South America’s Largest Terrain: An insider’s guide to skiing Valle Nevado

South America’s Largest Terrain: An insider’s guide to skiing Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado is South America’s foremost ski resort, offering access to the largest amount of terrain and the most modern lift system on the continent. The Chilean resort is just 90 minutes from the Santiago Airport and situated at 10,000 feet above sea level, high in the spectacular Andes Mountains—home to the second-highest peaks in the world. An interconnect ticket to neighboring resorts opens a staggering 7,000 total acres of varied terrain, and steep backcountry runs can be accessed by a slew of short hikes. Valle Nevado boasts South America’s best heli-skiing, as well, with 5,000-plus vertical feet per run. Due to the resort’s altitude and unique orientation, Valle Nevado consistently receives more snow than any other resort in the Central Valley. And the best part: With so few people on the mountain it’s not unusual for skiers to enjoy powder turns days after a storm.

CHILE, Valle Nevado Resort, Scott Dietel ripping fresh powder in the backcountry

Image courtesy of Valle Nevado

The resort is open from late June to late September, offering a chance to experience the fabled “endless winter” and to join ski pros and Olympic teams as they too head south each and every season. Just this past year, FREESKIER staffers followed Poor Boyz Productions to “Valle” and were welcomed by seven feet of fresh snow from recent storms and bluebird skies.

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Image courtesy of Valle Nevado

Valle Nevado resembles a small village, with three hotels, eight condominium buildings, shops, a spa and fitness center, outdoor pool, seven restaurants, bars, lounges and breathtaking views of the Andes from every direction. The area is known for its sunsets, when condors soar high above the alpine. Skiers will kick back with a pisco sour—the South American beverage of choice—or a glass of Chile’s famous wine after a long day on the mountain.

Lodging choices include the resort’s Hotel Valle Nevado, the deluxe option with ski-in/ski-out access; the Puerta del Sol, the resort’s mid-range hotel; and the budget Tres Puntas with basic doubles and bunk bed-style quads. Hotel rates include lodging, lift tickets, breakfast and dinner. Travelers can book a condo with a kitchen and outdoor balcony, if you’re looking for something more independent. Valle Nevado is a proud member of the Mountain Travel Collection, offering pass holders two free day tickets, or 15 percent off hotel packages.

How to do Valle Nevado

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1. The Tres Puntas Lift

From The Tres Puntas’ summit, you’ll enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Andes. “Where are all the skiers?” you’ll ask to yourself. A huge expanse consists of two expert runs, seemingly endless cruisers for intermediate skiers and untracked pow fields. But the real goods are outside the ski area boundary at skier’s left—runs here are steep and long with rock outcroppings and wind lips abounding.

2. Eco-Copter Heli-Ski

Valle Nevado’s helicopter-accessed terrain is massive. Tens of thousands of acres are at your reach, from intermediate- advanced rolling terrain to lines that will make your knees tremble. With drop-offs at 14,000 feet above sea level, you can expect to ski nearly 5,000 vertical feet in one run. Book in advance, or book once you get to the resort, it’s that simple.

3. La Fourchette BBQ Buffet

On weekends, and when the sun is out—which is 80 percent of the time—the gourmet La Fourchette breaks out the BBQ for a buffet lunch on its outdoor patio, which boasts sweeping views of the ski resort and a laid-back vibe. So much so that most South American skiers tend to take a two-hour lunch.

4. The Interconnect Ticket

Anyone who books a seven-night stay at Valle Nevado receives two interconnect tickets to La Parva and El Colorado, which are accessed by chairs and connecting runs. This opens a total of 7,000 acres of terrain. Yes, you heard right—7,000 acres of skiable terrain. That makes the “Tres Valles” larger than Vail, and only smaller than Whistler Blackcomb and Park City Resort.

5. Après ski in the pool with cocktails and a DJ

The sunsets at Valle Nevado are stunning, beyond anything you’ve seen high in the mountains. Andean condors soar overhead and the skies melt into pinks, oranges and purples so vivid you’ll freak. The best way to enjoy the show is with a cold beer while soaking with your friends in the spacious, outdoor heated pool, with a DJ spinning music.

6. The Ancla Lift and The Inca Valley

If you really want to get deep in the heart of the Andes (and feel truly insignificant in the face of 17,000-foot peaks), ski over to the back bowl and the general area known as the Inca Valley. The Ancla Poma sits here by itself in the back of the resort, shuttling skiers up to 12,000 feet to ski what is—about 75-percent of the time—untracked terrain. For the steep stuff, take 30 minutes to climb the bowl’s ridge and drop into whichever couloir you please.

7. Sol 1 & Sol 2

Throughout the month of September, it’s common to catch World Cup and Olympic teams training on these two runs. Recent guests include the US women’s team, Norway, Canada and Russia, but each season brings new squads. Throughout the ski season, it’s possible to catch any number of international pro skiers at Valle Nevado, who come to film lines, shoot product for their sponsors or just soul shred.

Related: How To: Ski south of the Equator this year, because real skiers shred year-round

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