Ski Cheap In Argentina Thanks To Economic Disaster

The Southern Hemisphere’s, and some of the World’s, cheapest ski passes to major resorts are on offer right now in Argentina, thanks to their ongoing economic disaster.

As the country holds Presidential Primary elections today the peso has been crashing.

Why not, when the leading government Presidential candidate and current Economic “Super Minister” in charge for over a year has managed to double their already out of control inflation rate to 120% or more per annum in just 12 months at the helm? The main policy of simply printing pesos has not exactly worked, but it’s the tried and trusted pre-election method so expect more.

Las Leñas offers alpine terrain to rival anywhere in the World, all for $USD 26 a day pass! © Owain Price

As the peso crashes yet again, going from around 490 to over 600 to the $USD in the past 3 weeks, it’s an ongoing nightmare for Argentinians. Yet the candidate in question is promising he has the answers .. No, seriously. After 4 years government (& 16 of the last 20) they claim to have solutions. Good luck with that, the peso was 60 to the greeenback when they took over.

But in the meantime for foreigners with dollars in their pockets the lift passes in Argentina just keep getting cheaper and cheaper.

Like Las Leñas, which offers alpine terrain to rival anywhere in the World over a 1200m plus vertical drop. The lift pass is just ARS 15800 – 17400 according to season, which now is down to just USD 26, or around AUD 40 low season to $29 high season.

At one of our all time favourite smaller areas, La Hoya outside Esquel in Patagonia 300km south of Bariloche, you can access a respectable 645m vertical including off piste lines over 50°, for a crazy ARS 10,400 – 13,100 according to season – or just USD 17 / AUD 25 a day pass in regular season (now). It’s a great place to learn and progress, or tackle the bowl lines from around the rim.

La Hoya in Patagonia offers 645m from easy to 50 degreee steeps for a crazy $USD 17 a day! © Owain Price

Even the largest, most popular, and most expensive ski area in Argentina, Cerro Catedral outside Bariloche, is charging ARS 29,000 a day, all season. That’s USD 48, or around AUD 74, a third of what you pay in Australia and half the larger NZ area rates.

For that this year you get a new 6 seat express lift out of the base (the resort’s 2nd 6 seater) which links to 2 new quad chairs above it, and a new run with snowmaking back to the base so unlike the off-on top-to-bottom skiing previously now they should be able to keep it open over the full 1130m vertical to the base. The major investment there despite the adverse economic conditions really puts the lack of investment in Australian resorts into perspective.

Argentina’s largest ski area, Cerro Catedral, is USD 48 a day pass, with a new 6 seat & new quad chairs this season © Owain Price

The same equation applies to accommodation deals, dining out and travel generally. But not surprisingly with the economic situation crime is on the increase and you need to be careful in major cities.

All the rates quoted above are for the “blue” (ie black market unofficial rate – which is available everywhere, just beware scams); using a foreign credit card you get close to that rate via a weird credit back system, so it will appear on your card statement as 2 transactions.

Otherwise at one of the many “official” exchange rates you can double those prices. Best to take USD cash in $50 & $100 denominations. Most restaurants and shops in tourist areas will openly display their dollar rates so you can pay in cash and get change in pesos for small items.

The season has been pretty reasonable so far – better certainly then in either Australia or NZ, while not up to last season’s La Niña inspired exceptional season – last July I got to ski tree runs that had never been skiable in the previous 20 seasons at Cerro Catedral for example.

Never mind being cheap, the tree skiing and riding is reason enough to go anyway – check more on that here.

If, as seems likely, the government changes, chances are they will move to remove the exchange controls which should lead to less of a difference and a more expensive, albeit still likely good value, situation next year as the economy (hopefully) stabilises.

Over the decades we have seen it go from super cheap to super expensive and anything in between. For example, at La Hoya in 2002 we got $USD 5 lift passes, & $8 steak dinners.

Pow day at Las Leñas © Owain Price