The temperature is rising, your favorite skis are collecting dust and, if you’re anything like us, heat-induced malaise has become part of the daily routine. Summertime is tough for skiers, but with proper planning, the onset of angst can be cured with a trip to South America where fat flakes fly in July, August and all the way until September. Thankfully, there are a plethora of prime destinations that accommodate a full range of budgets and timelines ripe for the picking across the Andes Mountains.
Before you book your trip, however, it’s important to note a few things about these dream-inducing South American destinations. Separated by the second largest mountain range in the world, Argentina and Chile have many economic, convenience and cultural differences that should be taken into consideration before booking your trip. Here’s some initial beta to keep in mind when planning your trip south.
When to score pow: Play the odds or get lucky
Most places in the Andes ski the best from mid-July through early September. If you have a nimble schedule, early or late season turns aren’t out of the question, but, realistically, you probably don’t want to roll the dice on a big powder payoff outside of the primetime window.
Convenience: Chile for a quick trip, Argentina for an extended visit
Santiago, Chile, has a handful of top-notch ski areas less than a half day’s drive from the city’s main international airport. If you’re on a tight timeline, this is the most convenient option—and you could be skiing Portillo, El Colorado or Valle Nevado the same day as you land.
Argentina’s main port of entry, the capital city Buenos Aires (B.A.), is an excellent destination in its own right. But, while definitely worth exploring, it’s a long ways from the mountains. In-country flights from B.A. are available to key destinations but pay close attention before you book because some itineraries require switching to a smaller local airport. Another popular travel option from B.A. is taking advantage of Argentina’s excellent bus network. Long-distance buses are relatively fast and surprisingly comfortable, and can even be a rather luxurious experience when a first class ticket is booked—highly recommended.
Cost: Argentina is a better value than Chile, but all bets are off at the resort
In recent years the Argentine peso has dipped, allowing for some bargains to be had, but at major resorts—such as Las Leñas and Cerro Catedral—the deep discounts are offset by the same tourist markups you’ll find in North America.
Conversely, Chile’s economy is fairly stable so you won’t see major savings with exchange rates. When you head to well-known resorts, especially those within striking distance of Santiago, prices can escalate quickly.
Culture: Argentina loves a good time; Chile can keep to a schedule
Argentines have a very fun, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” attitude that can lead to late nights at the discothèque, impromptu asados—BBQs with as much wine and liquor as meat—and down day excursions to abandoned hot springs or (reportedly) enchanted forests.
Chileans, on the other hand, are a bit more subdued. Although they are great people, they are less likely to blow off work to show you a good time. The upside of this responsible nature means unscheduled breaks are less likely to foul up a carefully planned travel itinerary.