I’ve been in Santiago for six months now, and for the last few months it’s been Ski Season. I´m lucky enough to have been a ski junkie since my parents took me when I was very little, and, other than a small blip about three years ago where I tore my ACL open, skiing has only ever been the most incredible experience. Since moving to Santiago, everyone has talked about how close the slopes were to town, how easy it was to ski, and how relatively cheap it was to get out there.
Around Santiago you have several options: three interconnecting valleys host El Colorado; Valle Nevado (South America’s largest site); La Parva (the cheapest day pass); but there is also Ski Portillo, (host to some of the best international skiing) which closer to Valparaiso.
Here I breakdown the research I did, and how I finally chose to go out there.
I’m on a tight budget here, and have been looking for different ways to get out there on the cheap for months now. Hotels and overnight stays are by far the most expensive thing on the mountain, and with many of the resorts only two hours from downtown, to stay in budget I was looking at day-trip costs.
If you just wanted to go for the day, Ski passes value from $30-34,000 (la Parva) to $45-49,000 (El Colorado and Valle Nevada) per day, unless you managed to catch on to an early-season Groupon deal – where you can get the whole season for the same amount. Entel (the phone provider) also had an end of August season deal, where you got the rest of the season at El Colorado for only $19,900 pesos. That’s the cheapest I have been able to find it, so it’s worth a search online for deals.
There is around a $5000 peso discount for Students, Children, and Older citizens. Be sure to check out whether there are any extra costs – such as El Colorado or La Parva charging $5000 for a rechargeable Card. It’s also cheaper to go to the mountains during the week, rather than the weekend and when you look online these are marked as “Bajo” prices.
Transfers to the mountains is where people are looking to make up money. If you’re lucky you might get a ride from other travellers, post in advance on Facebook sites such as Discover Chile and Travel South America. To get to el Colorado, there is a transfer service recommended by the resort that cost $16,000 for the day. The cheapest private transfers I could find were companies such as Ski Total, that charge $17,000 for la Parva and El Colorado, and $19,500 for Valle Nevada. The average for private company transfers was around $20,000, or slightly more for a pickup shuttle service.
Running Cheapest total: $51,000 at La Parva
Ski rental looks to be around $27,000-$34,000 from El Colorado, not including clothing. Valle Nevado has a combo deal for a ticket and rental for $68,000 for adults – which works out to around $20,000 for rental. At La Parva rental is around 30,000, but they offer a package including a shuttle service from Santiago for $82,000, or $100,000 including classes.
From a private company, full equipment costs around $25,000-$29,000 per adult. Some companies do deals involving rental and transport.
These prices are basic Ski or snowboard packets for Adults, and do not include clothing, gloves, helmets or goggles.
Running Cheapest Total: $82,000 la Parva
At Valle Nevada, a full outfit of clothing cost $26,000 for waterproof trousers, jacket and gloves. Helmets cost $8000 per person, gloves alone cost $8000, and trousers cost $16,000. El Colorado charges $25,000 for a full outfit including snow boots and gloves. La Parva does not advertise clothing rental online. Private companies that rent Skis or offer transfers may offer outfits for less.
It might also be cheaper to BUY clothing in Santiago – I found gloves for $8000, and ski trousers (salupets) from $10,000 in stores like Orange Blue. If you’re a beginner then you may be more inclined to have salupets in case you get soaked, or gloves for the cold of hands.
Always rent a helmet. Your brain is worth more than $8000 pesos.
We decided that we didn’t need to rent ski clothes, and instead took a LOT of layers. For me personally, that was two long sleeved thermals, a jumper, a jacket, scarf, and beanie. I wasn’t expecting to fall much, so I wore tights, and two pairs of thick leggings – one pair was fluffy – and hiking socks. It claimed to be -11° in the morning, but in the sun it was warm, and I skied with an open jacket, no gloves, and no scarf from around midday. Our friend who fell often, also wore only leggings (three pairs) and dried quickly in the sun.
Running Cheapest total: $90,000 La Parva without Clothing,
A collective class at El Colorado costs $40,000 for an hour for adults. At la Parva it is $38,000 for two hours, or $75,000 for a day pass, equipment and a class. At Valle Nevado, a pass and class for beginners is $68,000.
We weren’t looking for clases, so we just gave this a skip.
In the end, two friends and I took advantage of a deal offered by Next Stop Chile. They are a tour company based in Santiago that offered a full day of skiing, transport, rental, classes if you wanted them, and lunch for $70,000 at Valle Nevada, with $65,000 options for Friday trips. If you look at that in comparison to the offer from Valle Nevado themselves – $68,000 for a pass and rental, we got lunch and a transfer, and the option for classes for just $2000. The second cheapest option that I could find through my research was La Parva’s $82,000 deal for transfer and rental and a pass. Which is more expensive not considering the cost of food on the mountain.
Next Stop Chile picked us up by Metro Banquedano at 7am on Saturday Morning. With a big group whatsapp for questions or concerns, we got to the mountains by around 9.30am. Moving quickly though ski or snowboarding rental, we were on the gondala up the slopes by 10.30. We were asked to be back at the bus by 4.30pm for a 5pm departure, and, though we were second last back – arriving to return our skis at 4.50 – we were back in Santiago by 7pm, with six hours of skiing under our belt. Lunch was a very basic burger and fries, (or a veggie option) with a free drink, at the big restaurant on the mountain (Bajo Zero).
The resort is made up mostly of Red runs, with some less-intense blacks from the very top of the mountain – an altitude of 3700m, with incredible views of the valleys below. The double diamond rating of a few of them is definitely exaggerated – but perhaps in place for icier days. There’s one basic green slope near the bottom, but the blue runs – even La vale, from almost the very tip of the mountain, are broad and fine for beginners – we were skiing with a friend who had only spent one week on Skis before who was confident on the blacks by the end.
Although online it claims Valle Nevado is the biggest resort in South America, this may be if you get a pass to all three valleys, because it’s quite a small if you’re used to the Alps. A fast run for an experienced skier could take you from the top to the bottom of the resort in less than five minutes – Jeremy Fontaine has a video of him doing it in 3.55. There only seemed to be a few hotels, a couple of coffee places and one restaurant actually on the slopes, but the resort seems to be very well equipped.
There are 14 lifts in total, and many of them are button or anchor lifts. These are some of the longest lifts I have ever been on. Some of the lifts are marked not for children or beginners, because they take you far far up on the mountain, on icey paths, with breathtaking backdrops at adrenaline pumping inclines. I cannot overemphasise how different the lift experience was. It was perhaps the most striking effect of the day, trawling up to the second peak – Tres Puntas – thighs clenched, for longer than it took to ski down.
We couldn’t find our way to Eclipse, one of the blacks down from the main mountaintop, however, in late august nearly all of the slopes were still open, and we were lucky to be there the day after a 20cm snow dump. By the end of the day, we had pretty much run through all of the slopes, trying out the various options of how to get down from each lift. The snow was powdery, if a little caked in places, but that meant that there were also lots of simple side-of-the-run, off-pisteing and mogul opportunities. Exploring different ways to dance between the tracks would be how we would have extended a week there.
Overall, the views down the brown valleys breaking away from the heights of the snowy resort were an incredible experience. With fast rental staff, insignificant queues, and negligible flat to negotiate, the whole experienced minimised the faff factor down to almost nothing – though our dear friend did get a little stuck in a porta-potty. The value of the days skiing was incredible, and an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting in the winter season.Tags: A la nieve, Budget, Budget Travel, Cheap Travel, Chile, Day Skiing, Day ticket, El Colorado, FemaleTravel, Girls Travel, How to Ski in Santiago, La Parva, Next Stop Chile, Santiago, Ski, Skiing, Slopes, Snowboard, Snowboarding, Valle Nevado
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