The 2016 Southern Hemispheres’s snow riding season has not been typical, but then again what is typical in weather these days ? PowderQuest guides and guests have been out exploring the Chilean Central Andes for over 2 weeks now and this is our conditions report.
With two significant storms this season, the 3 Valleys area (La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado) have above average coverage and as of today the skiing is great. Last year’s late start is forgotten and let the storms come, we will ride them!
North of Santiago
To the north, Portillo saw greater precipitation during those same two storms and coverage is outstanding. We look forward to riding this picturesque resort with liftside steeps again and again!
Arpa Snow Cats is such a rad place to ride and we salut the Sponar’s and their unwavering efforts to keep the spirit of skiing alive in the valley. We all remember the 2014 season when coverage was dismal and we had to cancel a lot of our trips there. However, 2015 was all time and so far 2016 is starting off with great coverage and as good as it gets snow conditions.
July 31 update: Snowing 1 cm per hour in Nevados in Chillan and no stopping in sight!
Moving south now, Nevados de Chillan typically the resort with the most consistent snow in South America is having a challenging start especially at lower elevations. The months of June and July have been quite dry in the area leaving very little early season snow at higher elevations.
Normally this blows into the volcanic gullies and creates the classic half pipes of the Tres Marias and Otto zones and fills the hot water bowl. As of July 27th, skiing off piste below 2000m is not recommended due to lack of coverage. The majestic Tres Marias Zone is impassable at the moment, the lower Pirigallo exit is challenging if not impassable, the Elephant face has an open creek at the bottom, the pirigallo ridge is scoured to the rock, valle hermoso exit is a total walk out and below 2,300m in agua caliente bowl coverage is 20-30cms (9-12 inches) So where is the good riding?
Up high! Above 2300m in the sheltered bowls a keen rider can pick out slivers of protected powder. Oh and Nevados de Chillan has lots of those!
The hunt for ridable terrain is complicated until the Ministry of Interior and Security (OMENI) lifts a 2km (1.2mile) exclusion zone imposed around the Volcan Nuevo crater due to increased volcanic activity since December 2015.
The snowcat will not be able to take riders to the crater’s edge. This also limits the climbing above the lifts to approx. 2400m. The only higher elevation terrain available is the Nevado de Chillan (3200m – 10 000ft +) and that is quite a walk! When conditions permit the resort plans to push a snowcat road out in that direction to ease access.
It is precipitating at the moment and we have faith that the snowpack with continue to build as the season progresses and this resort will once again deliver south american powder gifts. The area needs one big storm and wind to fill in the gullies and those who know the zone can attest: it will come.