Chile is known for some of the best skiing in the southern hemisphere, thanks to the Andes providing guaranteed snow during the winter months. The season here runs between June and October, with the three valleys – Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva – renowned as the largest ski area. If you’re travelling on a budget, here are our top tips to make the most of your trip.
A day trip from Santiago
Accommodation is extremely expensive in the ski resorts, some of which – despite being open – don’t open their accommodation until peak season when income from tourism is guaranteed to surpass maintenance costs. In this case, simply going skiing for the day from Santiago is more cost-effective. Most of the companies around Santiago that offer skiing will offer day trips including ski hire, ski gear (if needed), lift pass and day return transport.
The time of season will also affect the price of your ski trip. High season, and therefore peak season, is more expensive – you’ll see a rise in ski lift prices, and all-inclusive companies will charge more too. In low season, there are a number of discounts on ski lift passes, so if you can avoid paying for them in advance in Santiago, wait until you arrive in resort and head to the lift pass office where you can find the best deals.
A number of Chileans saw a gap in the market for international students who were keen skiers and began all-inclusive trips, usually on Fridays, as the weekends are extremely popular and busy on the slopes. On Facebook you will be able to find a couple of companies, namely Amazing Trip, Next Stop Chile and Santiago Exchange Network. The trips tend to include ski hire, sometimes ski lessons, transport, ski lift pass and on occasion, lunch as well.
Phone a friend
Entel, which is one of the main Chilean phone companies, offers discounts for the main ski resorts including Valle Nevado, El Colorado, Corralco, Antillanca and Nevados de Chillan – check out the discounts here. Pay as you go sim cards are readily available and usually only cost a couple of luca (a couple of thousand pesos is around US$4-5). An even cheaper way is to find a Chilean friend with a car, or to a hire car, to avoid paying for expensive transfers.
All the gear and no idea
If you’re backpacking, lugging around your ski gear seems completely impractical. Thankfully, Calle Bandera in Santiago is laden with second-hand shops where you’ll be able to find ski gear, from vintage retro one-pieces to top of the range ski jackets that have hardly been worn. If you prefer to look online, the Chilean version of Skibay can be found on Facebook here, and offers everything from goggles and gloves to skis.