, Cosy Get Away Off the Slopes
Staying in La Parva’s small village has a certain air of elegance. It doesn’t have the vibrant nightlife of Farellones or the international flair of Valle Nevado, but all of its comfortable accommodations have ski-in/ski-out access. That convenience and the laid-back atmosphere make staying on the mountain an excellent choice for families who can afford it and whose children have a little experience on the snow.
Getting there: 2 hours drive or bus ride from Santiago
If you’ve skied Chile, what are your thoughts? Are any of your favourites missing, or would you rank them differently?