Ski Portillo Chile
There are a few day trippers who stay in Los Andes, but most visitors make the most of the full Ski Portillo experience
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Directions to Ski Portillo Chile
The Portillo Ski Resort in Chile is world renowned! Portillo Chile was put on the map in 1966 when it became the first South American resort to host the World Skiing Championships. The notoriety further increased when the 200km per hour speed barrier was broken in 1978 at Portillo, and the ski resort continues to be famous amongst expert skiers who visit Portillo for the amazingly steep slopes.
Many skiers have seen photos of the bright yellow Hotel Portillo with the magnificent backdrop of the snow covered Andes. Or if they haven’t seen a photo, they’ve at least seen the Warren Miller movie where some crazy dudes practice their ski jumping into the hotel swimming pool. Warren Miller loved Portillo so much that the resort has been included in his list of the top 10 ski resorts in the world. So Portillo Chile must be pretty special!
It’s not just the historic yellow Hotel Portillo that makes the ski resort unique, although this is the centre of the culture of this boutique ski resort. With limited lodging on-mountain, it feels like a private club and this exclusivity provides benefits such as no lift lines and more fresh tracks. The spectacular setting of Portillo is also a major draw card. Stunning views are afforded by the combination of the craggy peaks of the towering Andes Mountains, the emerald waters of Laguna del Inca, and the steep snow-covered slopes.
Portillo Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The treeless Portillo ski terrain is a combination of long groomed runs and big mountain skiing. There are trails for all ability levels, but it caters particularly well to the advanced rider with plenty of steep slopes. In-bounds there are only 500 hectares of terrain, but experts also ski Portillo for the abundance of side-country areas that can be traversed or hiked to. As a result of the traversing and flat spots around the hotel, skiing tends to be more popular than snowboarding.
Some of the expert runs at Portillo ski resort are so steep and avalanche prone that they are serviced by the unique “va et vient” lifts (aka slingshot), which are like 4 to 5 person poma lifts but much more efficient. They also have standard chair lifts and other surface tows.
The average annual snowfall at Portillo ski resort is 7.4 metres (about 25 feet). The snow storms are typically short and intense, and are followed by bluebird days when the spectacular vistas can be fully appreciated. As a result of the location and elevation, the quality of the powder is sometimes dry and the riding is unbelievably fantastic. At other times the Portillo snow quality is second-rate, and various runs are either very sloppy or closed.
Where is Portillo?
Portillo Chile sits amidst the high Andes peaks including the nearby Aconcagua, the highest mountain on the continent. It’s really close to the border of Argentina, and 164km (about 100 miles) northeast of Santiago(about 2 hours drive).
From the Santiago airport, shuttles can be organized as part of a Portillo ski package. Alternatively you can rent a car and self-drive. See our travel to Portillo page for more information.
Ski Resort Facilities
There is no town or village at Portillo. The Portillo ski resort facilities are mainly housed within the hotel and considering it’s a very social atmosphere, the experience has been likened to a cruise ship. Guests eat together in the dining room, and other facilities include a bar, disco, gym, cinema, and the famous outdoor pool and jacuzzis. There are about as many staff as guests, so the service feels very personalised and attentive, particularly in the dining room.
Portillo is very family friendly and in addition to childcare and kids’ ski school (they provide group lessons in English), they run lots of activity programs for the kids.
Culture and Language
Portillo caters incredibly well to the international tourist, and as such it’s very popular with gringoes (ie the North Americans). Owned by the Purcell family who are originally from New York, the ski runs are even rated according to the US and Canada system, as opposed to other Chile ski resorts that have the European rating system with red runs.
Communication at Portillo is much easier for Anglophones than at the other South America ski resorts. English is spoken very widely amongst the guests and some of the staff speak English. Signage around the resort is in both English and Spanish, and dining menus are also in English and Spanish.
The downside of Portillo being “little North America” is that it loses a little of the real culture of Chile. To make up ground, they ensure that dining hours align with South American culture. For those not used to the tradition of eating late, starting dinner at 9:45pm can take a little getting used to! You might need a siesta and pre-dinner snacks.
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