Argentina ski season start July 1, getting slammed meantime

UPDATE 12 JULY: Massive dumps, 90cm outside our South America office, drifts over a metre in the carparks – they have asked people not to come up to play in it while they clear it .. and hopes are revived that maybe, just maybe, they will open the lifts. If and when that happens will make for the least crowded best times ever the way the snow is now!

UPDATE 07 JULY: After a few people went out to enjoy the amazing snow falls (best this time of years since 2005) over the weekend Bariloche’s mayor Gustavo Gennuso postponed the projected limited opening of Cerro Catedral for skiing from July 15 into the ether.

UPDATE: While the ski areas have been ready with their protocols in place to operate, the decisions at government level – especially federal government level – continue to delay actual openings. The federal government has extended the general quarantine to 28 July, and in the worst affected Buenos Aires City and Province areas there is talk of tightening movement restrictions again.

The Argentina ski season start has been set for July 1 at the country’s, and South America’s #1 resort Cerro Catedral – subject to COVID-19 restrictions and snow conditions.

Those are looking as good as anywhere down south now after a series of big dumps with more forecast early this week.

Sunrise over Lake Nahual Huapi and Cerro Catedral
Solstice Sunrise over Lake Nahual Huapi and Cerro Catedral © Rodrigo López Dávalos

Our local spy has been taking advantage, skinning up 1000 vertical metres from the Cerro Catedral village with his faithful canine friend for company to nail some lonely lines.

Cerro Catedral sits half an hour or so drive outside Bariloche down on the lake below. There’s a big local ski population, and it has been getting slammed with snow so our local spies have be itching to get back into it.

If and when lifts there do start the Argentina ski season they will likely have it to themselves: all flights have been shut down within Argentina until September, and international flights indefinitely. The normal massive influx of winter tourists from Brazil (they call it “Braziloche”) won’t be happening this year – Brazil’s disastrous COVID-19 response ensures that.

Only competition for tracks from the 4 legged friend © Rodrigo López Dávalos

Argentina has had a long-lasting quarantine, and the measures have had some success. The case and mortality rates there are much lower than neighbouring Chile (whose ski season is under threat as a result as we reported last week), at 22 deaths per million (vs 238 Brazil, 234 Chile) and largely confined to the greater Buenos Aires area, with very few cases in Rio Negro Province around Bariloche, or the other Andes mountain provinces. Argentina only rates #31 for total cases at the moment.

Las Leñas, the other major international Argentinian ski resort, announced they would not be opening at all this season a couple of months back. Given their totally isolated location and dependence on charter flights for much of their guest access they had little choice. To staff and supply for a winter with no idea whether it can go ahead is pretty impossible there.

Cerro Catedral on the other hand has the local population as a client base – many of whom buy the cheap local’s season pass – and a supply network with most staff resident there anyway so they can ramp up at short notice.

The tree skiing here is the best in the Southern Hemisphere when it’s on © Rodrigo López Dávalos

Latest word is that will be July 1st.

The amount of snow is already impressive – the Del Bosque double chairlift creekline is already buried, something that some years doesn’t happen till late July.

Regardless of whether the lifts open or not there is plenty of amazing back country skiing using the refugios like Refugio Frey and Jakob as bases to explore it – check our features on the links for more on those options.

The creek under the chairlift already buried © Rodrigo Lopez-Davalos

It’s pretty much the same latitudes and altitudes here as the top half of the South Island, with some of the forest – the beech trees – very familiar looking to anyone who skis NZ resorts and their approaches – especially the likes of Broken River.

But here they also have the large lenga trees and when it’s on some excellent tree skiing.

Not much chance of internationals getting over there this Argentina ski season but one to bookmark for when you can travel freely again.

If you do bring $USD cash in $50 and $100 bills – the “Blue” or street rate against the Argentinian Peso is double the official rate you will gate using a credit card, which has made it very cheap for tourists again – the best steak dinner you will ever have and a nice malbec for $USD 20 ..

Breaking trail; access tracks make the ascent easier © Rodrigo López Dávalos