The ultimate escape

 Ah… Portillo! It’s like music to my ears, and will forever conjure up memories of the best ski vacation I ever had. I still recall it so well…. the sheer anticipation and excitement of being able to ski during the southern hemisphere’s winter season—in mid-August!

Strangely enough, the trip there went exceptionally well, despite having to take a red-eye flight from Toronto to Chile. We somehow even managed to hit the slopes the very afternoon we got there! The following morning, we were treated to a wonderful thirty centimetres that had fallen overnight. The sun was shining, and the mountain seemed to be ours alone, with most of the resort’s clientele still busy enjoying Hotel Portillo—that iconic big, yellow hotel that just transports you to another world. You might have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real!

On each side of this magnificent hotel, countless trails and lifts await you. A little higher up are the multiple-person lifts (imagine, five or six skiers sitting side by side!) which take you up to the highest points of the mountain. From here, you can choose from countless trails and traverses, allowing for endless possibilities.

My absolute favourite has to be the Lake Run, which comes down right in front of the hotel on the opposite side of a rocky ridge. This trail literally ends at the foot of the lake! Plus, you have to cross a traverse both to access it and to get off it (a much longer one at the end of the trail, by the way)! So, as you can imagine, very few people are brave enough to tackle it. It’s a shame really because the wonderfully deep snow is simply exquisite!

A ski vacation in Portillo is unlike any other—no crowds, a wonderfully remote location in the heart of the Andes, abundant snow of the best quality, the ability to easily form a bond with other visitors (since everyone spends a whole week here), gorgeous views of the glacial lake and the spectacular mountains that stand as its backdrop, and the sheer pleasure of skiing while practising your Spanish in this glorious Chilean atmosphere. Once you’ve enjoyed kneedeep powder and the warm rays of the sun with every descent, you’ll understand why Portillo is so hard to beat. It might cost a little more, but you definitely get your money’s worth!

By ALexis De Gheldere
Special Contributor and Ski Reporter

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Ski stations Accommodations Snow Conditions
Month Min. Max.
January 4 18
February 4 19
March 2 17
April -1 14
May -3 8
June -6 4
July -5 5
August -5 6
September -4 8
October -2 10
November 1 15
December 3 17