When considering which destination to choose for your next luxury ski trip, it is likely you will think of Europe, Canada and the USA as potentials, however, it is also worth considering South America. Ski resorts are becoming an increasingly popular choice in this vast continent, and with the increase in popularity comes much better facilities and options. The high altitude Andes mountain range runs through both Chile and Argentina, and each country has a few different options for snow seekers, particularly those wanting the thrill of off-piste, back-country and heli-skiing. Here are our top 5 resorts and accommodation options;
High in the Andes, and located very close to the Argentina-Chile border, Portillo is one of the best-known ski locations in Latin America. Less a town and more like an exclusive resort, there is only one place to stay whilst here – the bright yellow, and unmistakable, Ski Portillo Resort. Close to the peak of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the southern hemisphere, there is no denying that there are some fantastic slopes in this region.
This exclusive hotel offers everything guests could want and provides a wonderful place to relax after a day at the slopes. Portillo is at a high altitude and boasts over 25ft of snowfall annually. It has many different runs for all levels of ski or snowboard enthusiast and there is also the option to heli-ski some of the less accessible areas.
Recommended accommodation: Ski Portillo Resort
2. Cerro Catedral
The bustling city of Bariloche is a world-class destination year-round for any travellers looking for outdoor adventure. In the summer, due to its fabulous location in the centre of the Argentine lake district, it attracts people with its outstanding hiking, kayaking, horse riding and rock climbing. The long and warm summer days make this an ideal active holiday location. In the winter, little changes, as the ski season begins and a new wave of tourists flock to its slopes. Just 20km outside of the town centre, is an area known as Cerro Catedral – the name is given due to the spiky mountain tops that can be seen here.
This is the main ski resort in Bariloche, and the whole of Argentina. From July onwards it offers an incredible 37 lifts and a wide variety of runs, alongside some fantastic off-piste opportunities. As an added bonus, Bariloche has one of the best nightlife and apres-ski scenes in the whole of Latin America. The town is filled with cosy pubs selling locally crafted beers, there are chocolate shops on every corner, and the restaurants serve delicious hearty meals such as traditional lamb stew and, of course, excellent steak.
Recommended accommodation: Hotel Edelwiess
3. Nevados de Chillan
This large and popular resort has some of the highest snowfall in Chile, making it perfect for a variety of runs for both skiing and snowboarding. It has the longest run in the whole of South America, named ‘Tres Marias’, it is over 13km in length. This resort has a reasonable number of bars, shops and restaurants, but not the party-centric feel of Bariloche, making it perfect for families.
Many of the resorts here only offer an all-inclusive package, and there are plenty of areas that are excellent for children or learners. For those still seeking some thrills, the area is also great for off-piste adventures and backcountry exploration.
Recommended accommodation: Gran Termas Hotel
If you are looking for something which is more of an experience than your average slope, Pucon in Chile has the perfect ski destination. The small town is overshadowed by the impressive (and active) Villarica Volcano – which is almost constantly capped in snow, even in the summer. During the winter season, it is possible to enjoy the 17 different runs that spread across the side of the volcano.
The only downside is that there are few lifts that are actually in working order during the snowy months, meaning that a lot of walking and hiking is needed to get to the best patches of snow. However, the rewards are great – if you hike all the way to the top it is likely you will see the red glow of the lava inside the cone of the volcano, and when you reach the bottom, you have the charming town of Pucon ready to welcome you back. With a selection of German influenced bars and restaurants, plus some fantastic shops and a laid-back vibe, this is the ideal post-ski town.
Recommended accommodation: Hotel Vira Vira
5. Cerro Castor
The longest ski season on the continent belongs to Cerro Castor – a ski resort in the far south of Argentina, close to the ‘city at the end of the world’, Ushuaia. From June through to October this remote location enjoys good snow coverage and some world class off-piste options. With a total of 26 different runs, there is plenty to keep both skiers and snowboarders amused for a few days.
Most people lodge in small homestays nearby, but there is a wealth of luxurious accommodation in Ushuaia. This small and slightly run-down town holds a certain ‘frontier’ charm about it, and has some fantastic restaurants serving local delicacies such as king crab and lamb.
Recommended accommodation: Arakur
Simon Williams is Director ofBespoke Latin America.
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