Our Wonderful Summer Skiing Adventure in Chile, 2011

Since so many people are asking about our Chile Trip,  we thought we would put it in a blog.  How long does it take to get there?  How does it compare to skiing in the United States?  Where do you stay? Why ski in Termas de Chillan and not Portillo?  Here goes.

We find that this trip is well worth the effort to get there as the expression goes that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it. The actual travel time from Phoenix to Las Trancas, Chile (close to the ski center of Termas de Chillan)  was around 24 hours, including a few hours wait at the airport.  We took the following modes of transportation to get there:  one plane from Phoenix to Atlanta and another plane from Atlanta to Santiago (Delta Airlines works well for us);  Santiagovision shuttle to bus terminal to take the bus to Chillan (we took the train back); and a 4-wheel drive vehicle taking us from Chillan to Las Trancas, more specifically to Shangri La and MI Lodge (Mision Imposible Lodge) , named so appropriately.   Each leg of our trip took us closer and closer to our amazing adventure as our group bonded, discovered what we all had in common, and mingled with the locals to really get into the flavor of Chile.

Our favorite word to get the most of the experience is “mingle” and it really paid off.  We practiced our Spanish and amazed ourselves at how well we could communicate in another language, learn about the South American culture and get the feel of the land.  When we reached Chillan, we met Pancho and Rosemarie, who were our drivers for the last few years and also met a new driver, Caesar.  Amid hugs and holas in Chillan, we finally left for MI Lodge, where we were staying for the next 6 nights.

Now remember, we had been traveling for over 24 hours and couldn’t wait to reach our destination.  At close to 8 pm, our shuttles all arrived at MI Lodge, we took off our shoes, were given slippers to use while we were at the lodge, and we all toasted our arrival with a welcome Pisco Sour.  If you haven’t tried one, we strongly suggest it.  Delicious…and addicting.  It is made with lemon and pisco.  Potent and good!   We felt very relaxed, to say the least.  Also at the Lodge we were welcomed by Maylis and Bertrand, owners of MI Lodge, Cecile, Hector, chef Nicholas and the rest of the staff. The lounge, bar and dining area was one big cozy room where everyone got together to share stories and meet each other.  As soon as we went down for our “Happy Hour,” we were greeted by two families who were at the Lodge with us last year.  It was like “old home week.”  Even though their first language was Spanish, we were still able to communicate.  Thanks to my Spanish lessons this year, I’m now able to at least get myself understood.

Breakfasts and dinners came with our package.  Our French chef was Parisian-trained and the food was deliciously prepared in the Franco-Chillean style.    Umm umm good!  We also had people with special dietary restrictions and every night Nicholas prepared  delectable alternatives to cater to each one of them.     After a delicious chicken dinner, .everyone complimented the chef on the wonderful French/Chillian food and we were ready for bed. We wanted to get plenty of sleep so we could tackle the slopes the next morning.    Needless to say, we slept well our first night in Chile.

What a winter wonderland.  Snow…snow….and more snow…and it’s August.  The day was amazing….sun…and lots of powder.  The day couldn’t have been any better!  We skied and skied and skied.  No line ups.  One lift to the top of the mountain and that was fine.  Lots of runs we can ski both on piste and off piste.  In other words, we could drop down anywhere we wanted.    Everyone had someone to ski with.  What a fabulous congenial group!  There is a group of “expert” skiers and then us others who liked to ski but were not quite up to the off piste experiences of the others.

Everyone is having a wonderful time. I still have trouble believing that we are skiing in the middle of our summer.   Our first day was perfect!  Sun, no wind and lots and lots of snow.  We tackled Tres Marias the first day, the longest run at Termas de Chillan at 8 km from top to bottom.  The more advanced skiers explored the mountain on and off piste.  We all found powder wherever we were.  The smiles on everyone’s faces could be seen throughout the day.  We really were lucky that we picked the place in Chile with the most snow.  That’s why this is our fifth year here.  Lunch was a barbeque outdoors overlooking the mountains and glacier upon which we were actually skiing.  We ran into the Canadian Olympic Team who were practicing on the slopes of Termas de Chillan.  We also talked to the Carabinerros (police officers) who were training on the Termas de Chillan slopes.   After a full day of skiing, we were picked up and taken back to the Lodge.  We met in the hot tubs, which were huge wine barrels converted into hot tubs.  How relaxing!  After showering, we met in the Lounge, enjoyed our cocktails, which our creative bartender concocted for us, and then we were ready for our glorious dinner.     In the evening we spoke to people from Australia, Santiago, Brazil, Peru, Germany and other places from around the world.  You would think we all knew each other before the trip.  I guess it’s our common interest of skiing and snowboarding and love of adventure that drew us all together.

That night and the next day it snowed and snowed and snowed.  We went to the Ski Center, as Termas de Chillan is called, only to find that the top lifts were not open due to the strong winds.  What were we to do?  Four of us decided to go back to MI Lodge and the other seven decided to brave the weather and ski anyway.  For those of us who went back to the Lodge, we still wanted to do something active, so we hired a guide and some snowshoes and off we went.  The whole adventure was three hours.  We walked out to the Eco Park with two athletic guides.  There we manned our snowshoes and spent the next few hours traversing the terrain as snow fell around us.  What fun!  We went up hills, down hills, around hills and had a blast!  It was a first for many of us, and certainly not the last time to go snowshoeing.  It was also great exercise.  We were able to observe scenery that we would never have seen otherwise.  The rest of the group returned back to the Lodge at 5 pm.  They also had a blast!  Even though just the bottom of the mountain was open, they spent the day skiing the trees and leaving no niche or cranny unskied.  One thing about our group is that they are open to adventures.     Dinner again was amazing.     I love how everyone mingles and shares their ski adventures.   Then off to bed.

Friday was another day of snow.  We started off the day with a delicious breakfast.  Then I practiced my Spanish with 5 adorable children from 5-8 years old. We did numbers, days of the month and seasons.  They were so cute. I felt like Julie Andrews in the movie “The Sound of Music” except the children were my teachers instead of the other way around.

Only the bottom lift was open due to the windy day.  It didn’t stop six of our Alpine Ski Club Members.  Off they went to the mountain.  Open for new experiences and adventure, they rented skis and skins and climbed up the mountain for a day of Alpine Touring (AT).  It was a first for many of them.  Bruce,   one of our members who has done this before, was a big help.  It was an experience that our members won’t forget. While they were forging up the mountain, four of us went to the Eco-Park to go ziplining and surpass obstacles such as a suspended bridge, walking across a wire suspended way above the ground, walking from block of wood to another block of wood that was suspended in the air by cables that rocked precariously as we crossed.  What a challenge!  What fun!  We did the circuit twice since we were having such a good time.  Again, we were wet through and through by the time we finished.  After the adventure, we had a wonderful lunch at a true Chilean Restaurant called Parador, Jamon, Pan Y Vino. Rosemarie, our wonderful driver, joined us and helped us decide what to order to complete our Chilean meal.  Then we went for massages  and returned to MI Lodge all rested and fulfilled.  Dinner was a wonderful meal of pumpkin soup, pasta with shrimp and then crepes de leche for dessert.  Oh, I forgot to mention my Pisco Wina which was like a pisco sour but with kiwi and pineapple juices.  This was followed by the wonderful wine that Adelina’s friend Scott sent for her to share with the group.  I don’t want to forget the Snow Pub.  Half the group decided to partake in the fun at the local bar.  The trouble with that was that the action didn’t get started until around 11:30 pm (23:30 hrs) and they kept going until around 4 pm in the morning.  Well, our group had an amazing time but petered out by 2 am. They came back with fun stories to share around the breakfast table.

The last day,  at Termas de Chillan, we  were up bright and early and at 8:30 am and we all left for the slopes figuring we’d have a glorious day no matter what the weather was like. We were right.  As we got on the  main lift for the top of the mountain, we were told that we had to get off at mid-way due to some high winds on the very top.  That was okay as we still had over three times the ski area of Vail to ride below us.     We were determined to try as many runs as we could.  We spent the rest of the day in   powder.  Chilean powder is like none other.  You should have seen the smiles on our faces!  We loved it!    We all met up for an outdoor lunch at the mid-way cafeteria.  The tepanyaki was delicious.     Of course the cervesa and vino completed our meal very satisfactorily.  Of course, no vacation is complete without shopping.  We skied down to the Grand Hotel, shopped a bit, then skied the rest of the way down to meet our drivers.  The evening was our last night at MI Lodge in Las Trancas.  Our new German friends from White Hearts  put together a video for Alpine Ski Club.  Check out their video on our facebook page. We were so impressed!!! What wonderful people they are!  I can’t wait to show it to all of you!

We thought that our adventures in Las Trancas were over, but that did not happen.   We were planning on leaving early to give us enough time to go to the market in Chillan.  We were right on time until we left the lodge.  The rain and snow from the previous night played havoc with the road.   The train was to leave Chillan at 1 pm.  We planned to leave Las Trancas at 9:30 am and arrive at the market in Chillan at 11:00 am.  Then we would have one hour at the market to shop prior to leaving Chillan.  Then it happened.  We got stuck.  We tried digging out the vehicles and pushing them.  Finally, after what seemed like hours, we were on our way.   We ended up getting to the train station with 5 minutes to spare.  Whew!  Just made it!  And off we went to Santiago.

Again Marcelo from Santiagovision met us in Santiago with a luxury bus for the eleven of us.  As soon as we arrived at the station, a Chilean fellow came up to us and said hola. It was Jorge, the fellow that has helped us out for all five years at the station.  Again, he helped us out and after loading all our skis and bags onto his trolley, we helped him wheel our luggage to the bus.  That night we were too tired to adventure too far from the hotel.  John and I met our friends from Santiago that we met at MI Lodge five years ago for a delicious Chillean dinner.  The others went for Chinese/Japanese cuisine across the street from our hotel.

We were ready for more adventures.  The next day, six of our members had planned for a day of cat skiing.  At one time they didn’t know if they there would be enough snow but they did.  Beautiful light powder snow.  They were taken up where others had not skied before and all day made fresh tracks through the pristine terrain.  After four runs, they were having such a good time, they took one more double black run.   That proved more harrowing than the rest of the day,  but they all made it and had lots of good stories to tell about their adventure with Ski Arpa.  The rest of the group spent the day at the beach of Vina del Mar and at an organic wine vineyard tasting wine and guessing the type of wine we were drinking.

Each year we tailor our trip to our participants.  Some of their comments are as follows:

“We really want to thank you for putting together such a fabulous trip.  Great skiing, great group.  We know that all your hard work at putting this together were worth it and appreciated.”  Jim & Martha  

“The trip to Chile far exceeded my expectations and experience. Great job on organizing and making the adventure memory worthy.  The country, skiing, lodge, people, travel, meals, sightseeing and genuine hospitality were fantastic making me want to stay longer!  Thanks again for a wonderful time.”  Penny  

We had such a good time that we have already set our dates to return for our 6th year  on August 4-13, 2012.

About Lee and John

Lee and John met on an Alpine Ski Club trip 10 years ago. As they discussed what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives, they thought if Gerry and Doris (who were the original owners of Alpine Ski Club) ever wanted to sell the company, that it would be perfect for them. Both of them love helping people, skiing, adventure, travelling and learning. They approached the Clynes and two years later, they were the proud owners of Alpine Ski Club. They added the "and Adventure Tours." It is everything they ever thought it would be and even more. Hearing members talk about how much they love the club and getting so many referrals, makes them feel good and the fact that they work hard at keeping the prices affordable and offering the best product that they can, is greatly appreciated by their members.