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Summer Stash: Heli-skiing In Chile

by Nick Baines August 31, 2019

For some, the long balmy evenings of summer are not a signifier of sunglasses, shorts and flip-flops, but of an urgency to head to the southern hemisphere in pursuit of snow.

The Andes mountain range forms a literal backbone of the South American continent and on the border of Chile and Argentina a veritable stash of thick, fluffy powder awaits those who put in the effort to get there.

For years, brands like Burton sent their pro teams down to Chile to get fresh summer footage in an early marketing attempt to stimulate interest for the coming winter season ahead. Today though, it’s a prime powder destination during those long summer months between our regular winter seasons.
 

Getting it done


A lot of powder hounds head straight for Valle Nevado where you can choose from a number of heli ski operators. The nearby resort of Portillo is also an option as is the super exclusive, 5-star Puma Lodge. However, some heli operators, like Third Edge Heli also fly out of west Santiago, allowing you to stay close to the Chile’s bustling capital. This also allows you to rest and recover at a lower altitude.

What to expect


This is a land of couloirs, bowls and wide open faces. With most runs averaging around 5,000 vertical feet, your descents will be plentiful and you’ll need some stamina in those legs.

Chile really does have something for everyone when it comes to back country. You’ll tuck into narrow chutes, and meander through epic tree lines. The high altitude of the Andes means the snow pack remains light and dry throughout the summer. More importantly, it’s reliable and is arguably the best skiing available in the southern hemisphere.

 


Making A Boot-pack


Of course, plenty of people head to Chile for the powder and forego the expense of a chopper. It’s estimated that only around 2% of the lines in Chilean resorts are piste, leaving your imagination and ability to map out the rest.

The renowned Portillo Resort is a perfect entry point for anyone with the fitness and mountain know-how required for some serious hiking, creating a firm boot-pack to lines like Super-C.

 

 As with any back country pursuits, you need to know your abilities and seek professional guiding and support where necessary.




Nick Baines
Nick Baines

Author

With an insatiable thirst for travel, Nick Baines is a journalist based on the UK’s south coast. With more than 20 years experience in snow sports, he’s contributed features to publications all over the world.



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