Skiing in South America truly is a bucket list experience. From the views to the culture to the food to the terrain itself, it’s something that every skier should aspire to at some point in their lives.
With winter at full force in the Southern Hemisphere right now, we gathered some adventure tales from below the equator to pique your interest and fan the flames of wanderlust. We might not be able to travel right now, but it’s the perfect time to plan for future endeavors.
Here are four of our favorite stories about skiing in South America. Sit back and let your mind wander—and inspire the rest of you to do the same when the time is right.
1. Choose Your Own Chilean Adventure
Live vicariously through our writer, who traveled to Chile’s uber-luxe Rio Palena Lodge and found out that heli-hiking, whitewater rafting, and fly fishing in pristine Andean rivers is almost—almost—as epically amazing as the heli-skiing.
“The days at Rio Palena Lodge go something like this: You ski a line that has never been skied by any human before. Next up, you’re going to whitewater raft the Futaleufú River, one of the premier whitewater rivers in the world. If that’s not enough, spend the afternoon heli-fishing with your private guide who has former U.S. presidents on his client list. After that, hop in the heli to have a picnic, which is actually a chef-prepared meal you’ll enjoy on the banks of the Futaleufú as sheep graze at the proverbial table next to you.”
2. A Tale of 4 Very Different Ski Experiences
Find out the difference between four South American resorts—Valle Nevado, El Colorado, La Parva, and Ski Arpa—where the pisco sours flow and the powder is as legendary as you’ve always heard.
“Ski Arpa is the kind of place that dreams are made of. Hidden and remote, it’s here where you’ll feel like a pioneer. Aconcagua looms on the horizon. The simple refugio, the charms of Anton “Toni” Sponar, an Austrian by way of Aspen who oversees the operation, and the loneliness of the landscape provide a mix of haunting beauty and passion for the snow. It’s an opportunity that no skier should miss in their lifetime.”
3. Where Skiing Legends Summer Together
Portillo combines old-school skiing with some of the most exciting backcountry terrain on the globe. Add in the yellow cruise-ship-in-the-mountains Hotel Portillo and some of the biggest names in freeskiing and racing, and it’s a summer skiing adventure for the ages.
“Getting to the top of the Super C requires work. We started the two-hour bootpack early in the morning after sliding off the Roca Jack, Portillo’s notorious, carnage-causing five-person platter lift. The crux of the climb—a puckering traverse across a no-fall closeout chute—was made that much more difficult by the fact that just yesterday we were stuffing ski gear into luggage in 80-degree Colorado. But the promise of powder in August prompted us to catch a red-eye south. If you’ve never tried it, falling asleep in summer and waking up in winter is quite possibly a skier’s best dream.”
4. Can a Freeskier Beat an Austrian Downhiller on the Race Course?
Pro skier Marcus Caston has done some pretty off-the-wall things on skis, but one of the most memorable to grace these pages is told in this story, where he challenges Austrian racer Matthias Mayer to a race down on the Austrian National Ski Team’s course.
“Do you think Marcus’ll come close?” Lynsey Dyer asked Mayer that night at the restaurant, a few beats after the coaches gave their blessing. We would find out later that Mayer—the gold medalist in the downhill at the Sochi Olympics—was coming off a 2017 World Cup season that included a first place finish on the infamous Streif Downhill in Kitzbühel. He is arguably the best downhill racer on the world’s best alpine ski team, getting ready in Chile for another Olympic season.
Mayer leaned back, beaming at the question. He locked his cold blue eyes with Dyer’s, and, in perfectly confident Austrian-accented English, replied: He doesn’t stand a chance.”