Sendero Group Travel Blog

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008


skiing in Portillo Chile

You never know when you book a vacation 9 months ahead of time, what will happen, particularly when it comes to the weather. I'd say we got more than lucky.

We arrived in Santiago, somehow ending up in First Class seats for the 11 hour flight that actually reclined all the way down. What a treat. Our skis actually arrived this time. We spent two days mucking around Santiago, where the weather was beautiful.
Curvy road, almost resembling a paper clip, leading to Portillo Chile
The 2.5 hour drive to Portillo was a nail-biting one as the local driver popped in and out of the line of trucks winding their way over the Andes into Argentina. The last 29 switch-backs were particularly nerve-racking.

We made it on time to ski some runs on Saturday. The snow-base was 7 feet at the lodge, 12 feet up top, a bit hard packed but great coverage. There are no trees at this elevation, over 9000 feet at the base. There is an assortment of chairs, pommas and these conveyances they call slingshots. Five people line up, pull down a pomma-like thing and then the operator turns on the engine. You are whisked up the steep slope, much faster than a chairlift travels. If one person falls, you all eat it. You are banking on your slingshot mates to be good skiers or boarders. They simply turn the engine off when you are at the top, not necessarily on a flat place.
Mike and family skiing in Portillo Chile
Sunday was a cruzer day, pretty flat light so not great for those sighted folks on the mountain. Didn't bother me a bit. I did get a little altitude sickness.

Sunday Night/Monday morning, the snow dumped. We woke up to quite a storm. By the time they got the first chair running around 9, we had a good 2 feet of fresh powder. It stopped snowing around noon and was completely clear by 3 PM. They kept the lifts open past 5 because it was so gorgeous and everyone was after the new powder.

If you scripted a snow vacation, you would have a perfectly sunny day after the snowy one and that is what we got Tuesday. There were still plenty of fresh tracks to be had; Carson and Wyndham found them all and even took some runs on a GS race course set up for a local team.

Turns out the Canadian National team is training here for 2 weeks as well as a junior Canadian team. Lots of racers, coaches and trainers to visit with in the hot tub and in the lodge.

Speaking of the lodge, we have 3 multi-course meals each day plus tea. The food has been phenomenal at every meal, even very fresh vegetables and too many desserts. If you aren't eating, skiing, drinking or in the hot tub, you might go to the disco, gym or game facilities. I particularly enjoy meeting interesting people who have skied around the world. My favorite is 78 year-old Gary who has skied 211 resorts and will enter the Thursday race. Lots of stories to share around a pisco sour, the local Chilean drink.

The word is that a monster storm is going to hit Thursday night with as much as 15 feet of snow. If it does materialize, we may either ride it out in hopes of more powder or we may fly to Northern Chile to the desert, which is supposed to be amazing. We'll wait to Thursday to decide. I have been stuck here before for multiple days and had to leave eventually by helicopter. I don't think we want to miss those First Class seats home Sunday night.

Pretty amazing summer vacation. The only thing that would make it better is to be here with a bunch of family or friends.


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