Ditch the Bikini and Strap on Some Skis: El Nino = Record South American Summer Snowfall!

Laura Begley Bloom
June 9, 2014

I don’t know about you, but when the humidity-soaked, 90-degree dog days of summer hit, I will be yearning for a polar vortex — or some other kind of arctic phenomenon. And I’m sorry, but an ice bar just won’t do the trick.

So we’re in luck that El Niño is up to no good in South America this season, bringing epic snowfall to Chile’s ski areas. In fact, the accumulations have already started — with some places reporting nearly 20 inches — prompting ski resorts to consider opening early. (Ski season starts in a few weeks.) Time to get your parka out of summer storage. Here are three spots in Chile, when you want to escape the heat: 

Skiing and snowboarding in the Valle Nevado. (Photo: Emilio/Flickr)

Valle Nevado

The southern hemisphere’s largest ski resort, spread across 23,000 acres just 35 miles from the Santiago airport, has the best powder in Chile. (And usually the most snow in the country, as it is located at elevations ranging from 9,843 to 17,815 feet.) Last year the Valle Nevado hosted the World Cup of Snowboard. Rates in June start at $172 a night at the affordable Hotel Tres Puntas. Want to get away from the rest of the pack? You can go heli-boarding and heli-skiing to virgin off-piste peaks.

The lake of Portillo. (Photo: M. Fernanda Barrera/Flickr Creative Commons)


Two hours away from Santiago, Portillo is South America’s oldest ski area, set at the edge of an atmospheric lake in the Andes. This is where the U.S. ski team practices in our summer. And for non skiers, there’s yoga, a spa, snowshoeing, and more. The bright yellow Portillo Hotel is perfect for families, but we love the little snowbound chalets for rent. Rates here are a far cry from ski resorts in the rest of the globe: seven-night packages start at $990 per person, including room, four meals per day, and lift tickets — when you divide it down, that’s just $141 a night. You sure won’t find that in Aspen.

Ski Arpa. (Photo: Eric Morton/Flickr Creative Commons)

Ski Arpa

This is the option for the hyper-adventurous skier and snowboarder, a remote, high-altitude spot only accessible by snow cat. Accommodations at Ski Arpa are bare-bones, in three stone bunkers built into the mountainside. But you don’t come here to stay in your room: this is about getting out onto untrammeled powder, with no crowds around, and soaring down 3,280-feet descents.