Getting tired of the heat? Have you found yourself drifting off to epic ski thoughts lately? Perhaps this is the year to act on that dream of visiting Chile for a few powder turns—Nevados de Chillan Ski resort is reporting a two meter base!
Nevados de Chillan Ski resort is the single largest ski resort in all of South America in terms of skiable area. It is located 400 km south of Santiago and then east 80km from the city of Chillan. It is situated on the slopes of Volcan Chillan, an active volcano with two cones, one named Chillan Viejo and the other, Chillan Nuevo where wafts of steam can be seen rolling off its summit.
The name change to Nevados de Chillan occurred in 2008 when the concession to operate the ski area changed hands after 30 years of operation as Termas de Chillan. You will hear many skiers and riders refer to it simply as Chillan and some veterans still say “they skied Termas”.
Volcan Chillan is massive in stature and is shaped quite different than your typical conical volcano. it reaches down from its summit (3212m / 10535ft) a whopping 1610 metres / 5280 ft to the valley floor! It has its two cones at the top; however, below these there are mountain-sized and shaped lava flows on the southern half of the resort, which offer the long steep runs in the Condor area for the advanced skier. On the northern half of the resort are multiple, large, distinct fingers of old lava flows that are far reaching giving rise to South America’s longest ski run “Las Tres Marias” at 13 km long. With no twisting switchback sections involved to arrive at this length, it gives you an idea of the immense size of Nevados de Chillan. To confirm its size, Nevados is also home to the longest chair in South America, the Don Otto, at 2200m in length.
The statistics say there are over 4000 hectares (10,000 acres) of “maintained skiable area”. This is hard to fathom when most good sized single ski areas tend to be 1200 hectares / 3000 acres of skiable terrain. Combine this with the numbers above and the fact there are no trees on 98% of the mountain and it has a vertical of 1100m / 3600ft, these numbers start to make sense.
With only 9 lifts to service so much terrain, you start to realize that there is a lot of truth to the frequent comment: “You can ski fresh tracks at Chillan for days and days after a snowfall – inbounds”. Combine this with its distance from Santiago translating into considerably fewer skiers than the three ski resorts outside Santiago (already uncrowded compared to our standards), and there should be no doubt to the fact Termas consistently delivers fresh tracks for days after a snowfall without having to hike or skin-up.
Nevados de Chillan offers you a true Chilean ski experience. The facilities are decidedly rustic Latin-American and all staff are from the small towns and countryside between the resort and the city of Chillan. They bring a genuine warmness and a smile to all they do. The base lodge offers a traditional outdoor Chilean barbeque called an “asado” with a selection of traditionally prepared sausages and beef.
The previous resort name of Terms de Chillan was an apt name as “termas” means thermal spring. The great après-ski feature of Nevados de Chillan is the thermal springs after a day of fresh tracks and big smiles. They are located outdoors at the base area and can be enjoyed with an appropriate beverage.
There is ski-in/ ski-out accommodation at the Termas de Chillan Grand Hotel and the Nevados de Chillan Hotel, if you can book in for a 7 day stay as that is all on offer. Ski-in/ski-out is a rarel luxury in Chile and the prices reflect this and more. Otherwise Valle Las Trancas, a sleepy alpine hamlet located only 8km from the resort, offers comfortable accommodation in the form of cabins and small hotels, with a handful of restaurants and a couple bars.
Skiing Chillan is a must if in Chile as it is the premium hill for the skier who is there to ski. It’s uncrowded slopes, casual mountain atmosphere, rustic setting, vast terrain, and consistent snow make it a premier resort in the world that nobody knows about!