Just because most of the world’s ski resorts are found in the Northern Hemisphere doesn’t mean that ski season can only happen November till April. The largest ski resort in Argentina also happens to be one of the most scenic places in the world to ski and in our experience it has something for every skill level.
San Carlos de Bariloche or simply “Bariloche” is the name of an Alpine lakeside town around which all the slopes of this piece of Argentinian Patagonia converge. It has pine forests, vast expanses of lakefront and snow capped peaks in almost every direction. It has a major Swiss influence which is reflected in the alpine architecture, with many buildings featuring stone and wood. The “Little Switzerland” extends to an abundance of chocolate shops too!
Around 20km from the center of town is the main access point for most skiiers. Cerro Catedral is the popular spot for apres-ski indulgence and it offers over 3,000 acres of skiiable terrain. There are restaurants, hotels, plenty of rental shops, ski schools and several lift stations as well as gear and clothing stores. As far as ski resorts go it is quite developed. We did have trouble using our ATM card which was really only necessary because taxi rides to and from require cash, so do plan on bringing cash.
Bariloche/Cerro Catedral isn’t just a high altitude spot with great powder. It has commanding views of Lake Nahuel Huapi, a jewel at the foothills of the Andes. We had some wonderfully clear days on which the entire ski down the lake and greater state of Rio Negro was visible. There are restaurants at the bottom of the slopes, along the hills and at the very top. Argentinian empanadas are simply to die for and hit the spot in the cold!
The beauty of Catedral is that it has a wide variety of runs, from easy to black diamond. There are hours of entertainment to be had and challenge, but there’s always a good sense that the landscape is manageable if one is clear about one’s ability level. The lift passes and rentals are very affordable compared to what this would cost elsewhere at a world class resort such as this.
We found Patagonia ski school to be an excellent place to take some classes. Whether one is a complete beginner or an experienced skiier looking to brush up on the finer points or somewhere in between the classes were affordable, worthwhile and insightful. Our instructor Francois, was extremely knowledgeable and didactic! Bariloche really has every type of slope and it is a stress free place to learn.
Bariloche has lots of restaurants and cafes to enjoy the famous Patagonian cuisine. It sees tourists come from all over the world, but especially Latin America. Many teens come to Bariloche in droves to celebrate the end of high school and our flight from Buenos Aires was full of their enthusiastic yet respectful energy which made the trip memorable for us as well.