I'm thinking about taking a ski trip to Portillo, Chile in June of 2007. Everything I read about Portillo makes it seem pretty difficult. I would say that I am a pretty good Midwest skier (from Wisconsin), but have skiied in Colorado (Aspen, Keystone, Copper, Vail, Brekenridge, and Steamboat) as well as Jackson Hole,
WY. I found Jackson Hole to be pretty difficult and challenging. I can't say that I really enjoyed myself.
So, the question is, does anyone know enough about Portillo to be able to compare it to where I've skiied in the states. I don't want to spend a lot of money to travel somewhere that I may end up regretting. Plus, my travel companion does not ski. So it could end up being a long, boring trip for her.
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Portillo reality check here.
I have skied it. What you need to understand about Portillo, and most Chilean Ski resorts, is the Chilean ego factor.
Portillo is one of the better ones, but nothing to like what you will find in the states or europe. Yes, you can get yourself into trouble going off pista, but that is even hard to do.
Here is the problem, do to the limited ski culture in chile and the "new rich attidues" of many of the people that have recently discovered credit cards to learn to ski, ski resorts tend to build to meet the demand.
Most ski resorts on the weekend are filled with people whereing $1,000+ ski suits, that are not sure how to attach their boots to the bindings. The danger is when after lunch, and several drinks, they get up the courage to ski. Then you will have guys flying down the mountain behind you, and hear the ski's chattering on the snow because they are out of control.
The demand is for guys who have never skied before to instantly feel like world class skiers and tell their buddies that they did a black dimond last weekend. So, what would be a green hill in many places in the world will suddendly have black dimond signs all over it. There are very very few people who are second generation skiers, which means there are very few truly expert (skied all my life) types.
I once skied a double blank dimond in Chile (diffrent ski resort), with my brother, and we held a conversation about where we were going to have lunch and took off our jackets while skiing down it because it was a hot day.
I never found any runs officialy marked at Portillo, that would make me break a swet (even with bad light), and I would consider myself a intermediate level skier. All the runs in Chile will be suprisingly short by international standards do to the lack of investment in lifts and such.
Ok, that said, the real magic to sking in chile is the lack of people that ski (although it is changing fast). Even on the buisiest run, on the biggest day of the year, you will not likly wait more than 15-20 min at a resort 15 min from santaigo. If you ski durring the week, you can have entire mountains to yourself. So, you get about 10 times the ski season in, all for about $30-50 for a day of skiing.
Second, if you can go off pista, there is unlimited possiblities. You can even get choppers to airlift you to the top of a virgin mountain pritty cheap. Powder is normaly easy to find. There is also the diverisity of ski centers. So, you can ski in most the central to the south of the country at a dozen diffrent places. There is a list of centers on my site. -snip-
So, chile is really about the volume of sking, unless you can get off the tracked runs; then it is about the quality.
If you have any questions please feel free to send them through,
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I've never skied Portillo so I'm not a qualified expert on the skiing there, but I would think you'd be fine if you're at least an intermediate skier.
What I can tell you is that unlike Vail, Breck, Steamboat or Jackson, there really is no town in Portillo, so I'm not really sure that your friend will have the best time. I've only driven by, so again I could be wrong, but from what I understand Portillo (the resort) consists of one lodge and that's about it.
You might want to consider making it less of a "ski trip", base yourself out of Mendoza, Argentina, enjoy the wine country and get a couple of ski days in as well.
Also think about Las Lenas, or even Bariloche to the South. Again, I was there in the summertime, but I would imagine your friend would really enjoy Bariloche as it is a real town/city and is a lot of fun.
If you want a endless things to do try southern chile. From Pucon and the surrounding area you can ski three volcanoes (active). There also hot springs, towns with real nightlife, the coast and lago budi is about an hour and half away. This is the short list of things to do in the araucania region IX of Chile. It will be much better than Portillo.
much more, including photos: http://www.allsouthernchile.com
I'm not sure if you are still thinking about the Portillo trip or checking here. But I have been several times. The thing about skiing in Portillo is that there is plenty of challenge and plenty of terrain but the groomed on the map trails are not that numerous. I think if you can ski the intermediate and expert trails at the mountains you have listed you will enjoy Portillo. However, the key to really loving it and thinking there is a lot to ski -- is enjoying skiing off the groomed trails. There are no trees so basically everything is skiable. The trails are defined by the grooming. There are endless options off-piste (just means ungroomed we aren't talking backcountry or anything --just ventering a little to the side). If you only like groomers and go -- take lessons and learn to ski more terrain.
It is true there is only one hotel so your non-skiing companion will not spend the day shopping in a town. But, the hotel and the social life in the hotel are a very special part of Portillo. The pool is great and on a sunny day you see people sitting in lounge chairs sunbathing (on a cloudy day hanging in the hot tub). There is a lot of night life and other activities. The meals are excellent. I think a non-skier could have a good time -- but not one who's only means of enteraining themselves is shopping. But if they like to workout, swim, socialize, play games, read, watch movies, eat....