Splitboarding South America should be on every serious backcountry snowboarder’s bucket list.
If you are looking to escape the summer heatwave with dreams of refreshing powder in the stunning Andes backcountry, you are in the right place.
While the mighty Andes Mountains span 4350 miles (7000 kilometers) from Venezuela to Patagonia, splitboarding in Chile and Argentina is where to focus.
Below you will discover expert tips on how to make a trip to splitboard the Andes reality. From suggested guided splitboard tours to exploring on your own, it’s all right here.
Slap on the skins and let’s get started.
When to Go South
When’s the best time to splitboard in South America? Similar to what we suggest in our detailed destination guide to snowboard South America, covering the resorts; You probably want to skip early season. Unless of course, you’re into core shots.
Let’s break it down month by month.
Splitboarding in June
The snow starts falling in Chile and Argentina in May. Resorts get going in June. The backcountry in June is generally too thin. Unless you are tied to traveling in June, it’s best to wait and let the big Andes June snowstorms do their magic.
Splitboarding in July
While South American ski resorts get crowded in July due to local winter holidays, you rarely have to deal with a crowded skin track or worry about fighting for first tracks in the backcountry.
However July is the most expensive month in Chile and Argentina. Budget minded splitboarders should consider postponing their journey to South America until after the July school holidays.
For snow, July tends to bring cold storms and can be one of the best months for powder. We prefer to let the backcountry bases build in early-mid July and focus our splitboard adventures for later in the month and beyond.
Splitboarding in August
August is when conditions tend to be at their prime for powder snow and a deeper snowpack. The winter storms continue to hammer in off the Pacific, even more so during El Niño cycles.
This also of course happens to be one of the hottest times in the Northern Hemisphere so splitboarding The Andes is a great escape from dog days of summer back home.
Splitboarding in September
One of our favorite times to splitboard in the Southern Hemisphere. The storms keep coming, the days get longer and the prices are at their cheapest for lodging, lift tickets (if you plan on using the Andes resorts for lift assisted touring) and transportation.
Splitboarding in October and November
Now we are going full spring conditions. Corn snow, long days with the sun not setting until after dinner and the occasional dump of powder, especially on the southern volcanoes and Patagonia.
Most of the ski resorts have closed by late October, so you are 100% dependent on human powered split board adventures or a sled.
October and November are the 2 months to go big. Suggestions on where to go up next.
Where to Splitboard in Argentina and Chile
Now let’s cover some the best splitboard destinations in South America; Chile and Argentina.
Home to tens of millions of explorable acres, an entire guide book could be written on splitboarding Argentina and Chile. Here we’ll touch on some of our favorite resort’s with lift access touring, remote backcountry zones and suggested trips.
Splitboarding in Chile
Chile’s backcountry terrain stretches from just north of the metropolis of Santiago (outside of San Esteban, home to Arpa Snow Cats) down the spine of the Andes into remote, wild Chilean Patagonia.
Best Resort/Lift Assisted Splitboarding
Here are 3 of our favorite resorts in Chile providing good lift accessed splitboarding.
While policies are always changing, sometimes you can purchase a “one up” lift ticket at a discounted rate if you do not plan on doing any warm up laps at the resorts. Worth asking!
It’s always a good idea (and a courtesy) to check in with ski patrol before leaving the resort. Also note that once you are out of the area, cell phone coverage quickly deteriorates in many zones.
Nevados de Chillan
Game on for all splitboarder levels. Stellar zones for the experienced splitboarder and the best resort if you are just getting started splitboarding.
Advanced to Experts
What’s to say? Nevados de Chillan is and has been for 2 decades, one of our favorite backcountry destinations in South America. You could spend an entire season here and continue to discover new backcountry touring zones to explore. Aside from the obvious volcanic peaks to summit, ancient lava flow and deep gullies run off in all directions. A freerider’s paradise.
Just Getting Started to Intermediates
Chillan is a great place to test out your new splitboard gear and get comfortable in the skin track. Fun tours can be made right off the Mirador and Don Otto chairlifts. Just be sure you have the proper avalanche safety gear and know where you are going. Splitboard crampons are high recommended as you will encounter some wind scoured ridges, home to very firm snow. Best to have a certified ski-splitboard guide.
With relatively easy access from Santiago and the international airport, you can be splitboarding with in hours after your flight lands.
Take the Aguilas chairlift for quick access into the 3 Valley’s backcountry. From the top of the chair there are several routes. To quickly escape the resort, head to the saddle clearly visible as you unload the chairlift.
From there you have access to wide open alpine bowls, steep chutes and hidden gems off of La Parva, Falsa Parva and Cerro Leonera.
Due to the high altitude and terrain, we recommend La Parva backcountry for experienced splitboarders only.
You can also access this terrain via Valle Nevado’s chairlifts but if the Valle del Inca surface lifts are closed, you’ll have a much longer tour. In addition, the day lift tickets are slightly more expensive, as is transportation to the resort.
This small resort in south Chile provides a good gateway to touring numerous volcanoes, including a quick 2-3 hour tour to the top of Volcano Lonquimay at 9400ft (2865m).
Use the resort to quickly get into the backcountry (lookers right off the upper chairlift).
While the terrain in the area is not particularly steep (with a few secret spot exceptions), the area is magical with long wide open bowls, natural hot springs, and some fun volcanic summits.
After a few days around Lonquimay, those with experience and strong legs should head towards the more technical touring and freeriding terrain (thanks to the glacier erosion) of 9206ft Volcano Tolhuaca. Clearly visible towards the north from the Lonquimay summit or as you head east out of the resort.
Chile's Remote Backcountry Areas
While the Chilean resorts provide access to some great touring, if you prefer to skip the resort experience all together or plan on coming down in October-November after the resorts close here are a few zones to get you started with your research.
Summit and ride the classic volcanoes of southern Chile using the charming towns of Malalcahuello or Pucon as your base. Bring your legs, split board crampons, and get ready for adventure.
Guided Splitboard Trips to Chile
1: Chile Backcountry Adventure >
An adventure in Chile’s little explored backcountry in the south of Chile. Starting in Chillan, around 4 hours south of Santiago, get acquainted with the vastness of the terrain around the Chillan volcano, often referred to as the “mecca” of the Chilean backcountry. Take advantage of the natural volcanic hot springs after days of touring and exploring. Further south, take in the backdrop of the Lonquimay volcano with its iconic Araucaria trees and enchanting forests.
2: Chile to Las Lenas Argentina >
Probably the cream of the crop with regards to the length of the trip and the resorts visited. If you have 2 weeks holiday time this trip will get you to some of the best resorts in both Chile and Argentina, in arguably some of the most remote and steep backcountry terrain in all of South America. Pack your skins, avi kit and splitboard and join us for this amazing adventure of a lifetime.
3: Splitboarding Chile’s Volcanos >
What could be better than earning your turns on some of the volcanoes that grace the skyline in the south of Chile?! Be prepared for days of unparalleled beauty combined with the sense of satisfaction you get from bagging the summit of an active volcano. Advanced to expert level trip.
Splitboarding in Argentina
Head south to Patagonia Argentina. Stellar touring zones from the beautiful Lake District to Tierra del Fuego. A good base to get started is Bariloche. Get a few warm up laps in at Catedral ski resort, make sure your gear is in check, fuel up on Argentina’s famous grass-fed beef and/or organic veggies before heading out to the vast Patagonian backcountry.
Splitboarding in Patagonia offers options from resort access terrain to remote backcountry huts, your doorway to steep chutes and spines everywhere you look.
Two Suggested Splitboard Trips to Argentina
An unforgettable journey into pristine forests and areas not otherwise visited. As you earn your turns each day, the sheer beauty of the Argentina Patagonia will stop you in your tracks as will the vastness of the terrain. An unbelievable trip hosted by 2 bilingual guides who make sure your time both on and off the mountain is memorable. Lift Assisted + Remote Backcountry Lodge Splitboard Combo >
If you are a splitboarder keen to get off the grid and deep into the Patagonia backcountry, consider this 7 day Hut to Hut trip. Not for the faint of heart, this trip is for those that know their stuff and are confident in all scenarios. The views are spectacular and if you don’t mind roughing it a bit (no showers!) then this is the trip for you. Hut to Hut Splitboarding in Patagonia >
What split board should I bring to South America?
Leave the powder exclusive splitboard for that dream Japan backcountry trip. South America calls for an all mountain freeride board that will rip well from deep powder to wind-effected firm conditions and everything in between.