Possibly the best playground for powder hounds in Chile, the Nevados de Chillan Ski Resort gets a deep average annual snowfall of over 30 feet.
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Located above the village of Las Trancas, Chile, Nevados de Chillan Mountain Resort, (recently taking over the resort concession from Termas de Chillan) sits at the base of active Volcano Chillan. This mountain offers amazing terrain, powder, catskiing, hotsprings and is one of the few Chilean resorts with tree skiing. The contours of the volcano turn into a complete playground on a powder day. The resort owns two ski-in, ski-out hotels; Hotel Nevados in the old growth forest and newly built Hotel Alto Nevados located on the beginner ski area above the upper parking lots.
Crevasses belching sulphur-tainted steam are dotted above the ski area; and you can ski to the edge of warm thermal pools to finish off your day if you know where to go.
The real reason to visit is the backcountry touring access and cat ski options to the peaks of Volcano Chillan and Los Nevados. We explore some of the best off-piste adventures in South America, including Shangri-La, and the Pirrigallo chutes.
Hiking and touring in the Chillan backcountry gives you access to some of the longest descents and better terrain in the Andes including a backcountry playground that would take a full season to explore.
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!
Mo Rasiah: Volcano descents, slackcountry access, hot springs and endless amounts of hidden volcanic lava flow terrain. The possibilities are endless. Powder or perfect corn snow, the choice is yours.
Phil Gautier: Chillan never ceases to amaze. There are truly a million faces to this resort if you can find them. How is this for a list of possibilities: a hot water river you can only get to on skis, seven volcanoes, and a 2300 meter run all the way to town. Ten years ski touring there, and I’m still skiing new lines.
Terrain – freestyle
The resort has a disappointing snow park set at a low angle and is rarely open or maintained except for times of local freestyle competitions. However the natural terrain is a snow park in itself where you get creative and find hits, drops and jibs from high above in the alpine to down in the trees around the Nevados Hotel.
Terrain – advanced to experts
Expert terrain is endless. While most of the resort lacks the super steeps, most of the area is ungroomed with countless options for off-piste and slack country exploring. The backcountry options are as wide as you could ever need with touring options to remote volcanoes, hot rivers, and long descents.
If you know where you are going or join a PowderQuest backcountry tour, there is terrain that will blow your mind and keep you occupied for days. Cat skiing is also an option via the ski school at the base.
Terrain – Intermediates
Fun offpiste and groomers can be found all over the mountain including the 13 km Tres Marias run. Follow the run to the base and if you are adventurous, you can explore to the left and right of this run, finding good powder, fun terrain features, and more.
Beginners and non-skiers
If you are here to ski Chillan for the first time, the ski school has decent facilities for people who want to learn to ski, however the small beginner area tends to get crowed and chaotic. Other activities include snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoeing, telemarking and sightseeing as high as the volcanic crater accessed via snowcat.
All the accommodation on the hill is ski in-ski out. The main resort offers 2 hotels (Hotel Nevados and Hotel Alto Nevados) with 3-4 star level accommodation. If you want to go higher end, there is the Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan closer to a 4 star experience with spa and thermal pools, but keep in mind this hotel is separate from the resort and you will have to purchase a lift ticket on top of your hotel stay. The casino is also no longer operating. For those on a budget, there are plenty of great options down the Valle Las Trancas, about 25 minutes away.
Why the bad press?
Online resort reviews from previous ski seasons have come from some pretty disappointed skiers and snowboarders who turned up at the resort to find many of the lifts listed on the website and trail map not even running due to conflicts with the previous concession holder. We are pleased to say that this problem has now pretty much been sorted and remains one of our favorite destinations in Chile despite the rustic layout of the resort and slower than average ski lifts.
Ownership of the ski hill and thermal pools changed hands from Termas de Chillan to Nevados de Chillan in 2008, and there were some teething problems, to say the least, during the transition. The confusion is not helped by the naming: there is a 5 star hotel and casino at the base of the mountain called Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan; but this is no longer directly associated with the ski resort.
The 3 to 4-star hotel, now run by Nevados de Chillan and called Hotel Nevados, is the best ski-in ski-out hotel option and features a large outdoor pool with hot water piped in from the natural hot springs. Another ski-in ski-out option is the newer Hotel Alto Nevados located next to the upper parking lot of the ski resort.
Value and ticket prices
When the upper lifts are running, the day rate is well worth it. When shut due to winds, unless you are a lower level intermediate or beginner, it would be best to spend your money on pisco sours, hot springs or go explore the beautiful Shangri-la valley on foot or horseback.
Location: Near the village of Las Trancas, South Central Chile
Elevation: 1,540m (5,052ft) to 2,500m (8,200ft)
Vertical Drop: 700m (2,300ft)
Inbound Terrain: 32 runs
20% Beginner, 30% Intermediate, 30% Advanced, 20% Expert
Ski Lifts: 12 with more in development
Hotels and Lodging: Ski in ski out Hotel Nevados de Chillan, Hotel Alto Nevados, and numerous options for all budgets 20-25 minutes away in Las Trancas. Get a free vacation quote
Off-Piste and Backcountry Access: Excellent. Come explore with our certified guides
Annual Snowfall: meters and meters…this place gets hammered!
Ski Season: June to October
Ski and Snowboard Park: Yes, but very small and rarely opens
Night Life: Nevados de Chillan has pubs at both hotels, however, down in the village of Las Trancas is where the real ski town madness takes place.