Skiing in Portillo

Laguna del Inca View

Laguna del Inca View

It was lunchtime when we reached Portillo, following a 3 hour bus ride. This area is rather chaotic, with a large volume of traffic incoming and outgoing on the weekends, both locals and tourists. We had our single-sex shared hotel rooms booked about an hour later and headed out to the slopes to get some skiing in. I was sharing a room with two other travellers, Rebecca from Australia and Anne from New Zealand. It seemed like we would have another roomy, but I don’t think she was happy with the arrangement after seeing it and took off. She definitely looked more like the hotel type of traveller than the hostel type of backpacker. Regardless, the three of us had a great time both in our room, and on the slopes with our larger group, as each of us had our partners with us, who were staying in similar same-sex rooms, though not together.

My ski adventure got off to a slow start as I had some boot frustrations that are common for me, and thought I may have to spend the week snowboarding instead. They only had two types of boots available, both for very wide feet. I ended up having to use footbeds and wear a double dose of large socks to get my feet fairly snugly into them. It wasn’t ideal, but it did the trick. My skis were Salomon Crossmax’s, bright orange and very cool. They were very much designed for speed and quick turning, perfect for fast runs with hard packed snow. When I did fluffier powder runs I switched to Saloman Pocket Rockets.

Portillo Hotel

Portillo Hotel

I had a pretty bad fall on the second day, as I was perhaps pushing my speed demon skis more than I could handle. I caught and edge and went down hard and awkwardly. My leg was pretty messed up, though thankfully not broken. I got some pain killers and had to spend the next couple of days relaxing and staying off it for the most part. I caught the end of the Beijing Olympics on T.V during this time. The marathon on the final day was really cool, giving you a nice view of the city. I was glad I caught it.

Soon enough my swelling was gone and I was okay to ski again, though I still had an ugly bruise for my troubles. You can bet I was a good deal more cautious on the slopes after that! I even switched to snowboarding for a bit, but I’m not a great snowboarder and was soon back on skis doing what I love.

The hotel was awesome, with shops, bars, a disco, indoor pool, hot tub, a games room with ping pong tables, an onsite doctor, and even a movie theatre. The self-serve restaurant we frequented was great, and we really gorged ourselves during our stay there. They had chocolate available at breakfast time, though that’s not a habit I should be getting into. Lunches were a nice mix of salads, fishes, meats, and soups. The other restaurant was a little more upscale, and a couple of the guys went in there and tried it out, saying it too was fantastic. Us ladies didn’t really have the proper attire for an evening in there though, or at least we thought.

In Portillo

In Portillo

As many guests as there are at Portillo, there are even more staff. They offered tremendous service, even managing our boots as we came in to eat and memorizing which boots belonged to which person. For the price we paid for the whole week, which was very reasonable, this was excellent service.

We even spied some professional skiers there training, including the vaunted Austrian men’s downhill team, including the legendary Hermann Maier, as well as the Canadian women’s team, gearing up no doubt for a good run at some medals on home soil in 2010.

It was a great week, despite my fall that incapacitated me for a couple days. We even got some powder running in near the end of the week, after a huge snow fall the night before. The staff and equipment were really top of the line, and it’s no wonder professional teams come here to train.

Our long odyssey in South America was not yet over, as we were off to Argentina next, where more skiing and fun surely awaited us. As a lover of skiing, I have to say that the Andes are an awesome place to ski, and I’d love to return someday soon.