A summertime heli-ski trip in South America is on every serious skier’s list. But some skiers, no matter how serious, might not find a week in a drafty, remote bunkroom with a bunch of snoring dudes to be their idea of paradise. Which is where Powder South Heliski Guides comes into the picture. Luxury and professionalism are what set this op apart: Packages range from high-end, heli-assisted ski touring trips to a chartered yacht excursion where you’re ferried—along with two helicopters—around the peaks of Patagonia.
Founded by native Chileans Rodrigo Mujica (IFMGA/UIAGM guide) and Joaquin Oyarzun (former Olympic alpine racer), Powder South has been operating in Chile and Argentina since 2002, and is known in the industry as being a smooth, well-oiled skiing machine. “We get the best guides in the world,” says Mujica, “because Chile’s winter is off-season for them.”
Powder South has many lodges and options—here are our favorites:
The Puma Lodge is the first five-star heli lodge in the world, and it’s where 90 percent of Powder South’s clients book their getaways. It’s smack in the middle of the Rio Los Cipreses National Reserve, a.k.a. Powder Country, which is in the central Chilean Andes near the Cortaderal and Cachapoal valleys.
Packages: Three- to six-day heli trips include all the fixings—airport transfers, gourmet meals, skis, avy gear (including airbag packs) and professional guides. A three-day package featuring two groups and nine hours of flight time starts at about $8,500; a semi-private week with two groups and 12 hours of flight time begins at about $13,007; a completely private week with one group and 10 hours of flight time starts at $16,595.
Terrain: Powder South has access to 800,000 acres of insane terrain, with glaciated peaks, steep ridges and powdery gullies, all with a backdrop of 22,000-foot peaks. Each of the lodges operates within its own zone, which ensures guests get unlimited access to the untracked lines closest to their lodge of choice. The guides create groups according to ability level, but, “Almost all of my clients are experts,” says Mujica.
Lodging: The lodge is clean-lined, contemporary and anything but rustic. In terms of amenities, there isn’t a single thing it doesn’t have: outdoor hot tubs, swimming pools, a climbing wall, gym, yoga room, restaurant, bar, wine cellar, steam room, game room and, of course, a heli pad.
Getting there: Fly into Santiago, where Powder South will meet you and drive you 90 minutes to the lodge.
The Altiplanico is in the Maipo Valley, right on the Maipo River. More in the rustic-chic vein, the Altiplanico is all about warm wood and natural materials. It’s locally owned, too, so if getting the true flavor of Chile—at a lower price tag—is important, this is the place.
Packages: All packages include gourmet meals, airport transfers, skis, avy gear and guides. A three-day package featuring two groups and nine hours of flight time starts at about $7,849; a semi-private week with two groups and 12 hours of flight time begins at about $11,213; a completely private week with one group and 10 hours of flight time starts at about $15,137.
Terrain: The terrain at Altiplanico is similar to that at Puma—massive lines with even more massive views—and is accessed only by the Altiplanico groups.
Lodging: The lodge is very Chilean—inspired by nature, it’s constructed of adobe walls and native wood, with native rugs, colorful tile, copper and art. Right on the bank of the glacial Maipo River, it boasts an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and jaw-dropping views of the snow-coated Andes.
Getting there: Fly into Santiago, where Powder South will meet you and drive you 60 minutes to the lodge.
We’re going to be upfront about this particular offering from Powder South, because this excursion is going to set you back some serious cheddar. However, if you can swing it, this trip is surely the most incredible heli-ski adventure in the world. Powder South will take you and 19 of your ridiculously lucky friends through the Patagonian Andes on a private yacht—complete with two helis, jet skis, spa, sauna, chefs, outdoor hot tubs, open bar and more Veuve champagne than you could spray at all the cougars in Aspen, Colorado.
Packages: Six days of heli-skiing with 20 hours of flight time, airport transfers, lodging on the yacht, gourmet meals, wildlife expeditions, skis, avy gear and guides will run about $549,438) for 20 people (about $27,471 each).
Lodging: The yacht was ranked as one of the top 10 exploration ships of the world by Super Yacht World and Forbes—needless to say, it’s legit. Thirty-two crew members will attend to your every need and whim.
Terrain: The terrain here ranges from towering peaks to beautiful, winding fjords, with the rare experience of skiing to the sea. Though elevations are lower than in the central Andes, heli runs average 2,500 vertical feet on this particular excursion—plenty long by most standards. The wildlife here—condors, pumas, llamas, guanacos and a bunch of other amazing creatures you’ve never heard of—is also off the hook; it is northern Patagonia, after all.
Getting there: From Santiago, fly to Puerto Montt (a two-hour flight), where Powder South will meet you at the airport and ferry you 20 minutes to the yacht.