In the western reaches of Mendoza province, the large Las Leñas, dating from 1983, can at times be the most challenging ski resort in South America. But that depends on the weather and whether a particular lift is open or closed. Provided there’s stable snow and not too much wind to open the avalanche-prone Marte chair, then expert skiers and snowboarders are in for a real treat. The lift provides the only mechanised access to some extraordinary off-piste, with plunging powder bowls and narrow couloirs. The area is dotted with cliffs and, again, exposed to the possibility of avalanches, so it’s the kind of place where a local guide is absolutely essential.
When the Marte chair is closed, Las Leñas amounts to an enjoyable but perhaps slightly bland Andean resort – a treeless wilderness a 90-minute flight from Buenos Aires to Malargue, followed by an hourlong bus ride; there are no cities or towns in the area but some robust nightlife nonetheless. All the accommodation here is in hotels and lodges within a short distance of a lift. The Hotel Virgo & Spa is the most comfortable place to stay, with an in-house cinema and a kids club.
Read more in our post "Summer Skiing/Snowboarding in South America".