Southern Chile’s vast mountain ranges bestow supreme glacial getaways for ski enthusiasts in search of silky slopes and pristine austral panoramas. The natural volcanic palisades near the city of Chillán are a prime example of the south’s extreme and rugged landscape, a winter haven for both adrenaline-addicts and novice skiers, and everyone in between. Take advantage of precipitous peaks and daring inclinations by exploring this snow-sport mecca during Chile’s ski season (from June until October).
Nevados de Chillán
Sultry hot springs simmer beneath the snow-capped, stratovolcanic group of mountains known as Nevados de Chillán, insinuating the area’s volatile geologic temperament. Numerous thermal springs are open to the public here, a relaxing oasis for exhausted skiers, and the perfect remedy for languid muscles after a day spent soaring the slopes.
The Nevados de Chillán ski park begins at 1,650 meters, including 10,000 hectares of stimulating trails. Skiers rave about the many pleasures of this shining gem of a mountain, which boasts South America’s longest ski run, the infamous 13 kilometer Las Tres Marías trail. The acclaimed Termas de Chillán ski resort, nestled within Nevados de Chillán, provides exceptional lifts, extensive runs and dizzying vertical drops, as well as comfortable and luxurious accommodations, ski lessons, and abundant winter fun.
Plunge down to nearby Valle Las Trancas for an alternate refuge, where you can find and lose yourself amidst ancient and distinguished native forests. Cozy hotels and lodges, rustic cabins, friendly hostels and breathtaking views are readily available for travelers here throughout the year.
Getting there (is at least half of the adventure):
However you decide to travel to Nevados de Chillán – in a vehicle, by bus, or even on foot – you likely won’t arrive there without crossing the city of Chillán, located in Chile’s Bío Bío Region (region VIII). Take your time to explore the culture of the zone and taste Chillán’s celebrated longanizas – arguably the most famous Spanish-style sausages in all of Chile – together with fresh tortillas de rescoldo (a local bread baked in ashes and coals), complemented by a dash of merkén (smoked and dried hot pepper seasoning that is characteristic of the indigenous cultures of southern Chile). After digesting this amazing and authentic meal, ask for directions to El Camino Rio Viejo or Route 55 (or, as the old-timers call it, Camino a Pinto). Following this route until Las Trancas, you will encounter the hulking 3,100 meter Chillán volcano, covered with copious snow and ready to be challenged.
By Gretchen Stahlman, written for Chile.Travel