Valle Nevado and its neighboring ski areas are pretty similar to European ski stations: Leave the groomed terrain, and anything goes. Because of that, ski with a beacon, shovel, and probe at all times. For those looking to ski beyond the ropes, you’ll get more than your share of opportunities to tame spicy terrain both above, below, and all around the resorts.
The most famous backcountry face is called Santa Teresa, which is the big wall of cliffs, chutes, and couloirs you drive past as you go between the tiny Farellones ski station and Valle Nevado. This zone was made famous when El Colorado chose it for a Freeride World Tour event a few years ago. To access it from Valle Nevado, traverse from the top of the Andes Express across the east face of El Colorado. It’s easy to get cliffed out, or get in trouble with the police if they are doing a “sting,” so go with someone who A) knows the area, and B) knows Spanish.
A one- to two-hour tour from the top of Valle Nevado or La Parva is the Anclan zone, which also features dramatic chutes and couloirs, plus amazing views to the west toward Santiago and to the northeast, where the hulking Cerro el Plomo stands guard. Looking for a guide? Watch for Valle Nevado Heli Ski's ski-tour guiding service, coming soon and complete with a rental fleet of DPS skis with tech bindings and full avy safety kits. As of press time, the operation still didn’t have a name, but swing by the heliskiing office for more info.
Guide: Claudio Iglesias
Valle Nevado Heli Ski's top dog started with the resort in 1998, joining the heli skiing staff in 2005. During his 13 years of heli guiding, Iglesias has raised a family and become a guide ambassador for DPS skis. When he’s not guiding from the heli or designing new guided backcountry alpine-touring programs, he skis with his family at the resort. His passion for skiing runs deeper than most. It also keeps his primary focus on safety for the clients; as the operation is owned by the ski resort, he feels no pressure to fly in unsafe conditions. Instead, clients can ski at the resort until conditions allow the heli to fly. This accommodates his laid-back yet safety-oriented style of guiding.
Valle Nevado Heliskiing
Looking for more adventure? Get in the whirlybird.
Heliskiing in the Andes is as awesome as it sounds. Walk 100 yards from the entrance of your hotel, load up in a modern B3 Eurocopter, and head straight to ski-movie-worthy terrain. Don’t worry, you don’t have to have skills like Lynsey Dyer to get down, as Valle Nevado offers a plethora of options for advanced skiers and above. What's more, they have permits to ski nearly every acre between Valle Nevado and the Argentinian border. On a budget? The company offers single drops and half-day options so you can feed the need without the debt, or you can go whole-hog with full-day and multi-day packages, starting at $6,000 for four people. The most economical way to fly is with three friends; this splits the costs evenly, and you’ll be able to ski with your buds all day. Bonus: If the weather is too sketchy to fly, you can wait it out by spinning laps off the lifts. At the end of the day, your new friends at the hotel will be green with envy when they see the smile that only heliskiing can provide.
Athlete Tip: Lynsey Dyer
"My heart is in South America. Every time I arrive in the Andes, it's always this consistent visceral feeling and consistently awesome conditions that make me feel so lucky to be there. I don't know if it's the altitude or just the place in general, but I always feel more alive. Speaking of the altitude, always bring extra sunscreen, chapstick, and hydrate properly."