Although Colorado ski mountains may stay open into late spring or early summer, depending on snowpack, summer is definitely not ski season. But on the other side of the equator in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s winter and very much ski season.
What if you wanted to take a few runs during the dog days of summer? Head south to Chile where our summer is their winter.
A few weeks ago, my son and I did just that. Santiago is a long way south, 12 hours of flying time from Denver. We flew Delta through Atlanta, but one could fly United through Houston or American via Miami.
Santiago is a beautiful city with big mountains in view, closer than in Denver. While we could have rented a car to drive up to the mountain, we went with a tour company that picked us up at our hotel and brought us to their central office. There you can rent ski clothes for the day, but we brought our own.
Everyone then loads into a van for about a 90 min drive to Valle Nevado, the Vail of Chile. The winding road and hairpin turns could lead to car sickness. From light rain in Santiago, we transitioned to snow along the way, enough that all vehicles had to stop and put chains on their tires.
The resort is well above the tree line, a giant snow-covered rock. There were several hotels and condo complexes, meaning one could stay there for several days. For us it was just a day trip.
We rented ski equipment, a fast and efficient process. In hindsight, I wish we brought our own ski boots and rented ski clothes instead as rental boots don’t fit nearly as well as your own boots. High quality skis were available for rent.
A gondola took us to mid mountain, but the line was long as the gondola moved slowly, and this was the only way to get onto the mountain from the base lodge. Most of the upper mountain was closed as it was windy and snowy. We had access to a few poma lifts and chairlifts.
The mountain looks huge on the trail map but could probably easily fit into the footprint of Loveland. As there are no trees, trails are ill defined, usually by mountain rock and colored poles placed along the trails.
The chairlifts were all fixed grip and slow moving, not what we are used to in Colorado where few of these chairlifts remain. The scenery was breathtaking however and the slow chairlifts gave us time to admire the beauty of the mountains.
The snow was great as it had been snowing for days before our visit. But the flat light made skiing challenging as I for one become much more tentative when I can’t clearly see what’s ahead.
Lunch on the mountain surprisingly cost as much as lunch at Vail, but the burgers were delicious. At three o’clock we returned our equipment and hopped on the van for our ride back to Santiago. We had dinner then headed to the airport for a red-eye flight back to Atlanta and then Denver.
Chile is a long way to go to take a few ski runs, but there is something special about skiing in summer! And it’s a bit closer than New Zealand, another option for summer skiing. If you are missing the slopes, consider a quick long weekend trip to Chile!