Things to consider
- How much skiing have you done before? If you are an experienced tourer there is plenty of backcountry skiing on steep volcanoes and trails to challenge you. If you're more comfortable on-piste then there are a number of ski resorts in Patagonia to choose from
- Are you fit enough for a multi-day ski touring trip? Adventure skiing for several days consecutively can be physically demanding. Would you prefer to factor in some rest days?
- What sort of terrain do you want to ski? Rolling domes, tree lines or steep chutes?
- What is your preferred choice of accommodation? Are you looking for luxury hotels, local B&B's or a true mountain hut experience?
Guide to Skiing in Patagonia
The Andes are in fact the world's second highest mountain range behind the Himalayas. Combine this altitude with a regular weather phenomena from the Pacific known as El Nino and snowfall is abundant throughout the winter season. The perfect location for a Patagonian ski adventure.
Best Time to Visit
Winter runs from June to October but snow skiing conditions are at their best from July to September. The further south you go, the longer the ski conditions last. Ski touring is possible in October as well.
In total there are 22 ski resorts in Chile and Argentina which cater for beginner up to advanced skiers. Some of the most well-known include Valle Nevado and Portillo in Chile and Cerro Catedral and Chapelco in Argentina. The infrastructure can be basic by North American or European standards (the majority rely on tow lifts as opposed to chairlifts). Equipment rental shops are located in the main towns and cities such as Santiago, Pucon and Bariloche. A mix of classy hotels and cosy wooden lodges provide friendly hospitality and delicious food.
This is the best way to experience adventure skiing in Patagonia. Strap on your skins and hike up volcanos, past Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria) trees and through steep mountain gulleys to be rewarded with endless views of frozen lakes, snowy peaks and vast glaciers. Backcountry skiing promises pristine areas of untouched snow, leaving the chairlifts and the crowds far behind. Deep powder, tree runs, glacial skiing and steep chutes await.
Hut to Hut Backcountry
The ultimate winter mountain experience for those with experience. The best hut-to-hut network is in Nahuel Huapi National Park in Bariloche, Argentina. The Frey Hut to Jakob Hut traverse is a classic hiking route in the summer months and during the winter the terrain offers nice touring and chute options. There are also numerous peaks and summits along the way which you can attempt if you want more of a challenge. Tuck into a lentil stew and a hot coffee in the mountain hut after a long day on the snow.
Where can I ski in Patagonia?
Skiing in Bariloche
Bariloche is one of the most popular places to embrace Patagonia's colder months with many winter sports to be experienced from June to October. The mountains provide the perfect conditions for skiing, sledding, snow-mobiling and snow-shoeing, and the snow-dense valleys lend to mesmerising horseback riding opportunities. Ascend up Mount Otto by cable car and marvel in panoramic views, then cosy up with a hot chocolate by evening in the chocolate capital of Chile.
In terms of resorts, skiing opportunities at Catedral Alta Patagonia, commonly referred to by the mountain’s name Cerro Catedral, are one of the main draws. Situated 12 miles from Bariloche, it offers smooth slopes and woods surrounded by phenomenal views of the granite peaks, Andes, Tronador mountain, and Nahuel Huapi National Park. Other smaller resorts are Cerro Chapelco and Espacio Neumeyer, where you can practice cross-country skiing, off-piste, snow-shoeing and sledding. Skiers of all levels will be able to take to the mountains at each resort and also take lessons at ski/snowboarding schools.
Each region of Patagonia offers a unique adventure skiing experience. In the Chilean Lake District there are volcanos which you can ski tour up and in San Carlos de Bariloche there's an authentic hut-to-hut network for those seeking the ultimate backcountry adventure. There are also a number of well-serviced resorts dotted along the Andes if you prefer to ski in-bounds.
Skiing Trips in Patagonia
Nothing compares to skiing down an active volcano and turning around to see smoke rising from the top.
Sally Dodge Patagonia Specialist
FAQs about Skiing in Patagonia
The best time of year for skiing in Patagonia is from July to August. This is the height of winter and when snowfall is most reliable. Schools break up for winter holidays for 2 weeks in July so be wary of crowds if you're travelling at this time.
Resort-based - For those who prefer to ski in bounds and enjoy a pisco sour on the slopes there are a number of resorts situated near Santiago, Bariloche and in the Chilean Lake District.
Touring - The Chilean Andes are scattered with both active and dormant volacnoes. For adventure seekers, it is possible to hike up and ski down them in the winter. In areas like the Nahuel Huapi National Park near Bariloche, you can ski between a network of backcountry mountain huts.
Heli Skiing/CAT Skiing - The High Andes of South America offer remote, big mountain ski opportunities. Heliski operators based out of Santiago and Bariloche can provide the logistics to support your trip upon request. Baguales Mountain Reserve in Nahuel Huapi National Park has 25,000 acres of CAT skiing terrain which can be explored from a luxury lodge hidden in the mountains.
Ski trips in Patagonia can be tailored to your needs and desires. To combine a number of volcanos it is best to allow 2 weeks. Shorter trips lasting just 1 week can be arranged if you prefer to base yourself from a resort.
If you plan to ski tour then previous experience is necessary. You should be comfortable skiing off-piste with AT or Telemark bindings and fixing your own skins. Trips can vary to incorporate simpler climbs if you are relatively new to the discipline. If you plan to base yourself from a resort then most have international ski schools which provide English-speaking instructors.
For any ski touring or off-piste ski trips it is highly recommended that your provide your own equipment. If you plan to ski inbounds then equipment can be rented from the resort however ski rental shops in South America lack diversity and their equipment can be dated.
Randonnee -There are a range of good boots on the market. Generally, the lighter boots are more comfortable for walking, while the heavier boots are not quite so comfortable but provide better skiing control. Garmont, Dynafit, Lowa and Scarpa seem to be the most popular brands these days. Most, if not all, of these companies have models specifically designed to fit women.
Telemark - Scarpa, Crispi, Garmont are all excellent. If you use telemark gear be sure your boot crampons can be fitted to your boots.
Many people like to combine their Patagonian ski experience with a wine tour in the vineyards south of Santiago or in Mendoza. As you will likely be flying in and out of either Santiago or Buenos Aires, you can extend your trip in these cities with guided walking tours. In the Chilean Lake District, you can choose to relax in one of the health retreats or spas situated around the volcanic hot springs. And further south in Los Glaciares or Torres del Paine National Parks, there are winter hiking trips for you to join.
More about Patagonia in Winter
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