Farellones and El Colorado Ski Resort in Chile are actually two connected resorts beside the mountain town of Farellones. Just over an hours drive from Santiago, the combined resort is the closest to the capital, and very popular with the local Chileans. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders have recently added this area to their radar due to some of the best out of bounds, big mountain road lap runs in all of South America. But you have to know where you are going.
When visiting, take note that the cone shaped mountain is the real ski center for skiers and riders, with 75km of skiable terrain over almost 360 degrees. Farellones has mainly beginner slopes and all the non-skiing activities like snow tubing, zipwire and skywalking, along with some raucous apres ski and nightlife.
With 101 marked runs, El Colorado, Chile is linked to the other two major ski centers, Valle Nevado and La Parva. These resorts together make up the “Three Valleys”, South America’s largest combined ski area with amazing back country terrain and stellar views of the high Andes. In order to link more than one ski area, you need to buy a multi-resort ski pass. These passes are available daily, at each resort, weather and snow quality depending.
El Colorado ski area actively develops its mountain infrastructure every year – especially the terrain park, on hill guest facilities and the off-piste, backcountry access. A growing number of northern hemisphere ski and snowboard teams come to train on its slopes and snow park, and use the area as their base camp for product testing, catalog and video shoots.
Here are some insider tips and ideas from our ski guides and locals that know the terrain and resorts like no other.
Important: Many of the areas described involve riding in non controlled avalanche terrain. Know your stuff, carry the right equipment and be smart. If you have any doubts, or even if you don’t, come join us on a PowderQuest guided tour. We will take you to the best skiing available with nothing for you to do but to enjoy what we have spent the last 2 decades figuring out!
Phil Gautier: For off-piste and backcountry, Cono Este on a powder day and Santa Teresita on any day, nuff said. Maybe even a taste of the Castle Greyskull if you can find the entrance.
Mo Rasiah: Phil pretty much sums it up. Cono Este on a powder day. Santa Teresa hold some of the best slackcountry skiing in South America. Just remember to bring your brain, beacon, and buddys. Oh, and dont forget the shovel and probe.
Terrain – freestyle
The snow park is billed as the best terrain park in South America, and is the largest in Chile. The park is added to and refined each year, with the machine specialist flown in from Andorra every winter.
This year the park has more than 40 features and several hits, and the freestyle zone includes a 250 meter boardercross zone. Freestyle skiing and snowboarding in El Colorado has really taken off over the past few years thanks to the investment into the park area and weekly events and contests.
The terrain park is not just for the pros. The team designs the park with the motto la Diversión es Progreso (Fun is Progress), and want to cater to all levels of snowboarders and skiers. Levels of difficulty are marked with a blue line for novices, a red line for intermediates and a black line for experts.
Terrain – experts
About 10 percent of the terrain is marked for experts. Most of the best El Colorado skiing and riding is to the east of the cone, where snow is deep thanks to the Andean winds and steep lines drop through cliff bands. Access by draglifts (t-bars and Pomas) means the beginners tend to stay around the front of the mountain, where there are plenty of nice slopes to play on.
Also on the eastern side, the off-piste skiing and snowboarding is fantastic in the Valle Olympico after a snowfall. They have opened a new drag lift, Los Pioneros, accessing 13 new runs and fun open powder bowls.
Colorado Backcountry Skiing and Snowboarding
Some of the best expert backcountry skiing in Chile is accessed here in a zone known as Santa Teresita. The terrain runs all the way to the road connecting Valle Nevado and Farellones. Men’s Journal Magazine recently rated it as one of the best places to snowboard on Earth.
Take note this terrain is big and once you are in, you are generally committed. Never just follow someones track into this zone, if you do not know where you are going you can easily get yourself cliffed out. There is also little to no avalanche mitigation here, except when there is concern that a large slide could close the road below.
Suggested guided trip for advanced and experts Summer Snow Escape
Terrain – intermediates
This is a playground for intermediate skiers, with nice groomed pistes fanning out from the cone, and the chance to dip off-piste alongside. The resort holds a good pitch from top to bottom. 40% of the mountain is marked as intermediate.
Suggested trip for intermediate skiers Ski Progression Adventure in Chile
Beginners and non-skiers
It’s a friendly area for beginners, with 15% of the mountain designated beginner slopes. Both Farrellones and El Colorado host international, bi-lingual schools where you can hire private or group classes. There is also plenty to do at the adjacent Farellones ski center including a massive tubing park, and of course plenty of après-ski.
The whole front of the resort looks over the Santiago valley; on the west you can see La Parva and the eastern side connects to neighboring Valle Nevado. If you are staying in the village of Farellones or Colorado, you have walking access to the lifts.
This holiday spot is not as international as its well known neighbor Valle Nevado. On the slopes you will hear a lot more Spanish than English, and few of the staff is bilingual, so it is a good authentic Chile experience.
Food is better than your average mountain food. The five restaurants serve from self-service food to meat skewers and cheese fondues; a new café on the terrain park specializes in gourmet burgers, and a recently-opened Juan Valdez café means good coffee has hit the high Andes.
Value and ticket prices
The resort offers similar Three Valley deals to its neighbors, giving you access to the whole area. If you just want to ski or snowboard El Colorado, it is best to avoid weekends and look for special offers running during the week.
Location: Village of Farellones/El Colorado, Central Chile. 1 hour from Santiago.
Elevation: 2,250m (9,022 ft) to 3,333m (10,934ft)
Vertical Drop: 1090m (3,576 ft)
Inbound Terrain: 101 Runs
15% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 35% Advanced, 10% Expert
Ski Lifts: 20 (4 chairlifts, 10 t-bars, 1 Poma, 4 ski school rope tows)
Hotels and Lodging: Apartments, Condos, private homes and small family run hotels
Off-Piste and Backcountry Access: Excellent. Hire a guide here
Heli-ski: Available at nearby Valle Nevado and some seasons via La Parva
Annual Snowfall: 300 inches (762 cms)
Ski Season: June to October
Ski and Snowboard Park: Yes