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South America

Backcountry Skiing in August? ‘Tis the Season in South America

These backcountry ski guiding operations will lead you to the goods in South America.

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The Andes are vast and mythical mountains. The second-highest range in the world, they’re a jagged backbone running the length of the South America, from the jungle-covered slopes of Venezuela to the icy heights of Aconcagua down to Patagonia. For skiers, it’s those latter two areas that are most intriguing.

Unlike Europe and North America, most of the snowy depths and beautiful slopes located around Aconcagua and Patagonia are untrammeled. Only a few overland crossings remain open during the winter, and relatively few ski areas penetrate the edges of the mountains in Chile and Argentina combined. Backcountry huts, much less hut systems, are few and far between.

Related: 7 South American resorts to add to your bucket list

That leaves a lot of untouched snow out there for those willing and able to explore up and down the cordillera. Internationally certified ski guiding outfits, cat-skiing, and heli-skiing opportunities abound in South America—you just have to know where to look and who to ask. Here, we’ve rounded up a few trusted and experienced players to get you started on the real dream: the summer backcountry skiing adventure.

Andes Cross

This global guide operation was founded by Argentine Jorge Kozulj, an IFMGA/UIAGM certified guide who oversees a team of similarly impressive and accomplished guides. Kozulj is an under-the-radar industry legend—the kind who gets hired to make sure athletes in those epic ski movie segments you see on the silver screen come out in one piece. Climb and ski perfect cone volcanoes, base yourself in one of the region’s few backcountry huts, or pursue technical ski mountaineering and multi-day expeditions.

Sample Itinerary

  • Six day, hut-to-hut ski touring in Nahuel Huapi National Park with an IMFGA certified guide
  • Minimum of four skiers
  • From $2,750 USD per person

Powder South

Not all backcountry powder missions need to be human-powered. If heli-skiing with some of the most respected mountain guides from around the globe is more your thing, try Chile-based Powder South’s extensive options. Skiers can balance soaking up the energy of Santiago, Chile’s bustling capital—which happens to be situated smack dab alongside the alta cordillera’s towering peaks—with a week of heli-skiing that leaves right out of the city. You’ll return to Santiago after logging thousands of feet of vert and sleep it off in one of Santiago’s luxury hotel options, like the W Santiago. Powder South also operates in Argentina if that’s more your speed. For the Energizer bunnies out there, look into Powder South’s heli-assisted, guided ski touring days in the high Andes.

Sample Trip

  • Six days heli-skiing/seven nights lodging in Santiago
  • 4:1 guide ratio
  • From $16,000 USD per person

Powder Quest

Founded by American-born, Chile-based David Owen, Powder Quest lets guests choose scheduled tours in both Chile and Argentina with four main types of trips and a wide variety of resort and backcountry touring options. Depending on what you want to focus on, itineraries can include several resorts and a lighter portion of hike-to backcountry adventures, or fully human-powered, off-the-beaten-track backcountry pursuits. They can also hook guests up with the best cat-skiing, or even snowmobile-accessed backcountry skiing (a rarity in South America) to take some of the work out of the backcountry powder chase.

Recommended Trip

  • Eight day/seven night trip to ski Chile’s volcanoes with two guides
  • Maximum of eight people
  • From $4,199 USD per person

SASS

"Catedral Alta Patagonia, Argentina SASS Argentina is a South American ski adventure for teens and adults. There are five sessions between August 1…"
Sign up for a SASS trip to Argentina and you’ll get to check out some amazing backcountry skiing around Catedral Alta Patagonia. (Photo: Courtesy of SAAS)

This is a summer backcountry ski camp for adults in one of the best settings in South America: Argentina’s Bariloche region. It’s the only place in South America that SASS operates, and they have the local’s experience dialed. The camp is based out of Catedral ski resort, so guests can enjoy the resort and surrounding backcountry in one- or two-week sessions while benefiting from expert tips from the SASS ski guides and coaches. To cap it off, full camaraderie for singles or skiers looking for new ski friends is built in, with lodging and evening activities like après beer, ping pong, and other group outings on the docket.

Camp includes

  • One week of guided skiing and lodging at Catedral, Argentina
  • From $3,295 per person.

CASA Tours

Though it’s an American-based service, CASA Tours is nonetheless the OG backcountry skiing operator in the Andes. As such, it has a cache of expertise on both the popular and less familiar local ski areas and their surrounding backcountry. With the help and insight of Casa Tours, guest will be exploring the best lift-accessed backcountry skiing, hidden gem hot springs, local restaurants, and après ski spots as if they’d been traveling to the Andes for decades—which CASA’s founder David Johnson has, and it shows. From first tracks to après, these tours will have the passionate skier covered in powder and culture.

Sample Itinerary

  • A customizable resort + backcountry itinerary for private groups begins at Portillo, Chile and makes its way south to Nevados de Chillan over eight days
  • Maximum of 6-8 guests
  • Contact CASA Tours for pricing

Valle Hermoso Ski & Glamping Expeditions

Las Lenas ski area
This could be your evening view from your glamping perch in Valle Hermosa. (Photo: Courtesy of Las Lenas)

This season, Argentina’s Las Leñas ski resort launches a new backcountry glamping in the vast, coveted ski paradise of Valle Hermoso. In the past, only the most determined skiers managed to drop into this broad valley surrounded by big peaks and ski lines. Set about 14 miles deeper into the Andes than the Las Leñas ski area itself, this glamping experience is an immersion in a white, wide world. Guests get to stay in one of the outfit’s four glamping domes and enjoy full restaurant service in the camp’s main building, the EcoLodge. From here, it’s wonderfully easy access to what previously required a multi-day winter camping expedition. Ski guides are hired through the ski resort for an epic, all-inclusive backcountry experience.

Trip Details

  • Four days of skiing/three nights of glamping
  • From $3,200 USD per person
  • Price includes guide, lodging, and meals