Spot Check: Valle Nevado

By James Jofre

When it's summer and you're thirsty for deep, dry powder, there's no better place to go to quench your thirst than Valle Nevado, South America.

Getting there is relatively simple: fly to Santiago de Chile International Airport, take a one-and-a-half-hour bus ride to Valle Nevado, and buy a copy of Lonely Planet–South America to help you get around–and so you can understand when the locals say, “You look good, baby!” The rest is sick!

Since you'll usually arrive in Valle Nevado in the afternoon, get your snow gear ready for the next day because the nightlife is just minutes away. Casual is the norm, and the “Vegas” look will get you all the gals at the disco. First, go for some cool and frosty drinks at the pub, then hit the dance floor with your funky moves. Be careful with the local drink pisco because it tastes like lemonade, but will make you crazier than a rabid dog.

Boasting largest amount of rideable terrain in the Southern Hemisphere makes Valle Nevado the preferred spot for snowboarders from all over the world. Learn, explore, and discover El Colorado, La Parva, and Valle Nevado Resort, which combined total over 67 miles of groomed runs. There's even more terrain out of bounds that lets you take full advantage of all the powder (twelve feet by July 6, 2000) the Andes grants to its visitors.

If you have an avalanche beacon, shovel, probe, and backcountry knowledge, you can adventure into the canyons below Valle Nevado. The runs are endless–at least ten miles of waist-deep pow can fulfill any freerider's dreams. Once you get to the bottom of the valley, just stand on the road with a big smile and wait until a truck heading to the resort picks you up. Warm hospitality is another unexpected surprise the Andes offers any snowboarder seeking out the ultimate backcountry experience.

Freestylers from North America will not find the snowboard parks as developed as the ones back home. However, the park at Valle Nevado has a few intermediate tabletops and spines to keep you entertained when the lifts at the top close due to high winds. Also, I strongly suggest watching out for rocks covered by only an inch of snow after a wind/snowstorm. These storms constantly change the snow deposits everywhere in Andean ski resorts.

The main thing, while riding in the Andes, is to be prepared for the unexpected snowstorms, road closures, and other surprises.

And now you should be ready for South America … it's lots of fun, on and off the slopes. Hasta la vista, amigo!


The Facts:

_ Average season length, 112 days

_ Ski lifts, 41

_ Intermediate snowboard park

_ Groomed runs, 67 miles

_ Vertical drop, 3,900 feet

_ Average yearly snowfall, nineteen feet

_ Snowmaking coverage, 35 percent

_ Average temperature, 33 degrees (F)

_ Heli-boarding