British Airways have launched a new, direct flight from London to Santiago, which will begin in January. What better time to book yourself a summer ski holiday? The glistening Andes Mountains will mesmerize you as you fly overhead, descending into Santiago! The Chilean ski season runs from mid June- October, while peak season is from July until September.
How much is the lift pass for the whole area? Roughly around $70,000 per day, it is $48,000 (Chilean Peso’s, roughly £60) for a day pass in Valle Nevado.
Best things to do in Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado is the largest ski area in the Chilean ‘three valleys’, just 46km east of Santiago, located in the Andes Mountains and very close to the Argentinian border. The resort was founded in 1988 by French entrepreneurs, and thus replicates the purpose-built ski-in, ski out resorts, such as Les Arcs and Val Thorens.
There are three main hotels that form this small resort, the deluxe Hotel Valle Nevado, Puerta del Sol and the budget friendly Tres Puntas. You can also rent private apartments, a few can be found on Airbnb or refugios.cl.
These three ski resorts are very popular with the Santiaguinos who tend to drive up for just the day, consequently, you can only travel up the mountain between 8am – 2pm, and then back down from 2pm – 8pm. Therefore, it is advisable to avoid the weekends and peak season, in which case it shouldn’t take you longer than one and a half hours.
The whole resort is above tree line, so if you are heading up for the day, check the weather forecast otherwise you could be stuck with a complete whiteout! The snow cover is usually good and the powder can last up to three days, even though it is supposedly sunny 85% of the time, as the majority of the runs are southward facing. You can also reach a height of 3,670m, and thus is can be absolutely freezing, so don’t forget your thermals!
By September the resort will start to wind down, especially after the last weekend of August, which hosts both the Annual Wine Festival and Corona Sunsets Festival. The wine festival is complementary to all guests staying in one of the three hotels; it is the perfect opportunity to taste some of the world-renowned Chilean wine. While Corona Sunset Festival is between Valle Nevado and La Parva and welcomes international djs, providing all our favourite après-ski soundtracks.
If you head to Valle Nevado during the week in September, you will have the slopes all to yourself, although the snow cover will be quickly melting, the pistes are still well groomed, with 45km of runs, which cater for all levels, from beginners to experts, with 13 lifts – the Andes Express being the main lift that connects the resort.
‘Sol’ was my favourite piste as it is the longest run in the resort. However, there’s no chance of lapping it, as you’d spend more time on the chairlifts than skiing, unfortunately. In addition, you can easily get some fresh powder if choose a line off ‘Sol’. If you’re searching for a bit of a test, the black runs are relatively steep, but short, and by the end of the season ‘cascada’ and ‘adrenalina’ both turn into sheer icey slides, although hardly comparable to La Face in Val D’Isere.
Some daytrips are all-inclusive packages, which include lunch. Bajo Zero is the main restaurant and the best place to enjoy either an empanada, completo (hot dog) or anticucho (barbequed meat stick) and a beer in the midday sun on the terrace. While there isn’t a village-like feel with local restaurants, the hotel restaurants offer a wide range of cuisine with typical Chilean dishes, and of course, fondue.
Afternoon park sessions will be the perfect time to practise, although rather wet, the slush will provide a soft landing. Valle Nevado normally has an air bag and sometimes even a half pipe, dependant on the snow and season. If you are looking to test yourself and practise your technique, the mogul field ‘bumps’ is found at the top of the resort. But for those with the need for speed, head to the boarder cross, next to La Escondida lift and fly over the rollers and round the corners as quickly as possible.
Once you’re ready to call it a day, après-ski can be found either at the terrace by the car park or at Hotel Valle Nevado’s Jacuzzi where Chilean wine and pisco sours are an absolute must!
The size of the resort based solely on groomed pistes is similar in size to many of the smaller resorts in Europe, however, including the terrain that one can access through either hiking or heli-skiing, the resort is said to be about 2 to 3 times the size of Whistler. Of course, it is recommended to take a guide as they are the real gurus of the area, and when to take you to the real pow-haven of natural bowls, couloirs and maybe even the odd cornice.
‘Santa Teresa’ or ‘Teresita’ is well known as the best off piste run as it used to hold free ride competitions in the past. However, it is highly recommended to speak to the locals and checking the snow pack before embarking on your hunt for freshies as the area is very avalanche prone, and there have been recent fatalities. Some say it is now out of bounds. While located right next door is the Tambo freeski area, so you really are spoilt for choice.
If you take the Tres Puntas lift up to 3,670m, you can access an astounding amount of terrain and due to its height, unlimited powder runs… just make sure you get there first! The majority of the runs are south facing, so they are safer, but as the area is so expansive, a lot of it is non-controlled avalanche terrain, so ensure you are correctly equipped and with a guide.