July 26, 2001--Skiing in South America or New Zealand is an exotic adventure, but it doesn't have to break the bank. A trip to Chile's Portillo, Argentina's Valle de Las Lenas, or New Zealand's Coronet Peak will cost more than a jaunt to the Rockies, but package deals can make the excursion affordable and undoubtedly memorable. (All prices are per person, based on double occupancy.)
Chile and Argentina attract North American skiers because a weeklong trip is possible, jet lag is minimal, and you can explore new cultures. Ten days in either country constitutes an ideal trip. Take a Thursday night flight, spend Friday exploring Buenos Aires or Santiago, arrive at the resort on Saturday, depart the following Saturday for the capital, and return home on Sunday.
In Chile, the season runs from early June to early October. High season is from July 13 to August 3 and is based on Brazilian and Argentine school holidays. Mid-August is a great time to go. Bargain hunters note that spring skiing arrives in early September, with discounts of 20 percent or more. In Argentina, the season is broken into four periods- Value, Special, Holiday, and Peak. The best deals lie in mid-September, during Value season.
Get used to the idea of eating a late dinner. If you're too tired, do as the locals do and take a nap after skiing. The discos don't even open until midnight, which is why you won't find the Argentines and Chileans on the piste before 10AM.
LAS LENAS, ARGENTINA
Valle de Las Lenas is the first and only choice for many North American skiers, attracted by the vast lift-serviced terrain, which exceeds any single North American resort. Totally above tree line, it boasts extraordinary steeps reminiscent of Verbier and Chamoniz. There's also a vigorous nightlife, including a casino.
Packages: Moguls Ski & Snowboard Tours (www.moguls.com/800-6-MOGULS) has seven-night deals that begin at $799 and include everything except airfare.
San Carlos de Bariloche is the only town in South America with a real ski culture, down to Swiss-style architecture and a jet-set attitude. You can stay in town or at Gran Catedral, Bariloche's main ski mountain. The terrain can be demanding and very exciting for experts.
Packages: Ski Vacation Planners (800-822-6754/www.skivacationplanners.com) has seven night air-inclusive packages from $1,683 with lift tickets. The airport-to-airport transfer in Buenos Aires is not included.
In Chile, the majority of North American skiers head to Portillo. It's actually not a town but a 500-bed hotel, a self-contained resort that offers a Club-Med type all-inclusive experience. All of the skiing is above tree line. There's great variety of terrain and lift lines are virtually unheard of because only the resort's guests are skiing.
Packages: Ski Vacation Planners (800-822-6754/www.skivacationplanners.com) has 7-day/8-night all-inclusive packages from $2,024.
VALLE NEVADO, CHILE
Valle Nevado is perched high above tree line. At this well-managed resort, you sleep at 9,000 feet and then ski down. It's about 90 minutes by car from Santiago. You can buy a combination lift ticket to ski the La Parva and El Colorado. Together, they comprise South America's largest lift-connected ski area.
Packages: Adventures on Skis (800-628-9655/ www.advonskis.com) has seven-night air-inclusive deals at the Hotel Tres Puntas from $1,585 with all transfers, daily breakfast and dinner, and a seven-day ski pass.
TERMAS DE CHILLAN, CHILE
Termas de Chillan has become the most popular new resort in the southern Andes. The resort is located 300 miles south of Santiago. Families and intermediates are well served by South America's longest run, the 3,600-foot vertical and eight-mile Las TTres Marias. Afterwards, the famous thermal pools will beckon too.
Packages: Ski Vacation Planners (800-822-6754/www.skivacationplanners.com) can offer seven nights including airfare at the Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan from $1,892.
You ski New Zealand because virtually all of the skiing is above tree line and because it's easy to get around this English-speaking nation.
Devote no less than nine days to a New Zealand holiday. The 13-hour flight from Los Angles leaves you with only seven days to ski so reduce your travel within the country by basing yourself in one location--ideally, Queenstown, on the Southern Island. This lively resort town will satisfy every aprés ski urge imaginable. For thrill seekers, bungee jumping, white-water rafting, and heli-skiing are also available.
New Zealand's most famous resorts surround Queenstown, including Cardrona, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables. They're all within 90 minutes of downtown and can be reached by a reliable network of shuttle buses. Mt. Hutt, which has the longest season, is best reached via Christchurch. New Zealand's ski season runs from early July to the end of September. As a rule of thumb, you'll find the best snow conditions and crowd levels in late August and early September.
This is a great family mountain and a snowboarding mecca. The three basins are known for their dry snow. Cadrona hosts both the New Zealand Freeskiing Championships and the New Zealand Snowboard Nationals and has terrain for high-octane competition as well as for intermediates.
Packages: Contact Moguls Ski & Snowboard Tours (www.moguls.com/800-6-MOGULS) or Holidaze Ski Tours (800-526-2827/www.holidaze.com) for customized air-inclusive packages.
Coronet Peak is the premier ski area in the country and also the most accessible. During the Southern Hemisphere winter, Coronet is the choice training ground for World Cup and Olympic ski race teams. Skiers can ride long cruisers, chutes, or bumps and the ski school and childcare facilities are fabulous.
Packages: Moguls Ski & Snowboard Tours (www.moguls.com/800-6-MOGULS) can offer a seven-night land-only deal at the Gardens Parkroyal. Five-day lift ticket and transfers start at $659.
The Remarkables offers gentle beginner slopes, mellow cruisers, and extreme pistes. In fact, it's almost equally divided for beginners, intermediates, and experts. It also runs snowcat tours.
Packages: Contact Holidaze Ski Tours (800-526-2827/www.holidaze.com) or Ski Vacation Planners (800-822-6754/www.skivacationplanners.com) for customized air-inclusive packages.
An hour's drive into the mountains from Christchurch, Mt. Hutt receives some of the deepest and lightest powder throughout New Zealand. The huge basin offers fantastic views and an enormous range or terrain for intermediate skiers. The mountain has the longest season in the Southern Hemisphere.
Packages: Contact Holidaze Ski Tours (800-526-2827/www.holidaze.com) or Ski Vacation Planners (800-822-6754/www.skivacationplanners.com) for air-inclusive packages.
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