I’m tempted to compare skiing in South America to skiing in Europe or skiing in North America 50 years ago. The wide open, steep slopes are reminiscent of the European Alps and the nut crunching poma lifts look like they’re straight out of 1950s Colorado. However, the reality is, South America is its own beast. I’m one hour outside of Santiago, Chile in the small town of Farellones which is surrounded by three ski areas; La Parva, El Colorado, and Valle Nevado. The conditions aren’t all that great right now. It’s a low snow year and there are definitely some rocks poking through. Imagine skiing in Tahoe after a few weeks without snow and you’ll have a good picture of the situation. I can’t complain though, every day is gorgeous and as my new Brazilian friend Antonio says “Every Day I wake up to a different painting”. Besides the skiing, the experience here is unparalleled. The people are so chill it’s unbelievable. There’s none of the bro/bra attitude that you find in a lot of US ski towns. This place is a mishmash of international ski/snowboard teams, ski bums and Chillenos from Santiago. I’m staying in a hostel with the Brazilian National Snowboarding team and they might be the coolest people I’ve met in my life. Hitch Hiking here is common, in fact its the only way to get to the mountain in the morning. You just put out your thumb or wave and within a few minutes you’re at the mountain. Its the same in the afternoon when youre heading back to town. Farellones is tiny. Its hard to compare it to any European or American Ski Town. Every night theres a breathtaking sunset and plenty of opportunities to party at one of the two bars.
Today I ventured into the backcountry and although there was no fresh snow, seeing the Andes from 14,000 feet was breathtaking. Literally breathtaking, I had to breathe 5 times for every step I took. I went up to a peak called “Parva Cerro” also known as “The Real La Parva”. There’s a number of 50 degree plus chutes and couloirs that you can hit from the top. The best part is, when you get to the bottom the lift at Valle Nevado is right there to take you back to La Parva. The snow was hard, but super safe from an avalanche perspective. It was definitely worth the three hour hike. Once you’re out there its easy to see enless multi-day touring opportunites.
If you’re state side and fiending for some skiing drop a grand on a plane ticket and get down here. Skiing in South America may be the coolest experience you’ll ever have.