Heli-skiing in the summer at Valle Nevado is just like heli-skiing in Alaska—but with a hotel that doesn’t resemble an RV, weather that doesn’t belong on planet Hoth and a vibe that doesn’t scream “ex-pat axe murdering.” Pisco deck-drinking by the pool to tunes spun by a DJ, is a better way to describe the atmosphere, from our personal experience.
The heli-op, owned by the Valle Nevado ski resort and run by local legend Claudio Iglesias, is a short walk from the hotels. “The helipad is right there,” says Kristina Schreck, who does public relations for Valle Nevado. It’s also one of the most flexible and convenient heli-ops out there: With options for either half- or full-day trips, it’s perfect for those who may not have the Benjamins to drop for a full week, or who want a combo trip with touring and good old-fashioned lift-served shredding. Valle Nevado is now on the Ikon Pass, too, in case you needed any more incentive to head south.
If flexible booking options weren’t enough, the terrain accessible via Valle Nevado’s heli-skiing operation is vast, featuring huge powder swaths of 5,000 to 7,000 vert set among 20,000-foot peaks. And since Chilean ops don’t have tenures—they harmoniously coexist with other ops with “gentleman’s agreements”—Valle Nevado guides have access to more than 22,000 acres of skiable terrain. For comparison’s sake, the inbounds terrain of Whistler Blackcomb measures 8,171 acres.
“We have the best heli-ski op on the continent,” says Schreck. “The terrain we can access is spectacular, and the views even more so.” And this is all thanks to many of Valle Nevado’s guides, most of whom are Alaska veterans who find a skier’s paradise in Chile during the summer.
Keep in mind that, most times, groups will book an entire heli, but if you’re joining another group, be sure to make it clear what your ability level is and the guides will do their best to put you with a similar crew. “The majority of people who book are experts,” Schreck said, “so it’s not a huge concern.”
Regardless of whether you book a half or full day at Valle Nevado’s heli-skiing operation, you’ll get so many untracked lines, you’ll be able to après by the pool at Hotel Valle Nevado guilt-free, as long as you want. Your pow box will be officially checked.
To book: Email [email protected], call (+56-2) 2477-7182, or saunter over to the office during your stay at Valle Nevado.
Group size: Three to four passengers with one guide
Price: $1,100 for a half day (two to three drops of 5,000 to 7,000 vert) or $1,400 for a full day (four to six drops). If you ski a half day with the heli, you’ll likely get nearly four times the vert of Jackson Hole, plus you get dropped off right back at the resort for more afternoon lift-served skiing if you haven’t already gotten your fix.
Accommodation: There are many hotels in Valle Nevado—you’ll have no problem finding one that fits your needs and budget. There are private condos for rent, and the resort has three hotels—one super budget and hostel-style (Hotel Tres Puntas), one mid-range (Hotel Puerta del Sol) and one is higher-end with phenomenal views (Hotel Valle Nevado). Book a package to get lodging, tickets, breakfast and dinner included. (IKON Pass holders get a 10% discount on package deals.) Also, if you book a seven-day package, the resort will throw in a day ticket to each of the neighboring local hills, La Parva and El Colorado.
Getting there: Fly into Santiago and hire a private shuttle or taxi (some hotels offer this service) to drive you the 1.5 hours up to Valle Nevado. The road up the mountain is infamous—legend has it that the workers who built it were paid per kilometer, so they put as many twists as they could into it. Be aware that if you fly in on a weekend, the road is one-way (both lanes go up in the morning, and down in the afternoon) to accommodate ski traffic.