Portillo is in the Valparaiso region of Chile, located on the edge of Lake Inca – in the Andes Mountains. It is a great place to go, not just for the skiing, but also because it has a lot of history. Portillo is the oldest ski resort in South America!
Skiing started in Portillo as early as 1890, when Norwegian Engineers were employed to study the area for a railway line, now the Uspallata Pass, that would connect Chile and Argentina. They used skis to get across the mountains and are thought to be the first ever people to have skis in the region. As the railroad continued being built, more and more of the workers used skis to get around, and after the railway’s completion, skiing turned into an enjoyable past time for many people – especially with the easy mountain access that the new train line provided. With increasing popularity came the establishment of the Portillo Ski Centre. Funny enough, this means that the railway was also technically, the first ski lift in Chile!
The Ski Centre also holds importance in the country’s sporting history. It was the host to the 1966 World Championships for alpine racing and to this day remains the only games to be hosted in the southern hemisphere. In addition to this, Portillo is only 23km from the great Aconcagua Mountain, the tallest mountain in South America and outside of Asia. It stands just under 7,000 metres tall and has a large number of glaciers, one of which measures 10km across. Roughly 2000 people attempt the ascent to summit each year, with the boldest among them even skiing part of the way down the mountain.
As for the Portillo Resort, there are 3 exclusive hotels to choose between, the main one being the Hotel Portillo. The service is excellent; the staff ratio to hotel guests is almost 1:1, and the hotel amenities make up for lack of a ski town – with fitness center, bar, game room, a disco, and even a cinema – at your disposal. The resort has previously been ranked in the top 10 best ski resorts in the world by Ski Magazine and the Travel Channel.
When it comes to skiing, Portillo is a great choice if you’re looking for lots of variety. There are 14 lifts available and a great range of slopes to suit all abilities.The soft powder and small nature of the resort makes it perfect for beginners, who can practice on the gentler slopes without crowds of people skiing past. The fact there are so few guests in this resort is actually great for everyone, as it makes for a more relaxing, uninterrupted ski holiday. If you’re a person of a bit more adventurous nature, this is also the perfect place for you. Portillo offers some insane off-path skiing routes if you’re willing to take a cool hike up the mountain, one of which will lead you to the “Christ of the Andes” statue, and down a thrilling 9 mile run. There is also lift access to the high-up avalanche chutes which offer steep powder skiing for those really seeking a challenge.
You don’t even have to know how to ski to enjoy this place – there’s a great tour which can take you on a snowshoe trek around the base of the mountain where you’ll experience breathtaking views of the Aconcagua Valley and sparkling Inca Lake above the treetops.
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