South American skiing is coming of age, as ski resorts across Chile invest heavily in new infrastructure, gearing up for a massive 2012 winter season.
Valle Nevado resort, boasting the largest skiable terrain in South America, will be opening Chiles first gondola. Seventy cabins with a capacity of six passengers each will add to the already modern infrastructure which includes quad chair Andes Express, the fastest lift in the region.
In anticipation of increased visitor numbers, Valle Nevado has also built a new 500 car parking area and a completely new service point for ticket sales, equipment rentals and a restaurant. And in line with its 10 year, $150million property development, it has a new sports and entertainment center which includes a climbing wall and skate ramp.
Just over the hill from Valle Nevado, El Colorado resort is also developing its accommodation offerings with the first waste water treatment plant in the range, paving the way for four new apartment buildings that will be online this year. A new draglift, with a capacity of 1400 people an hour, will open up the Valle Olimpico with 12 new runs and extensive off-piste.
El Colorado is also ramping up its services, with 1500 new car parks at the entrance to the village, new ticket sales offices and software, and an investment of US$200,000 in 5km of safety fencing. Its partner Farellones has boosted its non-skier offering, doubling the capacity of tubing available and adding a third access lift.
La Parva, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, has announced a project to develop the first half-pipe Olympic training center in South America. This will be accessible by its new triple chairlift which has opened up five new pistes.
David Owen of PowderQuest keeps a keen eye on developments and is particularly interested in the smaller Chile ski resorts. These ski areas are much less known and a completely different experience, given that they are sitting on the sides of volcanoes, many of them active.
On the flanks of Lonquimay volcano, Corralco has a new US$7 million, 66 room hotel and spa. The small resort has improved access by sealing 4km worth of roads, following in the footsteps of sister resort Villarrica, on the active Villarrica Volcano overlooking Pucón, which paved part of its road prior to last season.
Just across the border, Las Leñas resort in the Argentinean Andes is building a new Doppelmayr quad chairlift to move 2100 people an hour, and making a substantial investment in their mountain infrastructure.
Last week, the Meteorological Office of Chile released its latest forecasts for this winter season, says David. The good news is the report claimed that La Niña, responsible for lower precipitation levels over the last couple of years, is in its final stages.
The Met Office report said there has been a slow rise in sea temperatures, suggesting that from May a neutral phase will begin.
From then on, if these models are correct, we should see completely normal levels of precipitation across the country, which would make for the best season in years, says David.
Tourism agency SERNATUR is already predicting the greatest influx of foreign visitors on record. 2011 showed an overall increase of 11 percent guests from abroad, on the previous year.
Since 1999, PowderQuest has been the worlds leading provider of Ski & Snowboard adventures to both Chile & Argentina, delivering thousands of life changing experiences.
PowderQuest is a US-based company with full time offices in both the US and Chile, offering a wide variety of trips using certified guides through the Andes to ski and snowboard during the months of July through October.