Ski Mountaineering in Chile
We've divided this page into the following areas listed in geographical order from North to South .
The southern Andes have some great ski touring and mountaineering terrain, with everything from accessible day trips near the downhill resorts to committing expedition skiing on the Patagonian ice-caps. In between are some very quiet and scenic mountain areas with excellent ski-mountaineering and ski-touring terrain. For details of ski-mountaineering ascents see the guidebook written by John Biggar - The Andes, A Guide for Climbers.
In general there is insufficient snow on the peaks of the Puna de Atacama in the north of Chile and Argentina to give good skiing, although the larger glacier on the third highest Andean summit - Pissis might be worthwhile.
A very snowy view of Ojos del Salado, 6893m, taken in January 2008. This is the most snow I have ever seen on this peak and makes it just about skiable at least on the upper sections. However looking at the rocks I would take an old pair of skis.! This picture does show that with the right conditions the Puna peaks could be an excellent high altitude ski destination.
There is some great ski-touring just outside of the Chilean capital Santiago, at heights of 2500-4000m. Good areas include the area around the Tres Valles resorts and the Cajon del Maipo. The following two pictures were taken near Baņos Colina, in the area above Santiago in September 2001, when we had brilliant snow conditions and unbelievably good weather.
The high peaks in this area, including Aconcagua, the highest summit in the Andes, do not usually make good ski ascents. Winters suffer from high winds above about 4500-5000m, which strip most snow from the mountains. In general the lower peaks in the 3000m to 4000m height range are much more entertaining to ski.
Above two pictures :- Ski mountaineering on Cerro Catedral above Santiago, 2001
Below:- Ski mountaineering above the Cajon del Maipo, near Santiago, 2003
Further south the Maule valley has some good ski touring, although the peaks are less spectacular.
The peak of Campanario on the right and the Laguna del Maule on the left. There is some great easy ski-mountaineering around the Laguna del Maule, at its best in September.
Skiing near the peak of Campanario.
Descending Volcan Copahue on the Argentine border, looking over to Sierra Velluda and Volcan Antuco.
Ski Mountaineering on Volcan Antuco above the Laguna de la Laja, October 2014.
One of the best places to go are the volcanoes of the Andean Lake district in central-southern Chile and Argentina. In Chile we have skied to the summits of Lonquimay, Villarrica, Sierra Nevada, Llaima, Casablanca and Choshuenco and all are recommended and interesting ascents. Several other peaks, notably Volcan Lanin and Osorno will also make good ascents. All these ascents are featured in the guidebook written by John Biggar - The Andes, A Guide for Climbers.
Volcan Lonquimay in the Andean Lake District of Chile, taken from the nearby peak of Cautin.
The summit of Volcan Lonquimay in October 2014.
On the west face of the nearby Volcan Llaima in 2012.
Skiing Volcan Lanin on the border with Argentina
Skiing on the north side of Volcan Villarrica.
Skiing the peak of Glaciar Alto, San Lorenzo group, near Cochrane in Patagonia.
Another part of Chile with some good ski-mountaineering is the area around Coihaique and Cochrane in the middle part of Patagonia. This remote area is sometimes known s the Aisen region. It's a beautiful land of lochs, snow capped peaks that fringes the northern Patagonian ice-cap. Access to the skiing can be a bit tricky, with acres of virgin forest al around and some very wet conditions at times, but if you get the basic decisions right and a are a bit lucky with the weather you can have a great time.
San Lorenzo, the highest peak in this area which lies on the Chile-Argentina border, can make a good ski ascent too.
The Patagonian ice-caps provide some superb skiing terrain, though the weather is not always great. I have been on three trips to this area including partial crossings of both the north and south Patagonian ice-caps. Twice with stunning good weather, once with atrocious weather.... The picture above was taken on a ski ascent of Volcan Lautaro 3580m, a remote volcano in the centre of the southern ice-cap.
Icebergs in Laguna San Rafael, This is one of the main starting points for access to the North Patagonian icecap.
Dragging sledges towards San Valentin, the highest mountain in Patagonia, located on the eastern fringes of the Hielo Patagoina Norte.
A beautiful and tranquil sunset at the Paso Marconi camp, South Patagonian ice-cap........... ........and digging out the tents in a blizzard 36 hours later