May 29, 2015: A recent statement by Enjoy, the company who manages the ski resort on Villarrica volcano, has confirmed that the Pucón ski center will not open during the winter season 2015. This decision is a direct result of the volcanic eruption of Villarrica which took place on March 3 this year, however, the ski resort is actually still intact.
In a bid to set the record straight, the reason for closure is due to the restricted entry to the area where the ski center is located. Since the volcanic eruption, access has been prohibited within the immediate 10km radius of the crater of the volcano. Unfortunately, that 10km encompasses the ski resort itself. As a result, workers have been unable to undertake the normal pre-season maintenance that would usually be performed on machinery such as the chair lifts during the months running up to the first snow fall.
** UPDATE November 4, 2015 Authorities have lifted restrictions to summit, ski and explore the volcano if you are guided by a certified agency. Learn more
** UPDATE June 9, 2015 This restricted area has been dropped to 3km due to reduced activity of the volcano. However Enjoy still plans on not opening due to lack of time to prepare the ski area.
Another reason is due to the damage caused by a lahar which destroyed a wide curve of the road that ascends to the ski resort. This mudflow, composed of an accumulation of pyroclastic material, rocky debris and water, happened as a direct result of the eruption. There were plans to carry out the essential maintenance on the road quite soon after the eruption to assure access, but those plans were thwarted by heavy rains that exacerbated the damage leaving that short section even more unstable.
The chairlifts, cafeteria, work stations and machinery sheds were all untouched by the eruption. The only physical damage was to the water tanks that supply the café and the restrooms. Had the 10km restriction not been in place, and had the road been fixed to allow access of large vehicles, these tanks could easily have been repaired in time for the season.
It is a great shame that visitors to Pucón this year will not be able to experience the thrills of taking their first ski class on the slopes of Villarrica, or challenging themselves to the black run with views of 5 volcanoes, but such is life, and Pucón remains a great place to spend winter vacations and we still plan on using Pucon as a base on our Chile Volcanoes Backcountry Touring Adventure as we do not depend on the ski resort.
Still a great place to visit! Support the locals!
Not only have we heard that there are plans to create a small snow park in the non-restricted area of the volcano allowing for powder filled activities such as snow shoeing, sledding and snowman making, but Pucón is also the Chilean capital of hot spring resorts. Perfect for the winter, especially after a day spent hiking in the local national parks, there is simply nothing better than a sojourn in the naturally heated waters while gazing out over lush valleys guarded by the ancient Araucaria trees.
As for skiing alternatives, four resorts are close enough for day escapes, or to combine a stay in Pucón with an overnight in one of the alternative ski centers themselves:
Ski Las Araucarias resort is located on the flanks of Llaima volcano just 190 km from Pucón. Inserted into the stunning Conguillio National Park, Las Araucarias is a true winter wonderland. The 4 lifts service the 350 hectare park where Araucaria trees dominate the scenery, as well as your ski experience. Lodging is available at the resort or in the regional capital of Temuco. Return day trip transport will be available from Pucón throughout the 2015 season.
Corralco Ski Resort located near the town of Malacahuello is 238 km from Pucón, and offers 6 chairlifts, 29 pistes and ample backcountry terrain. Accommodation is available in a high class hotel close to the pistes, or down below in the town of Malalcahuello itself.
Another option close to Pucón on the international highway through to Argentina is the Lanin volcano. Though Lanin does not offer the infrastructure of a formal ski resort, the intrepid can ascend via marked trails in order to ski down a couloir on the relatively steep northeast face of the volcano. The only accommodation is an orange plastic refuge, or your own tent! Not for the inexperienced!
If you prefer a little more comfort, the other alternative is to head right over the Andes to San Martin in Argentina, a 4 hour drive from Pucón approx. There you will find the fully developed ski resort of Chapelco whose 22 trails cover more than 140 hectares and are serviced by 10 chair and surface lifts. Accommodation is 20km away in the tourist hub of San Martin de Los Andes.
Aside from the main ski center, Pucón is fully open and waiting to receive guests during the winter season. Please stop by for a visit and help support the local economy! Tons of outdoor activities, nightlife and great restaurants.