Valle Nevado second to open in Southern Hemisphere!

snow action team 25.05.2017

Valle Nevado update – they are opening a month early after huge dumps already – skiing starts this Friday May 26, 2nd in Southern Hemisphere for 2017 winter after the neighbours at El Colorado who fired up last weekend. Looks like South America is setting up for a huge season – same El Niño magic as hit Jackson Hole and California etc perhaps? We’ll see.

Valle Nevado looking great already for 2017! © Valle Nevado

Santiago, Chile — May 24, 2017 — Due to heavy snowfall that has blanketed the central Chilean Andes during the past two weeks, Valle Nevado announces the resort will open one month early, this Saturday, May 27, to day skiers and snowboarders. Access will be available to most of the resort’s slopes and lifts, as well as restaurants, rentals, and retail shops, with the full hotel complex opening formally on June 23.

Valle Nevado has accumulated more than 3 feet of fresh snow, and is expecting more snow throughout this week and next.

This is the story from our last trip there – it’s so easy to get to know from Australia with Qantas or LATAM. And if you already have your Mountain Collective pass you get 2 days skiing then 50% off exgtra days!

Line envy is a terrible affliction. Looking out from the balcony of our Valle Nevado hotel room I was seriously jealous of these sick tracks, made all the worse as I could see an apparently ‘easy’ traverse line into them from the resort’s furthest poma. While the way in looked feasible enough, the get out would have meant a long skin &/or hike back to a lift though, unless you had some heli help, and we ran out of time and favourable snow conditions to attempt it. But at least we tracked down the perpetrators, the crew from DPS Skis who had been through the week before filming Sanctuary for their ‘The Shadow Campaign’ series.

Nice lines left by the DPSskis crew © Carmen Price

Nice lines left by the DPSskis crew © Carmen Price

Turns out the head honcho of Valle Nevado’s heliski operation, Claudio Iglesias, is also the Chilean distributor for DPS skis, so he gave us the local’s lowdown and some nice demo boards. With heli help the terrain is virtually unlimited – just a couple of ridgelines or 15 minutes fly time away from the resort helipad they can access descents of over 2000m vertical which stacks up well with heli most places. No luck there for us though, he was booked out for a Red Bull event, so we had to settle for resort accessed in-bounds and side-country.
Which is no bad thing at the biggest of Chile’s Three Valleys resorts. Collectively they offer by far the biggest interlinked ski terrain option in the Southern Hemisphere, and individually Valle Nevado has plenty. Normally you start to get an appreciation of just how much is on offer on the long and winding road up from the booming metropolis of Santiago, home to 6 million or so inhabitants. Car sickness sufferers beware, you’ve go a vertigo-inducing 63 hairpin bends to get past on the ascent from the city’s 700m altitude to Valle Nevado’s ridgeline hotel complex at 3000m. It’s one of the world’s classic access roads, with probably the highest background peaks of any access road on the planet, their glaciers shimmering in the distance. But we hit zero visibility half way up, continuing on in a ghostly nether world glad our shuttle driver had done this road hundreds of time before, and hopeful no idiot who hadn’t would take us out. A one way system operates on weekends and holidays, up in the morning and down in the afternoon.
It was still socked in on arrival, so I went on a recce mission to check out the heli options, met Claudio, sorted some skis (DPS Cassiar 95s, ideal for the groomed plus bit of powder from a couple of days before conditions), and then, with the cloud finally breaking up a bit, dragged him out to check what Valle Nevado had to offer. We even found a spot that got Claudio excited enough to mount up the latest additions to his stable of demo boards, the 138mm underfoot 2015/16 DPS Spoons, delivered by the film crew just the week before.

Olof Larsson, sunset session (Valle Nevado sunsets are awesome!) © Dan Pizza dpsskis.com

Olof Larsson, sunset session (Valle Nevado sunsets are awesome!) © Dan Pizza dpsskis.com

Getting a good local to show you round works anywhere, and after Claudio went off to look after the Red Bull event I hooked up with Aussie snowboard instructor Ash Muller.
One of the original generation of boarders, helping set up Hotham Board Riders back in the day, he now splits his winters between Beaver Creek and Valle Nevado, where he has clocked up 9 seasons already. After a couple of cervezas Ash and I starting joining the dots, we had a lot of mates in common from those early days 25 or so years ago when both Aussie boarding and the pioneer boarders were young. What were, still are!
Social media being the beast it is, he had being getting a barrage of #snowmaggedon stuff from home.
“Mates back in Hotham keep telling me how good the season is in Oz. And sure, it’s not the best of my 9 seasons here, but do I look worried?” he said, with a gaze taking in the high peaks panorama around us. No, why worry, this is another incredibly spectacular high Andes location, a bit reminiscent of high altitude European areas but wilder, without the been-settled-for-centuries look in the valleys you get there. Discounting glimpses of Santiago’s skyline it’s just barren and wild in all directions with a magnificent deep canyon below the hotels.
2014 was a stop start season in most of South America, well below average most places for total snowfall – which is a healthy 7m/23’ here. But since Valle Nevado generally has the best local conditions, being higher and tucked further into the Andes than it’s Three Valleys neighbours, they had 100% coverage for the second week in September. Without too much effort we found some nice fresh lines, mixed up with the long fast groomers which the area has an abundance of.
Valle Nevado also boasts Chile’s only express quad, a gondola, and several other chairs on the main slopes in front of the hotels, plus some far flung pomas and t-bars accessing the further reaches. Strategic new lift placements have added another 330ha of terrain recently, cementing its postion as Chile’s largest single mountain area.
Valle Olimpico, a huge slab of terrain off neighbouring El Colorado’s prime south east aspect back side used to be a de facto part of Valle Nevado, and an empty powder zone when it snowed. Then El Colorado got smarter and put in some t-bars to take effective possession, carving out some long groomers and putting up fences to impede access at the top. But it’s still easy enough to drop in there from the Andes Express and hook back to the bottom Valle Nevado lift.
With the weekly hotel packages you get a bonus day pass for both El Colorado and La Parva, so you can check them out properly at no extra cost.
Overall if you come to cruise you will be more than happy, come to roam and you will be even happier, come with a cash stash to hit up Claudio for heliski – 2 runs for groups of 4 from $USD 971 each – and you’ll be happiest of all.

The Resident Aussie (does anyhwere in the ski world not have at least one?) Ash ‘The Slash’ Dwyer, homesick not © Owain Price

The Resident Aussie (does anyhwere in the ski world not have at least one?) Ash ‘The Slash’ Muller, homesick not © Owain Price

The normal winter pattern is a dump followed by a lot of sunny days, which usually end with those spectacular sunsets featured on our cover and the opening spread. You can often watch the Santiago smog cloud creeping up the valley toward Farellones and El Colorado as the day wears on, but not usually reaching as far as Valle Nevado’s perch on the ridge.
The original French investors in the 1980’s put in the Les Arcs look-a-like hotel complex, but under local owners now the resort is fulfilling it’s potential to become a true alpine village. A new day visitor base and gondola went in 3 years ago, and new condo blocks pop up every summer as part of the master plan to have 19 condomium developments by 2022. Some of these have direct slope access, for the others there’s an open shuttle truck pick up that does a circuit.
For most short term guests the hotel packages remain the best deal and most convenient option. The restaurants and bars are all concentrated here, and the few shops. The Pub at the Tres Puntas hotel kicks on till late in the usual latino fashion, just remember those rules for altitude and alcohol. Hydrate. Acclimatise ..
They have hosted World Cup half pipe snowboard events several times, and the terrain park is well maintained with intermediate and advanced lines.
But with so much natural terrain on offer you might as well go exploring and see if you can’t lay down some tracks for others to envy. µ

the ticket [ valle nevado ]
getting to Valle Nevado is easy – it’s just 60km east of Santiago, about 80 – 90 mins from the airport /downtown in good conditions.
cost The 3 hotels offer 3-4-5 star packages, for Friday – Friday ski weeks in peak season, plus 3 & 4 night mini weeks shoulder season Friday – Tuesday & Tuesday – Friday, or any number of nights low season with breakfasts, dinners, and lift passes – including one day bonus passes to El Colorado & La Parva on weekly packages.
resort www.vallenevado.com
packages ex-australia www.travelplan.com.au
heliski info/bookings heliski@vallenevado.com
fight deals www.latam.com

© Owain Price

© Owain Price