Freeriding and Ski Touring Near Santiago, Chile: Our Guide

Andrew LyleMarch 18, 2019

Nestled in a valley at the foot of the Andes, Santiago is the premiere location for mountain sports in Chile. Within a couple hours drive from Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America and the southern hemisphere, the city is defined by the peaks on its horizon and beyond. In just an hour, you can be at some of the best ski resorts in the region.

Though the city rarely sees a significant amount of snowfall, having the snow-sure Andes in its backyard has made Santiago a one-stop shop for all of your skiing needs.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this ski-friendly city is its multi-discipline accommodations. For ski touring, freeriding, and even heliskiing, there are hectares and hectares of skiable terrain that were designed for each one. Lodging can be basic, from breakdown camps to lodges in the lap of luxury. Santiago truly knows no bounds when it comes to serving its ski community.

 

A satisfied group of Santiago skiers. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Mujica.

Many of the tallest mountains on the continent are located just to the east of the city. Views swing through valleys and along ridges, often sweeping across the sky with undisturbed clarity. It is a deep ski experience in a natural environment that, no matter how close to the city it is, seems worlds away from everyday worries.

The city of Santiago has become one of the most interesting and sought after cultural beacons in all of South America, so it’s easy to say the city can do great all by itself. This will always be a close second, however, to the bodacious runs and mouth-watering snow conditions that are waiting just up the hill from this capital city treasure trove of adventure.

Stop waiting and book the South American skiing adventure of a lifetime NOW and experience the magic of the Andes that surrounds Santiago, Chile!

3 Reasons To Go Ski Touring Around Santiago

Andes Access

 

Santiago is synonymous with the Andes surrounding it. Staying downtown, you can’t look to the sky without seeing the mountainous backdrop and feel compelled to drop what you’re doing and head for the hills. Few cities, especially ones with over six million people, provide such seamless and pain-free access to world-class snow and routes.

 

Big, beautiful terrain in Santiago’s backcountry. Photo courtesy of Marc Lazzaroni.

Thanks in part to its size, finding help and guidance in the city before, during, and after your program is a breeze. Coordinating transportation, including air travel to smaller areas and regions, can be done from airport and hotel pick up to program and back again. Many guides will provide or at least assist accommodations as soon as you arrive.

Big, Rugged Terrain

 

The towering volcanoes and mountains to the east of Santiago have one thing in common: they are all larger than life. This means that if you find yourself tussling with a glacier at Cajon del Maipo, it’s an epic challenge. If you are sliding out of bounds and about to take on the Portillo backcountry, it will be legendary. If you are sliding into a luxury lodge spa after a full day in fresh, uncharted snow, it will be life-changing reinvigoration.

The Andes are indomitable, so skiing on them requires the skill and know-how to appreciate them as they are. These narrow chutes, tree-lined runs, gentle-ish glades, and open bowls can never be groomed, but you can rest assured they will satisfy you more than many other high-profile locations across the globe. Freeriding around Santiago is big in every way.

Top-Notch Views

 

Mountain for mountain, the Chilean Central Andes have some of the best views in the world. The unique geographic of Chile and the charming location of its capital play into the beauty of the region. Mountains over 5,000 meters will take your breath away from their sights, sounds, and unforgettable snow pack.

 

Crowds do not exist in the best locations around Santiago. Photo courtesy of Marc Lazzaroni.

Much of the skiable terrain happens to be in or near natural reserves or parks, adding to the illustrious appeal of the landscape. When blanketed in snow, the Chilean environment is at its best. Charming, serene, and profound, the beautiful land surrounding Santiago will never let you forget one of the most magical parts of the city: its unrelenting wilderness.

Where To Go Skiing Near Santiago?

1| Cajon del Maipo

 

To the east-southeast of the city lies Cajon del Maipo, a canyon replete with streams, rivers, and some of the region’s tallest peaks. With views of Maipo, San Jose, and Marmolejo, it is a great place to strap up your boots and step into your skis. Known for its particularly wild wilderness, ski touring fanatics will love the challenges presented in the picturesque valley.

The best part is, you don’t get to just see the incredible mountain territory, you get to feel the rush of skiing on active volcanoes with 360-degree panoramas. Exposure and steep, narrow chutes are the name of the game here, with nothing but untouched powder at your disposal. Skinning up these epic peaks is just as rewarding as the descent. Add in some glacier skiing for some adrenaline-pumping fun.

 

Stellar views of Cajon del Maipo. Photo courtesy of Juan Senoret.

This untamed wilderness is great for experienced powder hounds and heliskiers who want to get straight to the good stuff. The isolation and lack of crowds translates to healthy snowpack of the highest order. Sunny days will net pockets of corn snow, the cherry on the top of your already-powder-rich adventure.


In Brief

  • Location and Distance: Southeast of Santiago, less than 50 kilometers away
  • How to Get There: Take Camino al Volcan from the Puente Alto neighborhood of Santiago. It is a relatively straight shot southeast, and should take roughly two hours.
  • Difficulty: Advanced skiers with backcountry experience
  • Types of Skiing: Ski touring; Heliskiing
  • BONUS: Wash down your ski trip with a glass of Cabernet! The Maipo Valley is a historic wine region that is often considered “the birthplace of the Chilean winemaking industry.” It is specifically well-known for its Cabernet Savignon production.

Check out this full day guided ski touring program in Cajon del Maipo with certified guide Juan!


2| Portillo

 

Skiing in Portillo is historic, not only because it is South America’s oldest ski resort, but because you will be skiing at the site of South America’s only Alpine World Ski Championships. Everything here is so well done. From the accommodations and services to the snow and slopes, even Mother Nature seems keen on providing you with the time of your life.

The area has 14 lifts, including some that whisk you away to the hardest to reach places for an extra challenge. Narrow, steep drop-ins are common, as are some easier areas for off-piste newbies with the backcountry proficiency to hang. This is a great spot for those who want a bit of tradition while skiing in tradition.

 

Wide open Portillo terrain without the crowds. Photo courtesy of Cristobal Senoret.

There are few frills here, though the resort does have vital infrastructure to qualify the spot as a top tier destination. Heliskiing is even available for die hard skiers who want to supplement their descents with pure pockets of unadulterated snow.


In Brief

  • Location and Distance: Northwest of Santiago, roughly 160 kilometers
  • How to Get There: Follow Americo Vespucio north, exiting at Los Libertadores Highway. Follow this towards Los Andes. At the bypass, head east on the international route towards Mendoza. Portillo is approximately five kilometers from the Argentina border.
  • Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
  • Types of Skiing: Freeriding; backcountry skiing; ski touring; heliskiing
  • BONUS: Ski in the shadow of Aconcagua (6,961m)! The largest mountain in South America and the southern hemisphere is just to the north of this iconic ski spot.

Spend a day or more ski touring in Portillo with certified guide Cristobal!


3| Farellones

 

Due east and a bit north of downtown Santiago, Farellones is in a sweet spot. This small resort connects to three great ski areas in the same valley: El Colorado, Valle Nevado, and La Parva. All of these resorts could stand alone as great places to ski. When combined, they form the ultimate skiing experience that we know and love in Farellones Valley.

Valle Nevado is the largest resort south of the equator, which rightfully brings its off-piste “A” game. Deep powder and plenty of boundary-jumping runs are nothing short of mesmerizing. La Parva is the small, rustic ski area of Farellones, providing the intrepid skiers with the most bang for their buck on challenging backcountry lines. El Colorado is known for its stormy and snowy weather, so if powder is what you need, look no further.

 

Farellones snow pack at sunrise. Photo courtesy of Jose Luis Hidalgo R.

Within the entirety of Farellones, you can find wonderful glades for picking up backcountry technique. Proficient skiers who are looking to transition from the groomed resort to wild and woolly ski touring terrain will have a ball at this location. The views of Cerro El Plomo and the surrounding Andes are sure to move you.


In Brief

  • Location and Distance: East of Santiago, about 70 kilometers and two hours away from Central Santiago
  • How to Get There: Shuttles and taxis can brave the commute, but a straightforward drive on Camino A Farellones and then Camino Valle Nevado will get you into the heart of Farellones.
  • Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced
  • Types of Skiing: Freeriding; ski touring; backcountry skiing
  • BONUS: Swing by the snow covered Yerba Loca Nature Sanctuary! With coniferous forests and hanging glaciers, there are some natural wonders on display here that feed your hunger for knowledge!

Join certified guide Juan on a day skiing in Farellones and the surrounding ski areas of Valle Nevado, El Colorado, and La Parva!


4| Cipreses Valley

 

If you want to experience the best the Andes have to offer, Cipreses Valley programs are a no-holds-barred experience for the most fearless skiers of Santiago. Most programs will include an all-inclusive lodge stay and multiple days in the mountains. This is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the most rugged and craggy spots of the region.

Skiing in the heart of the O’Higgins Region is profound, and depending on the nature of your trip, you may have chopper access to fly into the best snow in the Andes. Beautiful rivers, glaciers, and untamed terrain stretch for miles, and there are little to no signs of life outside of your lodge. This means the exposed ridges, Alpine bowls, couloirs, and steep chutes are all yours.

 

Jagged and craggy Chilean Central Andes of Cipreses Valley. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Mujica.

The Cipreses Valley has iconic lodges that allow for the ultimate experience for both ski touring and heliskiing. Staying close to the lodge, you can skin into the wilderness to blaze your own trail. For those who want to get into the thick of the deep powder, heliskiing throughout the region will save energy without compromising the quality of your runs.


In Brief

  • Location and Distance: South-Southeast of Santiago, roughly 130 kilometers and two hours away
  • How to Get There: Head south on Ruta 5 and Ex Ruta 5 before turning east on H-35. Follow the road right onto H-33 and you will be nearing your destination.
  • Difficulty: Advanced skiers with proficient backcountry skills
  • Types of Skiing: Heliskiing; ski touring
  • BONUS: Come for the slopes and stay for the luxury! Booking a week-long program in the Cipreses Valley won’t just give you unencumbered access to world-class ski runs – it can give you nights in a private all-accommodated retreat! Enjoy spa and sauna facilities, a gym and climbing walls, pools and game rooms, and so much more to recharge before your next day in the snow. Combine luxury with fun for a completely satisfying adventure.

Feel the rush of a six-day all-inclusive heliskiing program in the Chilean Central Andes with certified guide Rodrigo!


When Is the Best Time To Go Ski Touring Around Santiago?

 

The best time for skiing in Santiago is in the winter and early spring. For the southern part of the world, this means June. The beginning of the ski season in the Central Andes peaks in August when the snowpack and snowfall are both ideal. These great conditions can last all the way into October and even November on a good year.

July and August tend to be the busiest time of the year at and around the resorts, so it may behoove freeriders to plan a trip at the beginning or tail end of the season. The size and shape of the summits in the area can produce quality runs without the crowds. Accommodating early and late season trips is one more perk to a Santiago ski trip.

 

Tough to beat heliskiing conditions like this. Photo courtesy of Cristobal Senoret.

For heliskiers, keep in mind that some operators have specific time periods for helicopter access. While you may be looking for a late-season program, make sure your destination is available and your specific program can provide the adequate air time you need for a satisfying and worthwhile trip.

 

How To Get To Santiago de Chile

 

Serving as a transportation hub for the southern cone of South America, getting to and around the capital of Chile is fairly straightforward. Santiago can be reached by direct flights from most major regional cities as well as New York, London, and Auckland.

LATAM Airlines Group, British Airways, and American Airlines are just a few of the major airlines that connect Santiago to the world. Smaller airports have regional airlines operating to specific destinations outside of the city and can even provide access to O’Higgins and Puerto Montt.

 

Some programs include luxury accommodations in the mountains. Photo courtesy of Rodrigo Mujica.

Driving across the Andes to Santiago can also be done. Bus services from cities like Buenos Aires and Montevideo are efficient and affordable. In most cases, they will travel to Mendoza before continuing through the pass to Chile. While this is an affordable option, it is quite an undertaking and can take one to two days to complete the journey.

 

Pick your jaw off the floor and BOOK YOUR SANTIAGO SKI TRIP NOW! Don’t miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime to conquer the snowy peaks of the Andes and ski in some of the most beautiful places in Chile!

 

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