Smaller than others in Chile but still this country’s oldest and most famous ski area lies 160 km (99 mi.) north of Santiago on the border with Argentina. The striking mustard- yellow Hotel Portillo – the only hotel here – sits on the shore of the beautiful Laguna de Inca surrounded by impressive peaks includingAconcagua, at the 6,960 m. (22,835 ft.) the Southern Hemisphere’s highest.
The stylish resort retains the atmosphere of a bygone age in its lakeside dining-room, harking back to winters when tweed plus-fours were worn at breakfast-time. The walls are covered in antique leather and waiters wear bow ties and bright red jackets. The number of guests in the whole establishment is limited to just 450, so it’s never crowded.
The ski terrain is steeper here than in either Valle Nevado or Chillán, and is served by a range of lifts including four ‘va-et-vient’ drag-lifts. These lifts are designed to survive the frequent avalanches that fall in the area. Each one is made up of a long cable, without any pylons which could otherwise be knocked down by avalanches. Should an avalanche hit the lift overnight, the cable drops and is buried until it can be located again. It can then be repaired or replaced, and then re-installed.
The other thing that makes these lifts different from ordinary drag-lifts is their size. Instead of the usual one skier per poma or two on a T-bar, the biggest of these lifts, called Roca Jack, hauls five standing skiers up the mountain on linked platters. Getting on and off at the same time is particularly tricky, since the lift moves at nearly 17mph before stopping on a slope that seems to be nearly vertical!
Read more in our post "Summer" Skiing/Snowboarding in South America..