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Skiing: Come summer, South America beckons

March 18, 2013|By Brian E. Clark
  • Skiers and snowboarders with wanderlust may want to head to the mountains of Chile and Argentina.
Skiers and snowboarders with wanderlust may want to head to the mountains… (Valle Nevado Resort )

With April right around the corner, the ski season will soon be winding down in the West.  Which means most schussers and shredders will be packing away their gear and turning to other sports such as cycling or surfing –- maybe even golf.

But come July, in the middle of the North American summer, snow will be falling on the dozen-plus ski and snowboard resorts in the Andes of South America, which range from the huge Las Lenas in Argentina to the more boutiquey Portillo resort near Santiago, Chile.  Some of them rival the best ski areas in the United States, with vertical descents of up to 4,000 feet.  

Which means skiers and snowboarders with wanderlust – and perhaps a desire to learn the tango – may want keep their skis and snowboards waxed for a trip to the Southern Hemisphere.  

Terry Berg, an expert skier from Aliso Viejo, skied at Las Lenas a few years back and described it as "similar to Jackson Hole or Snowbird on steroids with incredible high-alpine terrain."

“The mountain is big and there’s a lot of steep shots, back-country possibilities and and long groomers for intermediates too. It’s a real all-around mountain with a small village at the base.”

Berg skied with Dan Griffith, who runs Endless Turns Ski & Adventure Travel and has been trekking to Latin America for nearly two decades. (In the winter, he’s based in Utah.) Griffith, who is fluent in Spanish, has been guiding ski trips to the Andes for a dozen years.

Besides Las Lenas and Portillo, Griffith said other favorite Andean resorts include Bariloche in Argentina, which is similar to Lake Tahoe’s Kirkwood and Squaw Valley; Cerro Castor, near Ushuaia on the southern tip of South America, which reminds him of Tahoe's Sugarbowl; and the three contiguous resorts above Santiago: Valle Nevado, La Parva and El Colorado.

In-country rates for Endless Turns ski and snowboard safaris start at $1,150 for a three-star hotel in Bariloche. They include a six-day ski pass, breakfasts and round-trip airfare from Buenos Aires. Airfare from the United States is not included.

Info: Endless Turns or call (800) 328-4993.     

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