Villa La Angostura is a tiny mountain village located a couple hours north west of Bariloche, in Argentina. Their local hill, Cerro Bayo, is a classic small-time ski area, offering great skiing with no crowds. Villa La Angostura is well worth a visit for anyone looking to ski in Patagonia.
On June 3 2011, the neighboring Puyehue volcano erupted, spewing ash across Argentina and Chile. Villa La Angostura is the closest town to Puyehue, and was therefore hit the hardest. The town was pelted with ash for 9 months. This completed ruined their tourism industry, costing Villa La Angostura $60 million USD. 150 hotels and 100 shops closed, and the hotels that remained open saw only 15% occupancy last winter. Unemployment in Villa La Angostura sits at 40%.
In March, ash finally stopped falling from the sky, and Villa La Angostura could begin the rebuilding process. Locals shoveled ash into trucks, which deposited it in an abandoned quarry nearby. Not only is Villa La Angostura now completely clean, but people are discovering that the ash may have some interesting environmental benefits. The ash has worked as a fertilizer for vegetation, fed local trout, and made beaches and lake shores sandier.
With winter just starting in the southern hemisphere, Villa La Angostura and Cerro Bayo are back, and in desperate need of your tourist dollars. Cerro Bayo offers great sidecountry, great views of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and zero crowds. For anyone looking for to escape the lift lines and expenses of Bariloche, Villa La Angostura is a perfect side trip. Small, local ski hills are the heart of the ski industry, and this one needs our help getting back on its feet.