Alpenglow Sports Ambassador Rich Meyer shares his amazing ski vacation from Chile! Read on for details, and make sure to check Rich out as hee still has spots open for the Haute Route Euro-classic this season!
In 2007, 08 and 09, I had the good fortune of guiding the mighty volcanoes of Ecuador for California Alpine Guides. These peaks are large and glaciated, and rise between 18,000ft – 20,000ft–and all of them are fun to climb. Walking down them is another story, though, and at the summit of every one of them, I always wished I’d brought my skis.
Soon after, I started kicking around the idea of bringing ski clients to Ecuador to climb (and ski) these beautiful mountains. But I realized not only was the snow quality marginal on the volcanoes most of the time, they’re also pretty damn high. (Which demands that guests to be at their absolute best). And the extra days of acclimatization for those altitudes didn’t help, either. Needless to say, it never happened.
But I came across video footage of a group of North Face athletes skiing a really cool looking volcano in Chile. I hadn’t been down in the Lake District of Chile since 1997, but I did remember their volcanoes are pretty close to civilization… and that got me thinking: potential for excellent backcountry skiing, no extreme altitude, no extra travel days, and no seriously technical terrain that might deter guests from having a great time summiting and skiing cool peaks.
And I think I found what I was looking for: The volcanoes of Northern Patagonia. A half dozen or so of them are all clustered around Osorno, Chile. And each one offers a ton of great BC skiing options. You can get anything from a mellow half-day trip to full on multiday ski mountaineering adventures. Some even have little mom and pop ski areas! And anyone that’s skied popular backcountry objectives knows how nice it is to have a road right up to the snow. Another bonus are the local hot springs. Which after a day of earning your turns, can feel pretty damn good.
So during the last week of September I finally saw my opening and took the opportunity to go down and check it out firsthand. I teamed up with local guide and friend Jorge Kozulj and brought a small group of guys with us to ski Puyehue & Casablanca–two very cool volcanoes with manageable climbing and excellent ski terrain, with skiing into the crater of Puyehue being the icing on the cake we hoped to score.
And like magic, we arrived to bluebird weather in Osorno on Sept. 25th, and climbed and skied Casablanca on the 26th… wow. Didn’t expect that, but we thanked the ski gods that evening.
Next up was a 2-3 hour horseback ride up to a rustic hut on Puyehue. Getting a little assistance with our overnight gear (and some beverages) was a nice bonus, especially because we would have had to walk on dirt to get up to the snow line here, conveniently at the cabins elevation.
Puyehue did not disappoint. We found the same excellent corn we’d skied on Casablanca, plus a lot more terrain. It was pretty awesome. We even got that crater ski descent we were hoping for. After 3 days of excellent conditions and shredding in and out of the clouds it was time to move on. A storm was in the forecast and the Chilean coast isn’t far away. Weather comes in fast and hard, so we decided to head east in an attempt to stay out in front of it.
After more than a dozen international ski trips, I’ve learned to go with the flow. Flexibility and a good attitude are two tools you always want to have in your bag, (because things are bound to go sideways at some juncture). Case in point: our plan never had Argentina in it, but all of a sudden it was the best option for more skiing… so over the border we went.
And during the last two days of our travels, we harvested some killer backcountry ski vertical out of the Cathedral ski area near Bariloche… and we ate our fill of that big, fat Chilean volcano spring skiing cake. Chile provided killer volcanoes, kind people, great snow, easy travel, cool haciendas, and a whole lot of fun skiing! I’m now totally stoked to make this trip an annual affair.
And how many times in your life will you be able to say you skied into the crater of a volcano?
Catch an overnight flight from Dallas to Santiago, then a short morning flight to Osorno, and you’ll find yourself relaxing at a local hacienda by late afternoon. And then… get ready to begin an epic ski adventure in the morning!