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Portillo Chile Trip Report - August 2009


August in the Andes…

Portillo is a killer spot. High-end accommodations and some serious terrain just a few hours from Santiago Chile. Hotel elevation is about 9000 ft. Surrounding peaks are as high as 14,000 ft. Views of Aconcagua and big glaciated terrain are not hard to find. Portillo has some great skiing that can be accessed by some “sporty” poma lifts (Think slingshot for 5 folks at a time) and enough groomed terrain to actually entice some serious world cup ski teams to visit and train. No village, no market, & little else than the amazing hotel keeps this place from getting busy. Although word has gotten out, and more and more North American “freeskiers” are coming each year, there is plenty of fresh powder to go around after a storm. Hiking above the chairs, along with some crafty traversing is an easy way to get into some steeper lines and find your own stash…

One of the highlights and lowlights of Portillo has to be the (treeless) alpine terrain. The serious vertical snow/rock walls and chutes provide amazing views and some amazing skiing, but the lack of trees makes for very challenging skiing when the clouds and storms roll in. And when the storm does roll in, it can bring a meter of fresh (or a lot more) with ease. Patience is key and not hard to endure, with the: hot tub, gym, bar, game room, disco, mini cinema, spa, and on and on. And as with any South American travel you have to be prepared for some hurdles: road closures & lift closures and whatnot, but its all worth it when the sun comes out.

My role this year was to provide a “backcountry” option to the North American Ski Training Centers annual Portillo course. Here in California I provide backcountry ski guide services and avalanche courses for NASTC in the Tahoe area. NASTC has been taking clients down to Portillo for over 15 years and mostly specializes in high quality ski instruction. But, as we have seen in the states, more and more folks are seeking the backcountry experience. (Or sidecountry as some like to phrase it) So, I offered some backcountry tours and instruction, companion rescue clinics, along with short avalanche awareness lectures. And skied a lot of powder! Hopefully enticing more and more clients into the backcountry. One could easily spend a month or more touring above and around the resort, all–the-while returning to first class dining and accommodations at the end of each day. Looking forward to getting back asap!

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