Stories from the road in Portillo, Chile

Loved this story by Dan Kostrzewski on Powder.com:

The pool at the Hotel Portillo is, in my book, one of the most spectacular places on earth. A landlocked bright yellow cruise ship high in the Chilean Andes, Ski Portillo was unseasonably 60-degree warm for early September and very, very dry. Laguna Inca had already melted out and Los Tres Hermanos—the 15,000-foot peaks above the lake—were more rocky brown than windblown white. The storm season at Portillo was done and we had missed the last gasp by one week. Portillo was melting and our view was the consolation prize. Photographer Grant Gunderson and I were deep in the pool, drinking gringo-rate beers, admitting story defeat, and enjoying Chilean après during Brazilian week at 9,450 feet.

“Hey Grant,” boomed a voice from the balcony. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Standing on the deck was a face from both of our pasts: Craig Merrill, a former Baker local who had moved to Colorado nearly a decade ago for a job or a girl or some combination of the two. He and his buddy, Cody, were on a South America migration. Insufficient rental car paperwork thwarted their border crossing into Argentina and a Chilean border agent turned them back around. Holed up in a cheap rental down the steep beast of a highway that wound 30 switchbacks toward Los Andes, they spent their remaining ski days cracking into a gray zone between the customs terminal and the actual international border at the Tunnel de Cristiano Rentador. Over their first eight-buck beer in the hotel bar, they assured me they’d found pow above 12,000 feet, but there was a catch.

“Bring your passport,” Craig said.

The next morning I was hip deep, out of breath, and out of hiking shape, bootpacking up a steep final slope at 13,000 feet in the Andes to a high point with a view of 22,841-foot Aconcagua, the highest point in the Western and Southern Hemispheres. We’d started skinning at the tunnel, switchbacking into this no man’s land in hot, mushy spring corn then rising around a corner to higher ground, thick fog, breakable crust, and then finally deep, unconsolidated pow in a disorienting Andean swirl. It was a long way and a few years from Baker, but Craig’s presence pulled me up the final pitches, breaking trail, setting the pace, then finally handing over his last remaining Gu.

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Even thousands of miles from home, skiers travel in a small circle. Like a failsafe, past connections have resurfaced on every foreign trip I’ve taken. An Icelandic farmhouse, a Chamonix gondola, a Bariloche hut, or a Smithers ice cave—each place, the crew I’ve run with has bumped into friends, friends-of-friends, and true brothers from some mission in the past. These chance encounters are the best unknown of packing the ski bag. The more air miles logged and the more odd encounters, the stronger the tie to this strange fraternity. Our small world of skiing is why someplace this foreign can feel as welcoming as home.

Read more about his trip at BORDERLANDS.

Chile’s ski resorts of Portillo and Valle Nevado

Here’s an interesting comparison by wakeandwonder posted on jaunted.com

“If you’re flying into Santiago for a ski trip, you have a number of options when it comes to the resort you choose, including Portillo, La Parva, El Colorado, Valle Nevado, and Termas de Chillán.

In this post, we highlight the two most recognizable for out-of-towners, Portillo and Valle Nevado. What’s the difference between the two, and which is right for you? Read on to find out.


Above: Valle Nevado

The Sking:

Valle Nevado is the largest ski resort in the Southern Hemisphere with over 34 square-miles of terrain. It is part of Chile’s Tres Valles ski area, meaning that the same lift ticket is good at both La Parva and El Colorado as well. Overall, the terrain is largely intermediate, with most of the groomers designed for what the resort describes as “laid-back cruising.” Adventure-seekers will still flock to Valle Nevado as it gains popularity for its excellent heli-skiing.

Portillo is smaller in size, but more extreme in terms of its terrain. It was the host of the 1966 World Championships for alpine racing, and has since served as a training ground for many Olympic teams and celebrity skiers during the North Hemisphere summer. There are only a handful of groomed trails, and much of the appeal of Portillo lies in its hike-to terrain and its high speed, multi-person poma lifts that pull skiers up the sides of the bowl.

Above: View of the Laguna del Inca from the deck of Ski Portillo

The Lodging and Amenities:

Valle Nevado is home to three hotels and a few condo buildings, each offering its own individual amenities, including restaurants, pools, hot tubs, and vibe. The lodgings are modern at Valle Nevado, with much of it being built in the past few decades. The Hotel Puerta del Sol is the most famous silhouette at the top of the mountain, commanding some of the best views, with moderate pricing. The eponymous Hotel Valle Nevado is the luxurious offering, with designer furniture and the chic crowd to sit in it. For budget travelers, Hotel Tres Puntas is where you’ll want to be. They’re all on the same mountaintop; the prices only mean a different standard of amenities.

There is only one hotel at Portillo: Ski Portillo. When at capacity, it accommodates about 500 guests, and has a pool, large hot tubs, fitness center, restaurant, bar, and disco on site. The hotel was built in the 1940s and has changed very little since those first years, making it a very historical place. That said, while the dining room walls could talk, the food and service are up to date with the times. Modern amenities, such as wireless Internet, are also now offered. And don’t forget about Tio Bob’s, one of South America’s best apres ski spots.

The Vibe:

Because of its infrastructure, Valle Nevado plays more like a traditional North American ski resort, attracting a wide variety of overnight guests and day trippers with different priorities and interests. Instruction for beginners of all ages is available, but you’ll be buzzed along the slopes by the best skiiers in the world; Valle Nevado is the training ground for many winter Olympic ski teams, plus host to events like the Copa Atilio (Chile’s oldest slopestyle competition).

The experience at Portillo is a lot different due to its intimate size and limited lodging. It is often compared to that of a cruise ship in that 1) Most people come and ski at the resort for a week, usually Saturday to Saturday 2) Dining is included in your stay and, like a cruise ship, there are seating times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 3) Everyone stays at the same hotel and there is only one restaurant, one bar, one pool area, and one nightclub, allowing guests to get to know each other very quickly and making socializing easy and unavoidable.

Last chance to get early-season rates for Tahoe ski resorts

Sept. 1 marks the last chance to receive the early-season rate on Tahoe Local, Tahoe Value, and Epic season passes – all of which offer access to the Best of Tahoe resorts, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California and Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

“Our ability to deliver the best snow conditions is unique among Tahoe resorts.  Between Heavenly and Northstar’s world-class snowmaking systems and Kirkwood’s well-deserved reputation for receiving the region’s most annual snowfall, pass holders can look forward to a great 2014-15 season,” said Bill Rock, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Northstar California.

With the region’s most valuable season pass options starting at $409, pass holders receive access to the most terrain and best conditions in the region as well as fewer restrictions than other resorts’ season pass options.

“In addition to proven snow quality, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood offer guests varied experiences of a lifetime that speak to the diversity of each and showcase the partnerships that continue to push boundaries, making the collective value greater and truly the best of Tahoe,” said Pete Sonntag, vice president and chief operating officer for Heavenly Mountain Resort.

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe
The high-energy atmosphere and experience at Heavenly Mountain Resort is guaranteed to reach a new level during winter 2014-15: Heavenly Mountain Resort, the Park Family and Warner Hospitality announced Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe will open in late December 2014 or early 2015 in South Lake Tahoe’s casino core. In addition to a 25,000 square foot casino, the property will include more than 500 renovated hotel rooms, new restaurants and bars, the largest outdoor pool experience in South Lake Tahoe, and an assortment of live entertainment venues both indoors and out.

Complimentary Champagne Toast. Every Day. 
Echoing the resort’s penchant for California laid-back luxury, Northstar California invites guests to enjoy its daily complimentary Champagne toast on the slopes this season.  Offered every day on the snow at 2 p.m., this new tradition is a nod to Northstar’s casual elegance and the best of Tahoe.

Authentic Big-Mountain Terrain
As a member of the world’s short list of iconic, big-mountain experiences, Kirkwood Mountain Resort offers skiers and riders the region’s deepest snowpack and legendary steeps.  In addition to enjoying the resort’s famously raw beauty and pristine snow quality, guests can experience Kirkwood’s best-of-Tahoe adventure through Expedition:Kirkwood – renowned for offering snow cat tours beyond the resort’s terrain, snow safety education, and guided backcountry tours and camps.

The Epic Pass, Tahoe Local Pass and Tahoe Value Pass provide access to the region’s three premier resorts—Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood—with the combined 10,270 acres of skiable terrain and three unique resort experiences. Heavenly delivers an unmatched high-energy vibe, Northstar offers Tahoe’s premier luxury experience in a family-friendly atmosphere, and Kirkwood is known for its authentic, big-mountain ski and ride experience.

Housing costs threaten life of ski bums

Fascinating story on m.curbed.ski.com:

There’s something awesome about being a ski bum for one season or for twenty: your main goal in life is to chase the snow. Whether it’s in Jackson Hole, Breckenridge, or Sun Valley, ski bums come for the skiing or snowboarding and stay as your waitress, your ski instructor, or if they are lucky, your bartender. But rising housing costs and a shortage of housing options are threatening the ski-bum way of life and ski towns should be worried.

@OnTheSnow: Livin’ the Ski Life: Why the Death of the Ski Bum Will Ruin Ski Towns … http://t.co/ARuP8eskcp

The Mountain Collective pass on sale at Liftopia

The Mountain Collective has begun selling tickets for the 2014/2015 season adding Ski Banff-Lake Louise-Sunshine to its premier roster of independent ski resorts and giving skiers and riders access to seven iconic destinations.

Ski Banff-Lake Louise- Sunshine joins AltaSnowbird , Aspen Snowmass, Jackson Hole, Mammoth Mountain, Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Whistler Blackcomb in this unprecedented collaboration of destinations powered by Liftopia.

Beginning today consumers can purchase The Mountain Collective Pass at the 2014/2015 rate of  $389 via www.themountaincollective.com and via Liftopia.com, the exclusive technology, distribution and marketing partner of this historic alliance.

Additionally, the price for the kid’s pass has been reduced more than 55 percent to just $99 for the 2014-2015 season making it an ideal time to plan a family ski vacation.

Included in the pass are:

·      Two free days at each ski area

·      Unlimited 50% off lift tickets, after complimentary days are used, at each of the seven destinations

·      Exclusive perks such as discounted hotel rates at some resorts

Quantities are limited at this rate and there are no blackout dates or restrictions when using the free days or discounted days at any of the resorts.

This partnership demonstrates how the ski industry is evolving in its marketing and distribution practices to drive more purchases online and in advance while providing incentives to get skiers and snowboarders to spend more time on the mountains they love.

It also shows how the concept of a “ski pass” continues to evolve, from the traditional offering that includes season pass holders or resorts within close proximity to one another to a pass that brings added value for destination skiers.

Miss Snow It All discusses privileged skier problems in Australia

Another fun story from Miss Snow It All in the Syndney Morning Herald:

Australia is in the middle of a snow rush. The double header snow storm that hit hard two weeks ago has been followed by another massive half-metre dump this week, with more predicted on Saturday.

Today is a bluebird powder day across Australia’s resorts. Let’s just say skiers, snowboarders and resorts are on a serious high champing-at-the-powder-bit to get first tracks and boast their luck on social media, to make the rest of us lament our non-powder lives.

But with every manic high their comes a low, a downer, a moment when it all gets too much and the toys get thrown out of the cot.

We call that ‘privileged skier problems’. Those moments when you can’t really believe what came out of your fellow skier or snowboarder’s mouth, or even your own.

Paid too much for your ski pass? #privilegedskierproblem At least you can afford a ski pass.

Lift line too long? #privilegedskierproblem You could be lining up for food stamps instead.

Today I am cursing my ill-timed trip to Falls Creek (at least I am going to Falls Creek, right?), arriving tonight, and therefore missing this morning’s bluebird powder day. If that’s the biggest problem in my life, then clearly I should cancel therapy.

In moments of exhaustion I have heard myself spitting chips that there’s no gluten-free to be had, like a crossfit addict deprived of kale. I have complained about the stampede of fellow skiers and boarders behind me as I try to get first tracks, and I have screamed blue murder at my choice to ski in a blinding wind blizzard storm.

Seriously? #privilegedskierproblem

Read more in PRIVILEGED.

Massive snow storm saves ski season in Australia, but at deadly price

Great story by self confessed Snow It All, Rachael Oakes-Ash, in Sydney Morning Herald: 

“You know you’re in a good season when you have to traverse the stairs.” “I haven’t skied till last lifts since I was twenty five, twenty five years ago.” “Can’t speak, my teeth hurt from smiling.”

White heaven: Falls Creek has been buried under a blanket of snow.

These are just some of the comments I overheard on the chairlift at Thredbo and Perisher this week. It would be an understatement to say Australia is frothing from a double header snow storm that left behind two metres in New South Wales and almost a metre and a half in Victoria.

Charlotte Pass boasted 120cm of snow from storm one, followed by 85cm from storm two, with Thredbo and Perisher not far behind. Records have been broken. And for once ski resorts don’t have to spin the truth to their favour because the truth itself is simply unbelievable.

The two storms dubbed ‘Snowmaggedon’, ‘Snowpocalypse’ and even ‘Snowzilla’ hit the alpine regions of Australia from Monday June 23 to Sunday June 29, turning resorts from warmed-up gravel to white powder goodness. Local businesses, including luxury accommodation agency Visit Snowy Mountains, were down 19 per cent on bookings before the storm and have now seen a 265 per cent increase on enquiries.

Put simply, records have been broken. This year is the first time Falls creek has all lifts open in both weeks of the July school holidays. The resort went from no lifts to all lifts, with all terrain open in eight days thanks to 134cm of snowfall – the biggest June snowfall since 1991.

Falls sister resort, Hotham, also broke records opening all lifts in just seven days with the highest accumulated snowfall by July 1 since 2002, and the highest natural snow base by July 1 since 2000.

Even Mt Buller, who didn’t receive the full brunt of the blizzard, had their best start to a season in seven years with more terrain open in the middle of the July school holidays than they have in the past decade.

“We’ve been skiing runs earlier this year than we have in any other season in the last ten years, including Wood Run, Sun Valley and Wombat Bowl,” said David McNamara, Mt Buller spokesperson.

But not all the figures have been in every resort’s favour. Social media statistics for the week of white gold goodness revealed two resorts leading the Facebook wars by miles, with the rest lagging behind.

Snow storms are social media gold, especially when you can post images of snow depths and let your followers share the word for you. Perisher and Falls Creek both had an impressive 80 per cent engagement while the rest managed anything from 27 to 32 per cent – clearly they just went skiing, no ‘friends’ on a powder day.

But what of the snow you ask? Let’s just say my thighs have serious powder burn as I was lucky enough to hit first tracks on all storm days, including lapping thigh-deep heaven in The Bowl at Thredbo, when the only other tracks were from ski patrol last Sunday, first tracks down The Bluff at Thredbo on Monday, followed by first chair and endless first tracks at Guthega at Perisher on the new $4 million Freedom Chair.

Storm claims two lives

The storm has also resulted in tragedy. At Mt Buller, it claimed the life of a seven-year-old boy who was caught under a melting slab of snow as it fell from a roof. He wasn’t found until it was sadly, too late. Our hearts go out to his family.

The talk in Thredbo is about the avalanche at HipCheck, an out-of-bounds closed run that has already claimed one life in 1998, and this year buried a Sydney man under two metres of snow. If it wasn’t for a pocket of air and the seriously good work of Thredbo Ski Patrol, he would not have lived to duck under another rope again. Closed means, closed for a reason.

And today, more sad news from the ski fields with the death of a snowboarder at Perisher, who was discovered in a creek at 11.30pm last night after he failed to show up for work. Stay safe out there people.

Is there more snow on the way?

Why yes, I believe there is. Come Wednesday, another 50cm is predicted to fall in a two- to three- day snow storm, followed ten days later with more snowfall. Ski glove fingers crossed it all goes according to plan.

You have to feel for New Zealand right now. They started the season with a mega late May dump that was followed up by rain, and thanks to the warmest June the country has experienced in over a century, a number of resorts had to delay their openings.

However things are looking up; 20 to 35 cm of snow has fallen this week; The Remarkables finally opens today with the new Curvey Basin chairlift accessing some of the best terrain going; and more snow forecast for the weekend.

Treble Cone opens tomorrow with untouched fresh powder tracks up high just begging for some turns. Let’s hope our blizzards make it across the ditch so we can share the sore tooth pain of smiling while skiing face shots of powder.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/blogs/snow-it-all/the-massive-storm-that-saved-ski-season-but-came-at-a-deadly-cost-20140703-3b9f7.html#ixzz36QJH1rKT

 

Vail Resorts wants to expand race course at Golden Peak

Vail Resorts, announced today that it has submitted a proposal to expand Vail Mountain’s race and training terrain at Golden Peak.

The proposal, which is subject to U.S. Forest Service approval, includes increasing the size of Vail Mountain’s operational boundary by 68 acres to allow for approximately 41 acres of additional trails, three surface lifts and new snowmaking infrastructure.

With these improvements, 760 vertical feet would be added to the venue, providing 1,570 vertical feet of racing and training terrain across approximately 68 acres.

“Since Vail’s inception in 1962, ski racing has been a part of its heritage, and our partnership with Ski and Snowboard Club Vail in the development of future generations of athletes dates to the beginning of the resort as well,” said Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

“With the Club’s incredible recent performance, including athletes participating at the Sochi Olympics and being recognized as the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’soverallClub of the Year this season along with four of the five individual program Club of the Year honors for alpine, snowboarding, freestyle and freeskiing amongst other awards, there has never been a better time to expand our partnership by requesting approval from the USFS for the expansion and donating our land to allow the clubhouse upgrade to move forward.”

In addition to pursuing the terrain expansion, Vail Resorts is donating a more than 11,000-square-foot parcel of land to Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. Pending Town of Vail approvals, the club plans to redevelop its clubhouse, office and training facility to better serve its 600 athletes.

The donated land, which surrounds three sides of the existing club building, will allow the club to upgrade, enlarge and modernize its existing facility and will also improve traffic circulation. If Town approvals are received reasonably soon, construction could potentially commence as early as this fall.

“Our current facility is severely lacking in parking and other operational space. An expanded facility will help us better serve and develop our existing club members as many of them continue to walk onto the global ski and snowboard stage,” said Aldo Radamus, executive director of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. “The success of Ski and Snowboard Club Vail is just as dependent on the support of Vail Resorts and contributions of Vail Mountain as it is of our community and key stakeholders, and we could not be more grateful for this contribution to the future of the club.”

For more information about Vail Mountain visit www.vail.comstop by the Mountain Information Center, or call (970) SKI-VAIL (754-8245).

Air New Zealand promoting service to the South Island ski resorts

Air New Zealand has teamed up with online content creator Diaries Downunder to launch a campaign promoting its direct trans-Tasman services to the South Island ski fields.
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The campaign “Meanwhile in… New Zealand” will showcase what is happening “now” on the South Island slopes, along with the kind of colorful characters you’re likely to encounter while coming down a mountain – in the tongue in cheek style of the popular “meanwhile in…” internet memes.

The first in the series of videos, featuring a trio of posers in matching woollen skivvies and pom-pom beanies heli-dropped onto Central Otago’s Isobel Glacier, can be viewed here

Destination Queenstown CEO Graham Budd says with snow falling and more forecast for the coming week, the timing of the campaign is perfect.

“All ski resorts will be open and ready this week to welcome Australian skiers, boarders and holiday makers – so now is the time to book your seat for an unbeatable winter experience in Queenstown.”

unnamed (3)The airline has also launched a social media campaign today offering customers who hit the South Island slopes this winter the opportunity to win back the cost of their airfares by hashtagging their experiences #meanwhileinnz.

Air New Zealand General Manager Australia Leanne Geraghty says while Australia has also had its share of snow dumps this winter, there’s one thing New Zealand slopes offer that you can’t experience here.

unnamed (4)“Queenstown has some of the world’s best heli-ski routes and terrains making for a unique and memorable ski experience. Air New Zealand and our alliance partner Virgin Australia currently fly at least daily from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to the Queenstown ski region, making it possible to check out the heli conditions today and hit the slopes tomorrow.

“New Zealand has historically had a ski season that goes all the way to late September so Australians can continue booking right through spring.”

Air New Zealand, along with alliance partner Virgin Australia will operate an additional 40,000 seats into Queenstown over the peak winter period compared with the same period last year.