A recent flight delay gave us one of those unexpected travel pleasures. With an 18 hour layover in hand and a bit of fast planning we set out to discover Chile’s most authentic ski getaway: The Andean marvel of Portillo.
We decided that Valle Nevado and other slopes just outside Santiago might be a bit too crowded for the day trip we wished to take and after having read about the allure and charm of Portillo we knew we had to get there.
Portillo sits close to the Chile/Argentina border and it is a very unique set of runs almost completely surrounded by massive peaks. It is honestly quite rare to find such clearings in the jagged Andes, but this place has a magic all of its own. At just a two hour drive from Santiago Airport we were able to make a day of it, arriving when the slopes opened at 9am and departing at 2pm in time to catch our evening flight out of Santiago.
Portillo is far less developed than most major ski resorts of its size. This is in part due to its remoteness and altitude, but also it is intentional. The ownership looks to preserve the skiing culture of yesteryear which is not so ‘resort’ focused and truly a getaway from the urban crowds and into the arms of nature.
We felt the sense of space and wonder almost instantly. The slopes and lifts had almost no wait. The one restaurant, hotel, rental shop and ticket office were just steps from each other and the runs and lifts are all spread over the same mountainside which ends at a scenic Alpine lake that is hard to forget.
As moderate skiiers we found the runs manageable and the views just breathtaking. The prices are competitive for both Chile and worldwide. The rental shop was stocked with excellent quality equipment and it was amazing to see foreign tourists from across the globe around and excited to be here yet it never felt overwhelming.
There is an abundant gift shop in case you forgot to pack anything and while some people think the same hotel and restaurant gets boring after 4 nights, the true powderhounds love the place because it feels authentic and challenging all the time.