All Photos Courtesy of Frank Shine/Blizzard Skis
Either you’ve already been, or it’s still on your dream list- Portillo. It’s Chile’s premier ski resort. After digging out from yet another recent multi-foot storm, those lucky enough to be skiing and riding there this season are reporting the best conditions in recent memory. The resort opened on June 18th thanks in large part to a massive 10-foot storm, and the base has been growing steadily ever since. Right now it’s game on and a perfect time to pull the trigger on a quick trip south to remember just how much you miss and love winter.
Making a trip to Portillo happen isn’t as hard as some might think. The first thing you need to nail is your plane ticket. I found one for under $900 for my upcoming visit in August. That’s a pretty sweet deal unless you can make something work with frequent flyer miles, which many people are able to do with Delta, United, American, and even LAN. Then it’s a quick 2 hour transfer from the airport and you are there.
If you’re looking to visit Portillo on the cheap the Inca and Octagon lodging options are the ones to check out. Portillo is set by the week, so your package (ranging from 1-2k) will include lift passes, lodging, and food. I understand that can be a turn off for some, but you’ll understand why they do it that way as soon as you arrive. From meals to cocktail hour, late night parties and yoga, the resort is constantly alive. The sense of community you develop because of the Portillo weekly system makes the overall ski experience that much better. Regardless, don’t let cost be a barrier to a visit. You can make it happen and by week’s end your cost will be at the back of your mind after so many good ski days and meeting new friends. If cost isn’t a barrier Hotel Portillo is where it’s at. Private Chalet’s are an option many enjoy, but the famous yellow hotel is a must to stay in at least once.
A summer ski session in South America is something every skier and rider should make happen at some point. Chile and Argentina both boast incredible opportunities to enjoy the best of the Southern Hemisphere, but Portillo is different. There’s ski terrain for everyone, from a piste that often gets groomed more than once a day, to the technical Garganta and Garganita Chutes. There’s 2,500 vertical feet of skiing accessible via Portillo’s lift system, and the ski touring potential is huge. On any given powder day you can expect to see smiles on everyone who took the slingshot Roca-Jack and Condor lifts for a ride. If you’re lucky and have the necessary skill set, maybe you’ll even get to ride the infamous Super C Couloir.
In the end, there’s a difference when you choose Portillo. It’s really like nowhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. On my first trip years ago I was simply chasing the legend of the Super C. What I found was a resort that feels more like a home away from home the more you stay there. Whether you find yourself checking out the historical graffiti in the “Race Room”, jumping in a heli to explore lesser traveled terrain, or signing up for a Superstar Camp with Chris Davenport, Portillo is a must for those looking for an unparalleled South American ski experience. I couldn’t be more fired up to heading back during “Friends Week” in August. Hopefully the snow is good, but with the base that’s currently available, and the length the staff goes to show guests the best time of their life, I know I’m locked in for a good one.