When Horace Greeley said, “Go West, young man,” he was referring to the vast opportunities that a relatively unexplored region offered enterprising and energetic Americans. And while he wasn’t talking about skiing, he might as well have been, because back in the mid 1800s, there were ample opportunities for first descents on all the West’s classic lines. Well, today the West has been pretty much skied out when it comes to first descents and the pristine high alpine meadows have been turned into planned ski “villages” complete with Starbucks and sushi. OK, before you get into a snit, I’ll concede that Alaska is the exception, and that Horace Greeley may not actually have said, “Go West, young man,” either.
While the changes in the American landscape have been a mixed blessing, for those of us who want to get a taste of the West as Greeley envisioned it, a place of unbridled opportunity and challenge, there’s a new saying: “Go south.”
First, let’s look at the mountains. The Andes are second only to the Himalaya in scope. But unlike climbing and skiing in Nepal, China, or India, you don’t have expensive permits, expensive visas, and difficult access. Take Chile, for example. Chile is a leader in South America, with a sophisticated democracy that has elected a women president, good services, great access to the Andes, and all sorts of ski areas. The country is easy and affordable to get to, with flights from North America connecting into Santiago, the country’s capital city. Best of all, when you land in Santiago, you can be up at ski resorts like Valle Nevado by noon, skiing the day you arrive. Try that in India.
While other South American countries have skiing, most notably Argentina, with Bariloche and Las Lenas, and you can go ski mountaineering in Bolivia and Peru (and ski massive volcanoes in Ecuador), Chile presents a unique opportunity for North American skiers given the country’s combination of ease of access, developed resorts and ski mountaineering opportunities.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because despite the cold, wet spring we’re having in Colorado, it’s supposed to be 90 the rest of the week. And I can guarantee that after a week of temperatures kissing 100, I’ll be ready to cool off. What better way to do it than head south, south to the Andes, and ski some of the biggest, best mountains in the world?
Want to ski Chile? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Valle Nevado: Sophisticated, sexy and close to Santiago, this resort has vast in-bounds terrain, easy backcountry access and an international vibe. www.vallenevado.com
Santiago Adventures: American expatriate Brian Pearson can help organize heli skiing, cat skiing, or wine tasting tours.
Andes Web: A comprehensive guide to skiing in the Andes, this site has it all from snow reports to mountain stats.
Powder Quest: Want to travel off the beaten path? Powder Quest can take to everywhere from Valle Nevado’s vast terrain to unknown resorts on volcanoes.