Volcano Skiing

Nevados de Chillan

Nevados de Chillan

I write this after having just returned from a vacation in Chile with my friend Vincent. The two of us are adept skiers and thrill seekers, came to Chile with the hopes of scaling three volcanoes, Lonquimay, Antuco, and Volcan Nevado, close to where we would be staying, and then skiing them. Unfortunately we were struck with some terrible weather which made the risky ski ventures impossible. High winds and blowing snow on the mountains would have made these runs very dangerous. Instead we enjoyed some skiing at lift served areas, as well as some powder skiing.

We arrived in the Chilean capital of Santiago on August 18, and spent the majority of that first day driving, 770 km to Corralco, on the south side of Lonquimay. It was blowing and snowing quite heavily as we first approached the area, and we knew a change in plans would be necessary. We ended up doing some tamer runs and called it an early night.

The next day was to be our big day. We would scale the summit of Lonquimay at 2850m. We first headed to the ski lifts early in the morning to give us a boost up the mountain. The ski lifts went as far as 1900m up the mountain, so we had about 900m to go on our own from here. We skinned our way around the SE ridge to about 2500m, at which point the cliff face became too steep and we were forced to use our crampons the rest of the way. In about 3 hours from reaching the end of the ski lifts we had ascended the remaining 900m and reached the summit. It was very windy and cold, which wasn’t really all that surprising given our altitude. The east side of the mountain provided a great run, with nicely packed snow and no evidence of any potential hazards like slabs. It was a great run down the mountain, finishing in the early afternoon.

Valle las Trancas in winter

Valle las Trancas in winter

We had planned to scale Antuco the next day, but had heard that the snow levels were immense, so we decided to bypass Antuco and head straight for Las Trancas and the Nevados de Chillan. The next day also proved very windy, which led to our fears that the Volcan Nevado would be icy and exposed, so we decided against that run. The next day was even worse, with terrible wind and snow, forcing even the ski lifts to remain closed for the day. We were forced to improvise again, finding some decent little runs to carve, but on the whole it was not what we were hoping for that day. The snowed plenty overnight, leading to a large deposit of new snow on the ground, about 15 cm worth, which made it the perfect opportunity to chase powder. We went to the Pirigallo Valley and found some great fresh tracks to run. We never got to scale Volcan Nevado, but it we had an enjoyable time regardless.

Patio  Bellavista

Patio Bellavista

After this we headed back to Santiago, and enjoyed a great dinner at one of my favourite pub / restaurants, called Etniko, and located in Bellavista area. After this we headed back to our hotel to pack up, get a fresh change of clothes on and prepare for the long flight back to San Francisco. It was not my first time in Chile, and it certainly won’t be my last.