This is a bump from last year but it's still just as relevant. If you're planning or even thinking about going somewhere to ski this summer there's some useful info in here.
Writen by Vince Shuley in 2010.
Summer is here. Well, sort of. After a cold and wet spring, the start of the summer in Western Canada has been one Alaskan weather front after another. There was even fresh snow in Whistler’s alpine on Canada day. Could Ullr be sending us the message that it’s time to ski again already?
For many, the summer gives a chance to rest the knees, play with a different set of toys and work on that bleach white skin that’s been shrouded in your ski jacket all winter. For some however, summer is the opportunity to work hard and make enough money to ski all winter long. If the few months of summer are too long between face shots, check out where to get your off-season skiing fix.
This continent is most famous for two things- football and beautiful women. It also has the highest mountain range in the world outside of Asia. There are ski resorts of all size and shape scattered down the range, mostly around the border between Argentina and Chile. The following destinations are gaining popularity with North American visitors. Its best to brush up on some street Spanish before you go, as many resorts speak little or no English.
Flying- easiest is to fly into Santiago, Chile. If you are looking for a cultural experience during your trip it can be worth flying in and out of Buenos Aires, the party capital of South America.
Extremely Canadian www.extremelycanadian.com
Powder Quest www.powderquest.com
Evolve Chile www.evolvechile.com/
South America Ski www.southamericaski.com
Considered to be the jewel in the crown of the Andes, Las Leñas is THE place for a big mountain skier. Endless couloirs, high altitude snow and easily accessible backcountry are just a few reasons why pro skiers make the annual pilgrimage to Argentina. The downfall of this magical place is the design of the lift system. The fabled Martes chair (which accesses the alpine) was constructed in an avalanche path and the operators will shut it down in inclement weather or if there is any slide danger. If this chair doesn’t open (it can stay closed for up to a week in a big storm), there’s not a whole lot of other exciting terrain to ski here.
Cerro Catedral is the ski mountain that sits above the picturesque city of Bariloche, with views of the Patagonian lakes and mountain ranges. The terrain in the resort is not on the same level as Las Leñas but there are huts in the nearby backcountry that access steep couloirs.
Chile’s answer to the alpine ruggedness of Las Leñas, Portillo climbs the walls of the valley surrounding the Laguna del Inca (Inca Lake). The surface lifts that access the highest lines are a drag line design with no pylons, effectively making them avalanche-proof. For more info check out this spring trip report from back in 2008.
Valle Nevado/El Colorado/ La Parva
These three resorts sit side by side in the mountains above Chile´s capital, Santiago. For vacationers looking to spend the least time traveling on overland buses, these resorts are the most convenient. The drive up from the city takes roughly one hour, winding up over 60 switchbacks. Unfortunately the three resorts have done nothing to cooperate with one another and the only way to connect with the lift systems is to buy an expensive upgrade to your lift ticket. The best skiing of is Santa Teresa, the backcountry that drops off the El Colorado´s boundary rope all the way to the road. If you can organize a shuttle for the day to pick you up and drive you back to El Colorado´s lifts (or try hitching up the road to Valle Nevado), this will be one cheapest days of heli-ski style descents. For more information on skiing Santa Teresa road shuttles visit www.southamericaski.com
Most of New Zealand’s skiing is located in the Southern Alps on the Southern Island. The largest and highest resorts on the North Island have excellent terrain but are the first to experience the harsh weather coming off the Pacific. The roads to the ski hills in this country are some of the most treacherous in the world, with tales of cars tumbling down the mountain side not uncommon amongst the locals.
Flying- Christchurch and Dunedin are the main airports on the South Island and are both reasonable driving distances to various ski fields. You will probably have to connect via Auckland.
New Zealand Adventures www.nzadventure.com/index.html
Wanaka, South Island
The town of Wanaka has been gaining popularity as the destination for freestylers and freeriders during the summer months. Wanaka has a snow culture vibe amongst the residents and tourists, but remains a small ski town in terms of nightlife.
Snow Park has been made famous by serving as the first dedicated terrain park resort in the world, but in the last few years Cardrona has stepped up its park game to match. The NZ Freeski Open is actually now hosted in Cardrona, which has great off piste skiing as well as a world class terrain park.
Known by the passionate local skiers as TC, Treble Cone is regarded to have the most terrain variety and reliable powder days. There are plenty of steeps and the lift accessed backcountry is some of the best in New Zealand. Treble Cone resort has teamed up with a guiding group to market backcountry tours.
Queenstown, South Island
Queenstown in winter from Bob's Peak credit:Destination Queenstown
Queenstown began as a gold mine camp back in the 1860s and has grown into an adventure tourism destination with established entertainment/nightlife scene. A great destination if you are traveling with non-skiers, as there is no shortage of adrenaline-fuelled activities or relaxation options.
The Remarkables has a great mix of freeride terrain and park, while nearby Coronet Peak is more of ‘groomer cruiser’. While these mountains don’t have the same amount of expert terrain as found around Wanaka, there is plenty of fun rollercoaster terrain with reliable snowfall.
Scattered throughout the Southern Alps, Club Fields are on New Zealand’s free skiing frontier. These hills are membership driven with no company ownership, meaning the access to the ski area and the lifts themselves are simple and rustic. The infamous ‘nutcracker’ (a type of rope tow) takes a few goes to get the hang of, but the terrain of these crude lifts is some of the best in the country.
For freestylers and racers, the summer glaciers are a great option to train over the summer without traveling to the other side of the world. Public ski lanes are generally just the left over space between all the different camps that operate on the glacier, meaning if you want hit the best features you’ll have to shell out for a pass to one of the camps.
The most popular Glaciers skiing is on Blackcomb, BC and the Windells Camp on Mt Hood, OR. For more info :
What to Take?
Generally you’ll want to take as much equipment as you can without getting charged outrageous baggage. Two pairs of skis is ideal, fat skis for powder days and all mountain mid-fats for mixed conditions. If you are looking to down size, take your fats as there is not nearly as much selection of high end demo equipment available to rent in the Southern Hemisphere. Don’t be afraid to have your ski boots with your carryon luggage to save checked bag weight.
Return flights to start at around $1200-1300 CDN to Santiago and around $1600-1700 CDN to Christchurch from Vancouver. If you are looking to do the trip on the cheap you’ll need to book everything yourself, as tour companies will charge you for the service. In South America, the Argentinean peso is much weaker making it more value than Chile. Budget for an additional $1000 at the very least to cover accommodation, food and transport for 7-10 days in the Southern Hemisphere.