Last Monday we decided to take a little trip out of Santiago and go skiing in the Cordillera (aka, the Andes), or as the Chileans say, we "went to the snow". I'll admit it was a little pricey, but it was well worth it. The skiing was, by far, much better than anything I have ever seen in VT. I wish I had had more time to explore the mountain more.
If it sounds strange to you that I went skiing in June, keep in mind that in the southern hemisphere, it is winter right now. It almost never snows in the city, but since the city is surrounded by tremendous mountains, its not hard to find snow in a short trip up the hill.
There are many ways to get up to the ski hills outside of Santiago. We used a company called Skivan. We did have a few small equipment issues, but the driver was excellent and I thought the prices were fair. There are many other transport services that will bring you up into the cordillera to ski as well.
We went to Valle Nevado to ski. There are several other mountains, but Valle Nevado was suggested to us by more than one person. We wound up paying a few dollars extra, but I didn't mind at all. I will say that this is not a hill for beginners. There are technically three green trails. One is a cut-through trail.. so very short, one is a nice green trail, and the third is not quite so gentle, fine for me, but my friend who is a bit less experienced than I am skiing, fell quite a few times and found it to be very steep for a beginner. I thought the mountain it was perfect for my ski level, which I'd call intermediate. I generally stay on the blue square trails when I'm skiing in the states. There are also many advanced trails at Valle Nevado, but I didn't dare go on those, since I didn't feel like testing the Chilean medical system on the second to last day of my trip.
What made this so much better than my experiences in Vermont and New Hampshire? I would say it had to be the lack of ice. If anyone has any experience skiing in the Northeast, you know that while most trails tend to start off nice early in the day, it's quite commong for trails to become iced over by the afternoon. If there is one thing that I can't stand about skiing it would be ice. I get so freaked out by ice sometimes that it really impairs my ability to ski, because I am too afraid to go down steep hills. I found that without the fear of ice, I was able to conquer hills that would freak me out completely in Vermont.
The only downside that I found to skiing in the cordillera was the commute. Not the distance, because it was really only a little over an hour from Las Condes to the mountain, but the absolute fear I felt driving up and down the mountain. So many sharp twists and turns, not to mention the sharp drops over the side of a mountain if the driver were to screw up. Our driver was excellent, and drove nice and slow, but still, I spent the entire ride home praying to every deity I could think of to spare my life if the van were to fall off the cliff. But. Still. I'd do it again. It's worth it.
The one thing that really made an impression on me was the lack of trees. I mean, I knew that there were no trees, A because of the altitude and B because of the very little amount of soil that is available. Its kind of the limiting reagent to the equation. But still, its strange to ski without trees on all sides.
I'll leave you all with some lovely pictures that I took while skiing.
El lunes pasado, fuimos a la nieve para esquiar. Me encantó. Estoy seguro que los lugares de esqui en la Cordillera son muchos mejores de cualquier lugar de esqui cerca de mi en el noreste de los EEUU. Porque? Porque no hay hielo. La cosa que me carga de esquiar es el hielo. Me da demasiado miedo cuando esquio por el hielo, y creo que affecta mi capacidad de esquiar. Sin hielo, tengo mucho mas confianza de mis aptitudes.
Fuimos a Valle Nevado. Nos costó 2 o 4 mil mas, pero mucha gente nos sugerio este lugar, entnoces, creo que valió la pena ir para alli. La unica cosa que no me gustó de la cordillera fue el camino. Yo sentí que iba a morirme cada vez que doblabamos una esquina. Pasé todo el camino de vuelta orando a cualquier dios que me escuchara que no me muera. Pero valió la pena.
El otro problema de Valle Nevado es que es un lugar para gente que sabe esquiar. Para mí, fue perfecto, pero para mi amiga, ella encontró el lugar my dificil. Solo hay 3 pistas para precipiantes. Mi amiga encontró Valle Nevado muy dificil.
Entonces, en fin, recomendo Valle Nevado, pero no vaya alli para aprender esquiar.