While those in the Northern Hemisphere were reaching for their swimsuits and heading to the beach in early July, in the Southern Hemisphere it was all about wrapping up and making for the mountains — the ski season was finally in full swing and I couldn’t have been more excited.
At South America’s largest ski escape, Valle Nevado Ski Resort in Chile, the snow arrived with aplomb. So, despite being just about 40 miles from Santiago, it took me more than three hours to climb the mountain by car from the city to the property. Valle Nevado is part of an area known as the Three Valleys (Tres Valles), which also includes La Parva and Colorado. Normally it takes just a little more than an hour, but a snowstorm struck as I attempted to ascend. Even with snow chains on our tires, I couldn’t do more than creep up the mountain at a snail’s pace. Though visibility was poor to non-existent, levels of determination still soared high.
I finally reached nearly 10,000 feet up and pulled in front of the toniest of the three accommodation options, Hotel Valle Nevado. (If you can, try to go to Valle Nevado for at least a few nights as the altitude may take a while to adjust to.) Keeping with the hotel’s overall smart, clean aesthetic, my room was stylish, spacious and came with windows showcasing the stunning Andean views outside. White walls and beige-colored carpets were offset by wooden and leather furniture — all you could ask for from a ski hotel room.
In need of a good meal and a stiff drink after the long journey, I lunched at Restaurant Don Giovanni on warming squash soup, chicken with polenta and manjar tart (a milk-based dessert) while looking over some of the 23,000 skiable acres through the large windows.
After putting down the fork and sipping the last bit of Pisco Sour, it was time to hit the slopes for the afternoon. Miraculously, as can only happen in the mountains, the clouds sped like wild and blue skies opened up above us. Due to the severe weather though, not all the lifts were open, but I had a great two hours getting rid of the cobwebs and finding our ski legs again.
That night we headed to La Fourchette, Valle Nevado’s gourmet French restaurant. A buzz filled the air as people poured in, many arriving from other parts of Latin America, the United States and Europe. The service at La Fourchette was slick and attentive, the atmosphere formal but welcoming and the scenery was highlighted by vaulted ceilings and a soft cream and red color palette. As for the menu, the beef bourguignon may have been the only item that was more memorable than the ambience.
The next morning I awoke in time for breakfast before catching the first lift. It was a beautifully sunny day after yesterday’s whiteout — which dumped more than a foot of snow in 24 hours. Sliding down the freshly covered runs built up a good appetite. Indeed, my stomach was rumbling by the time I stopped for lunch at mountainside restaurant Bajo Zero. Sitting at more than 10,000 feet above sea level at the top of the gondola, Bajo Zero had an outdoor deck, indoor seating (you may have to wait for a table but a little patience pays dividends) and served hearty mountain grub, including a scrumptious burger with avocado.
If you’re ready to dig into your own world-class ski experience, now is the ideal time for a Valle Nevado vacation. This year marks 25 years since the resort opened. And to celebrate, the 2013 season (which runs through October) brings a fresh ski run, an expanded Snowpark, as well as a new gondola that carries you up the mountain inside a six-person capsule.
For more details on the Southern Hemisphere’s winter wonderland, visit here.