Inside Line: Portillo, Chile - Ski Mag

Inside Line: Portillo, Chile

At Portillo, there’s a good chance you’ll share a Poma with Seth Morrison or Daron Rahlves. It’s the off-season training spot for the pros. It’s no wonder why. All above treeline, the terrain is point-and-go, from rock-lined chutes to wide-open bowls to impeccably groomed cruisers. Laps are punctuated by boots-off, white-tablecloth lunches, hot-tub soaks, Ping-Pong with the locals, and thumping disco. Stay at the all-inclusive, European-style Portillo Lodge, where ski history seeps from wooden walls decorated with trophies from the first World Cup races. Thanks to overnight flights from the U.S. and a two-hour drive from the Santiago airport, you can even ski the day you arrive.
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Portillo, Chile
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Powder Day: Take El Plateau to the Garganta chute. If the lake is frozen, ski across it back to chair. If it’s not, traverse back to the lift before descending to the lake. Ski all the way to the lake and you’ll trade 200 feet of powder for a short walk back.

Three Days Later: Find stashes days after a storm by riding Cóndor and exiting the backcountry gate to skier’s right. Rip the top part of Lake Run, a steep, wide-open shot that drops down to the water, then traverse left to get back inbounds.

Park and Pipe: There’s no pipe, but there are plenty of natural features if you’re creative. The rocks at the bottom of Plateau make prime launching pads. Or build a kicker toward the bottom of the Juncalillo lift or on the steep rollover below the Roca Jack surface tow.

Backcountry access: It’s a two-hour boot-pack to reach the Super C couloir, but it’s worth the effort. From the top of Roca Jack, boot up the couloir to the looker’s left, then drop in toward the resort for 5,000 vertical feet of light, dry turns. From the top, there’s a spectacular view of 22,841-foot Aconcagua—the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

Weather: Portillo sees mostly mild weather with 80 percent sunny days. But when it snows, it dumps. Storms come in from the west off the Pacific, stall over Aconcagua, and hammer Portillo.

Après: Soak in the outdoor hot tub and order a pisco sour at the bar. A blend of pisco brandy, lemon juice, and powdered sugar, the tangy, margarita-esque drink is Chile’s signature alcoholic beverage.

Fuel: An all-inclusive week at Portillo includes four meals each day. Dinner might be king-crab salad, filet mignon with merlot sauce, and mil hojas (cake with layers of creamy dulce de leche). La Posada, across the parking lot, is the local hangout for churrascos (beef sandwiches) and salsa music.

Up All Night: Have a beer and chill to live piano music at the bar across from the dining room in the main lodge, which is open till midnight. When it shuts down, move downstairs to the disco, where DJs fire up the underground beats every night at 11. You can rage until the early morning.

Digs: The Portillo Lodge is a huge, sun-colored ski-in, ski-out building at midmountain. Rooms have warm duvets and views of the slopes ($1,450 to $5,300 per week, all-inclusive). For a cheaper option, the neighboring Octagon Lodge is a dorm-style alternative starting at $199 a night.

Elevation: 10,900 feet

Vertical Drop: 2,500 feet

Snowfall: 276 inches

Acres: 1,235

Info: skiportillo.com

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Portillo, Chile

Thanks to overnight flights from the U.S. and a two-hour drive from the Santiago airport, you can ski Portillo the day you arrive.

Ingrid Backstrom on lower El Estadio in Portillo, Chile

Portillo Unchanged

Welcome to Portillo, Chile, where gringos trade flip-flops for ski boots, racers and freeriders mingle, and pisco flows like carménère. The vibe is unabashedly old-school, and Portillo’s diehards wouldn’t have it any other way.

Whistler/Blackcomb, B.C.

Inside Line: Blackcomb, BC

With the 2010 Winter Olympics around the corner, all eyes are on Whistler Blackcomb. The masses will descend on Whistler Mountain, where the official events will take place. Which means Blackcomb will be the place to ski. Locals know that Blackcomb outperforms its better-known neighbor when it comes to off-piste terrain and jibbing. Plus, Blackcomb’s lift lines are shorter, its park and pipe bigger, and its backcountry steeper. And with the new Peak-to-Peak gondola—a record-setting 2.73-mile-long feat of engineering—now connecting the two mountains, you can easily zip over to the big W. But with Blackcomb’s terrain, why bother?

The Subaru North American Freeskiing Championships were held at Kirkwood, California on Sunday, Feb 27th and Monday, Feb 28th—two beautiful bluebird days after a storm

Inside Line: Kirkwood, CA

Kirkwood is off the grid in more ways than one. The whole place runs on generators. Lift lines are six people deep on a powder day. Sierra storms fill the ski-porn-worthy terrain, closing roads and shutting down lifts for days. But with inbounds runs slanted up to 42 degrees, the most reliable snow in the area, and chutes that make big-mountain skiers queasy, it’s hard to believe the resort stays so low-key. Thank the hourlong drive from South Lake Tahoe’s packed casinos and resorts, which ensures Kirkwood remains unsullied by the masses. Just the way skiers there like it.

Emily Johnson at Sugarbush

Inside Line: Sugarbush, VT

A new base village and a growing emphasis on steep, powder-stuffed glades have made Sugarbush one of Vermont’s top resorts. The ski area offers 111 trails, served by 16 lifts, spread across three peaks, each with its own distinct flavor. For manicured steeps and fat bumps, hit Lincoln Peak. For no-bullshit, rowdy terrain, schralp Castlerock. For underutilized glades and meandering cruisers, there’s always Mount Ellen. Here’s how to make the most of all three.

Hit hard with a strong Pacific front, Revelstoke Mountain Resort has been hammered with nearly 15 inches of snow in the past 48 hours. Recent southerly winds have left North Bowl and Greely Bowl feeling like they have even more fresh powder than that.

Inside Line: Revelstoke, BC

Following Revelstoke’s grand opening last winter, first-time visitors identified a series of problems that the resort’s developers had failed to anticipate when they created a ski destination integrating 500,000 acres of cat- and heli-skiing with North America’s longest lift-served vertical. Among the quibbles: (1) The runs are “too long.” (2) There’s “too much powder.” (3) The absence of lift lines “prevents skiers from resting between runs.” This may sound like a joke, but these are actual complaints logged by management—and they underscore the stunning enormity of Revelstoke’s terrain. Our advice: If you aren’t prepared to go huge, don’t go at all.