Brigid Mander heads into the great white open. PHOTO: Sally Francklyn

WORDS: Sally Francklyn

Editor’s Note: Sally Franklyn is a 25-year-old skier and writer who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a skiing accident in March 2012. This is the first story she has written since her injury. Learn more about Sally and keep track of her recovery at sallyfrancklyn.com.

My family has a cabin in the mountains of Colorado, so skiing is a big part of my life. But I’d never traveled outside of the United States to ski until I had the opportunity go to Chile in September 2011. It’s winter there when it’s summer here. So now is the time when skiers up here start to make plans to go down there. I don’t know Spanish—only French—so words like “por favor” and “gracias” came easily, but I didn’t know much else. I was just along for the ride, and I was there to ski.

I flew from Denver into Santiago, with a few stops along the way. The plane flight was not that good—I was in the middle seat of five people, in the middle row of a big plane. But I was on my way to Chile, so there wasn’t much to complain about.

Once I exited the plane, the view was spectacular. We drove into Santiago, had dinner at Bar Liguria, and spent the night at Hotel Aubrey.

We went backcountry skiing at Ski Arpa the day after I flew in, where you’ll ride a snowcat up higher into the mountains. You had to drive up a dirt road to get there, so there weren’t many people. Because of that, you had the run to yourself. I went with pretty great skiers: Les Anthony, Brigid Mander, as well as Kristina Shreck, an American who does public relations in Chile. We stayed at Casa San Regis.

Cat rides to heaven at Ski Arpa, Chile. PHOTO: Sally Francklyn

After Ski Arpa, we drove up a windy, switch-backy road to Valle Nevado, which only a few hours from Santiago. The ski areas of La Parva and El Colorado are near Valle Nevado, and it’s only two hours to Portillo.

We stayed at Valle Nevado, and the food was good—one of the places where we had
dinner was La Fourchette, where I had a delicious, fresh salmon fillet with asparagus. They also have pisco sours (which you can’t get anywhere else other than South America), a tasty alcoholic drink that you can order any time of day. It was so yummy that I ordered it after skiing. You usually order beer, but I ordered a pisco, as they call it. Chile is also well known for its wine, and there are a lot of varieties to choose from.

San Cristobal keepin' an eye out for visiting skiers. PHOTO: Sally Francklyn

I didn’t know what to expect in Chile because I’m used to great skiing. What I soon learned is that it has a lot of backcountry skiing. And anyplace like that is fine by me. It was a nice surprise to find out it was available. So, we did just that. We hiked out of Valle Nevado to get beyond the terrain. Once we did, we skied with the group and Brigid and I did an extra hike to get some more in.

The end of June until the end of August is usually the best time to go skiing in South America. Bring your normal ski gear on the plane, plus your skins (and your beacon, shovel and probe) if you want to backcountry ski, because you can ski beyond the limits of the resort.

It was pretty special to ski in a place that speaks Spanish, and by the end of the trip, I could order food. I still don’t know much, but I know a lot more than I used to. Chile was a beautiful place, and I loved Santiago as well as the food. On the flight back to Colorado, I wished I was on my way back to Chile, even though I didn’t know a lick of Spanish.

Details, Details:

Valle Nevado
Getting There: There are several direct flights out of the U.S. (from most major hubs) to the capital of Chile, Santiago. Some airlines that go there are LAN, Delta, and Canadian Air. Though tickets can have a far range you should be able to find a roundtrip ticket for under $2,000.

From the airport to the 37 miles away, Valle Nevado, a private car is the best option. It will run you $192-$324 for an English speaking drive and depending on how many passengers—if you speak Spanish you can have a Spanish speaking driver for a little cheaper.

Lift Tickets: $60 for one day during the low season and $78 during the high.

Season: Late June to early October.

Lodging: The cheapest lodging on the mountain is Hotel Tres Puntas. A week stay for two people cost $184 a night during the low season. This price includes breakfast, one dinner, lift ticket per everyday staying, and two interconnecting passes to neighboring resorts La Parva & El Colorado.

Portillo
Getting There: Fly into Santiago. A round trip private car from airport to Portillo and back can be arranged for about $130 per person.

Lift Tickets: $38 high season and $28 low season.

Season: Late June to early October.

Lodging: You can stay at the Inca Lodge for a week for $890-$1050. This price includes seven nights lodging, four meals per day, lift tickets, and access to fitness and entertainment facilities.

Nevados de Chillan a.k.a Termas de Chillan
Getting There: Nevados de Chillan is located about 5-6 hours south of Santiago. Fly into Santiago. From there you can either take a domestic flight with LAN to Concepcion for under $400 (then commute the last leg via bus) or you can go train or bus from Santiago to Chillan. From Chillan you can take a local bus that goes to the resort.

Lift Tickets: $29. Included in some lodging fees.

Season: Mid-June to mid-October.

Lodging: There are hotels and hostels in surrounding towns (Las Trancas, Los Lleunques, or Chilan) that will help you stay on a budget, but then you’ll have to find a local bus schedule or have a car rental with you. Or you can stay close for more money at Apartamento Don Matias Chillan, Hotel Nevados de Chillan, or the Gran Hotel Termas de Chillan.

Ski Arpa Cat-Skiing
Getting There: Ski Arpa is about 20 miles outside Los Andes, Chile and about 70 miles from Santiago. Fly into Santiago. A private car from the airport to Los Andes will run $189 for one to three passengers through Santiago Adventure. Ski Arpa trusts Santiago Adventures to plan trips for cat skiing, which includes transportation, places to stay, and tickets.

Prices: A full day of four runs with a guide cost $295 per person, and $40 for additional runs—each run is approximately 2,600-3,300ft vertical. A mix of cat and tour skiing is available at Valle La Honda for $145 a person.

Season: South America’s only cat skiing operations is open mid-June to mid-October.

Lodging: The only overnight option at the base of Ski Arpa are a two and four person 4×4 camper. The two person starts at $285 a day and the four person at $355.