Skiing in Argentina and Chile’s Andes is more rugged and wild compared to other parts of the world. There are resorts for every mood and skill, with party towns, smaller resorts where the fun is contained within hotels, remote outposts, plenty of backcountry action and the chance to ski on a volcano (and take a dip in thermal baths) in Patagonia. But always expect the unexpected here–resorts might not always run like clockwork, but the passion and spirit inherent in this part of the world is part of the fabric of the southern-hemisphere ski and board scene. The ski season here runs from roughly June to October, with the best conditions July through early September. And if our roundup of favorite places to ski and snowboard in Argentina and Chile make you want to hop to Latin America pronto, check out some of our tours here.
One of South America’s most renowned resorts, Portillo is a top notch resort and its steep slopes are primarily geared to advanced skiers (and few snowboarders—there are lots of rocks), with long runs and a decent amount of backcountry. It’s also a high altitude resort sitting around 10,800 ft (3,300m) so be prepared to feel the elevation and take precautions if you are susceptible to altitude sickness. There is no village here per se, all the action is contained within the largely ski-in ski out lodging options that offer dorm beds, midrange shared rooms at a lodge and the upmarket hotel, which is the center of it all. Nightlife is lively and tends to include a solid amount of camaraderie, as its all contained in the lodging options (mainly the hotel) and the main hotel offers a lovely outdoor heated pool. The resort also sits adjacent to the brilliant, indigo-colored Lake Portillo is 165km (roughly 100 miles) northeast of Santiago.
Cerro Catedral, Argentina
Named after the spiky granite that resemble the tips of cathedral spires, Cerro Catedral often shares spotlight with Portillo as one of the continent’s most famous and popular ski resorts. It’s a quick hop from Bariloche and offers some seriously steep vertical drops, pillow-soft wide spaces and atmospheric trails through the woods, plus a good dose of backcountry terrain. It’s one of the most popular resorts and gets extremely busy, but the exceptional views of the Lake Nahuel Huapi make up for the crowds. This is definitely the resort to come to if you want solid nightlife and cultural offerings, as Bariloche itself is a prime tourist destination in northern Patagonia, paired with excellent infrastructure and spectacular views. It’s a two hour flight from Buenos Aires, with frequent departures.
The Three Valleys: Valle Nevado, El Colorado & La Parva, Chile
These three well-linked resorts, collectively known as the Three Valleys, are located a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Santiago. They’re some of South America’s most famous resorts and known for their steep slopes, wide bowls and superior powder. There’s a microclimate in Valle Nevado, too, as the slopes are somewhat protected from the elements thanks to a row of south-facing slopes. All thee together offer abundant intermediate skiing, especially Valle Nevado, which also caters to an international and local crowd. La Parva offers more for advanced skiers and El Colorado is well-suited to beginners, the latter two are also less glitzy and tends to be the most local. Après ski options are limited in these resorts but post-slope partying is on your mind, Valle Nevado offers a few bars that often thump in the evenings.
Las Lenas, Argentina
Known for attracting extreme skiers yet it also offers plenty of beginner and intermediate slopes. This is one of the highest ski resorts though, so it’s a treeless area and with wide open runs. But its rough off piste terrain is the big attraction here, attracting adventure seekers. With few markers it’s also recommended to get a guide when venturing into the backcountry. It’s a pretty remote resort located about 400km southwest of Mendoza, and if full of dedicated, hard core snow sports enthusiasts. The resort village is decent and feels rather exclusive, with a good selection of restaurants and nightlife.
Nevado’s de Chillán, Chile
These slopes in the Southern Andes sit on an active volcano Chillán and offer a large variety of terrain and sweeping views of the area. The area also offers thermal baths heated by the volcano: after a day on the slopes you can also take a dip and relax those muscles while watching plumes of smoke come from the mountain. The area is outstanding for ski touring and embracing the Patagonian backcountry terrain (geared to advanced skiers and boarders). The resort is around 500km (300 miles) south of Santiago (there’s an airport at Chillán). There is not much of a village to speak of here, most entertainment options are in individual hotels, enjoying the mix of snow sports and hot springs. The primary draw is the off-piste for hard core skiers and powder hounds.
Cerro Caster Argentina
South America’s southernmost resort is a chance to ski at the “End of the World,” a popular phrase to describe the tip of the continent in southern Patagonia. It is adjacent to Ushuaia and offers views across the famous Beagle Channel peppered with islands and freighters going to and fro. It’s a medium-sized resort, not comparable to big hitters like Cerro Catedral yet attracts many professional skiers (who often train here) and boarders, and while weekends get more crowded you’ll have plenty of space to explore the wide slopes and tree lined trails. Its runs are equally balanced between ski levels offering something for everyone. The city of Ushuaia is a fair size with a large amount of vibrant entertainment and dining options, so it offers small city life next door to the slopes. Ushuaia is best reached via a three-hour flight from Buenos Aires.