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Ski Portillo Chile

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Note: We are in a unique position to book a ski-week (or longer) itinerary for you and also include non-ski destinations if you wish, such as: Easter Island, Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama, Valparaiso and tours in and around Santiago, including the wine valleys.
And, as an alternative to staying in a ski destination we can also arrange a stay in Santiago with daily transfers up to the ski slopes by minibus or the faster option – by helicopter.
For any weekly, all-inclusive ski package that we book in Portillo we will include a free room, for two people, in a 5-star hotel (or closest to this level) for one night in any city in Chile or Argentina to the value of USD250 for the room. This offer is in addition to any that the ski resort may be offering. We will also consider exchanging this offer for another service such as a transfer to the ski resort.
Ski Chile Portillo
Skiing at Portillo is offered as weekly all-inclusive packages with check-in on a Saturday.
Portillo ski centre comprises one large hotel (painted yellow on the exterior) with capacity for 400 guests. It is located by the Chilean border into Argentina 61km east from the town of Los Andes, which is itself 80km north of Santiago. The drive time from Santiago is just over 2hrs. The hotel offers a very welcoming, warm atmosphere with families and regular guests returning year after year.
The hotel Portillo is at an altitude of 9,450ft above sea level and sits next to a lake (Lago del Inca), which is frozen over in the winter. The hotel is set on a small plateau at the base of a natural mountain bowl surrounded by snow-covered mountain peaks on all sides, but the skiing is mostly on the mountain slopes from the north-west sector of the hotel around to the southern sector of the hotel with trails coming to the hotel door, permitting a ski out and in from the hotel. This natural mountain “bowl” creates a micro climate which is ideal for maintaining good powder snow.
The atmosphere at Portillo is unique in that it is very much a family, “club style” hotel where families and friends come back to year after year and enjoy the cosy, warm reception from the hotel owners and staff. Guests, be they regulars or newly arriving, with or without children, are made to feel very welcome with an emphasis on relaxing and enjoying their stay.
To support this ethos of overall enjoyment there are many non-ski activities and facilities offered, such as a games room, cinema, internet café, superb restaurant, bar, disco, out door heated pool and spa, sauna, massage, shop, beauty-treatment centre and a medical centre.
The following information is supplied directly from Portillo.
Portillo Facilities
Guests often comment on Hotel Portillo, and it wouldn’t surprise most to hear people call it “rustic” or “old-school” or even “quirky.”  But what most guests don’t expect – and what they all tend to comment on after they arrive – is how big the hotel is.  The entire lower level of the hotel is dedicated to the extras that the hotel works hard to provide. On this level you’ll find, among others: the fitness room, the yoga room, the disco, the free boot and ski check, the game room and climbing wall, and the full court gymnasium.  Everything is contained within the big, yellow hotel and whether young or old, everyone who takes a walk around finds something to do.
Portillo Service
Portillo strives to provide the best skiing and hotel service possible. The staff to guest ratio is more than one staff member to each guest, which enables for true personal service. It is not uncommon, for example, for a breakfast waiter to already have prepared the favourite breakfast dish for a guest in anticipation of his or her arrival to the dining room, or for the boot-check guy to grab a guest’s ski boots without seeing his or her ticket.  But you’ll get used to it.  If you’re in a bind and need a seam stitched up or a button sewn back on, a housekeeper can help – they live on each floor.  And when you find yourself chatting about snow conditions with the owner and general manager on welcome night, you will know that this ski vacation is going to be something unique and special.  Our great service runs throughout our staff and management. Lastly, as a rule of thumb in Portillo, if you need anything just ask.  You will always find a smiling face eager to help.
Portillo Logistics
Location: Near city of Los Andes, Central Chile
Chance for sunny weather: 80% sunny days
Road distance from Santiago: 141km
Altitude of Hotel: 9,450ft
Altitude: 2,510m (8,240ft) to 3,350m (10,860ft)
Vertical Drop: 835m (2,500ft)
Longest Run: 2km (1.5miles)
Pisted Terrain: 23 Runs
20% Beginner, 30% Intermediate, 20% Advanced, 30% Expert
Lifts: 13
Accommodation: Hotel Portillo, the Octagon Lodge, and the Inca Lodge
Backcountry Access: Very Good
Heliski: Yes, Bell B3 Helicopter
Average Annual Snowfall: 265 inches (673cms)
Portillo Ski Area
Over the past 60 years, Portillo has earned a reputation as sought-after destination for skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.  The snow quality in Portillo is excellent and is often likened to that of the Rocky Mountains.  The ski area features 35 runs, all of which are groomed nightly and there is also extensive skiing to be had on unpacked runs and off piste.  There is nothing quite like a powder day in Portillo.  The bowls and shoots perfectly collect the light, dry snow and the above-tree-line landscape turns into a white playground. 
Ski Lifts
3 quad chairs, 1 triple chair, 1 double chair, *4 va et vient “slingshot” lifts, 5 pomas.
*The famous “Va et Vient” (French for ‘come and go’) lifts were built by the Poma company for Portillo’s Roca Jack, Condor, Las Vizcachas and El Cara Cara runs.  These runs are steep avalanche chutes, making the use of lift towers illogical.  The “Va et Vients” are pulleys that are anchored to the mountain rock above which, by way of a specially-designed attachment, pull 5 skiers up the mountain side by side at once.  The “Va et Vient” lifts are recommended for expert skiers only and although they may seem intimidating at first, are actually quite simple and fun once given a try. 
There are a total of 14 lifts for no more than 450 guests. There is rarely a lift line in Portillo.  The number of day tickets sold is limited and with only 450 resort guests, it’s always smooth sailing on the mountain.
Piste Grooming
Portillo's slopes are groomed nightly with our fleet of grooming machines, turning the Plateau, Juncalillo, Descenso, Bajada del Tren and other runs into perfect corduroy before morning. Beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers can appreciate the attention Portillo pays to its slope maintenance and grooming when they take their first turns every morning.
Portillo normally receives bountiful snow, with an average of 22 feet per season. However, weather is never perfectly predictable so we have snowmaking equipment on the Plateau side of the mountain. During those rare seasons when there is low snowfall, Portillo is still a blast. People sign up for ski lessons, advanced skiers practice their racing technique, and everyone heads to Tío Bob’s café to soak up the sun and scenery during the afternoon.
Snow Boarding
Skiing and Snowbaording can be enjoyed in many ways. At ski areas you may see people using alpine, snowboard, telemark, cross-country or other specialized equipment, such as that used by disabled or other skiers.
Using either our Roca Jack, Condor, Vizcachas or Cara Cara lifts, skiers and snowboarders can traverse – weather and avalanche risks permitting – to renowned off piste terrain such as the Primavera and Kilometro Lanzado runs.  We strongly recommend first hiring a Portillo guide to show you the tricks of the terrain before heading off without one.
Heli-Skiing at Portillo
Helicopters are operated by a separate company called Suma Air. Portillo assumes no responsibility for the service.
Guests wishing to Heli-ski in Portillo may add his or her name to the list of potential Heli-ski participants in the following ways:
A. By requesting to be added to the list at the time the hotel reservation is made, or the at any time before check-in
B. By requesting to be added to the list upon arrival in Portillo (with Alfredo Torres, Assistant Manager, office).
Having one’s name on the list of potential heli-ski participants does not guarantee the guest a heli-ski trip. This will depend upon:
Snow conditions
Priority of position on the heli-ski participant list.
Flight clearance by the helicopter pilot.
Emergency requirement, which always has priority for helicopter use.
Heli-skiing requires a skill level and physical condition adequate for the type of terrain and snow conditions found in Heli-ski locations. Guides have the authority to turn-down any individual who he or she feels does not maintain the required skills and/or physical condition to safely participate in a Heli-ski trip.
Minors under the age of 18 who wish to participate in a Heli-ski trip must have the written consent of a parent or legal guardian
The heli-guide, or Portillo guide will publish the list of potential participants in Alfredo Torre’s office on the first day of the ski week (Saturday) and will select groups and assign their tentative heli-ski day/time in accordance with the positions of names on the list. At this point, in order to uphold the position, the guest will have to pay for the heli-ski service. Payment for heli-ski service is non-refundable except in cases when heli-skiing is not possible due to circumstances outlined above.
Priority will be given to guests who have added their names to the list furthest in advance and have paid for the heli-Ski service.
If there are more names on the list of potential participants than the maximum number of trips available during a given ski week, guests whose names are further down the list will not be able to participate in a heli-ski trip. Extra heli-ski trips will only be added when availability and conditions permit.
If heli-ski trips cannot be made on every day of the week due to weather conditions or other reasons mentioned previously, priority will be given to guests who have reservations for that day. Prior reservations will be cancelled and must be renewed.
Ski Portillo Chile (information supplied directly from Portillo)
Ski weeks in Portillo are designed to allow guests the opportunity to ski, relax, let go of worry and enjoy their ski resort experience as it is nowhere else in the world.  Portillo is a place free of commercial expansion and distractions.  There is no town, no shopping center and no Starbucks!  There is one big yellow hotel, one beautiful ski mountain, 400 guests, and 450 energetic and smiling employees to ensure a care-free vacation for our guests.
Saturday Check-In
Guests arrive on Saturday and after checking-in are free to explore all of the hotel’s features or hit the mountain right away.  A hotel full of facilities and activities, and a mountain free of crowds and lines await. 
Each day guests are offered a wide variety of activities to choose from, and during the special weeks even more options are available.  When not skiing, the gym and fitness centres allow guests to exercise and remain active.  Ping-pong, billiards and foosball keep kids and adults busy in the games room, and the staff plans many daily activities just for children, which guests can find out about each day on the hotel’s bulletin boards. 
Relaxation is the name of the game in the outdoor pool and hot tub where the views of the Andean sunsets are unparalleled.  And this is just the start.  Many other services and activities like the sauna, massages, the famous Portillo bar, etc. are popular and available to our guests.
Vacationers come from all around the world to join in the Portillo experience.  They quickly realize why this home-grown resort in the Chilean Andes has been highly regarded for so many years and why its guests are loyal and come back year after year. 
Typical Portillo Day
Wake up around 8:00 to leave plenty of time for getting ready and heading down to the main dining room for breakfast.  Your waiters will know you by name by the second day, and will be ready to bring you all kinds of morning fuel, and will even remember how you take your coffee and like your eggs.  Enjoy the views of the mountain and lake in the morning sun and when you’re done eating it’s down to the hotel’s lower level to get your boots and skis and hit the mountain (lifts open at 9:00).  Also be sure to check the hotel’s bulleting boards for daily activities inside and out.
Don’t forget to stop by the ski school office on your way down where you can schedule a private or group lesson, perhaps around 10:00, after you’ve warmed up the ski legs a bit.  The ski school instructors will show you all the secrets of the mountain, based upon your level and abilities, and you’ll soon feel that this is your ski resort.
If it’s a sunny day, there’s no better place to enjoy lunch than from Tio Bob’s, the mountainside restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.  Salads and grilled meat is the specialty up on the
mountain, and you may enjoy a glass of wine or a beer as you take in the panoramic view of the high Andes.  Ski right down the Plateau run after lunch and enjoy the rest of your day on the hill.  Lifts close at 4:30 and 5:00.
When you head back in for the day, the ski and boot check assistants will store your equipment for the night.  Up to the room for a shower (or maybe to the outdoor hot tub first) and it’s back to the main dining room for “once”- or tea time – for some après ski nourishment before having a cocktail in the bar or lounging in the living room where you can share stories of your day with friends and other guests.  The bar and living room, both over 60 years old, may even have some stories of their own to tell. Dinner is served at 9:30 and the options are always delicious and hearty.  Your waiter will help you decide, and if you would like seconds, they’ll be happy to bring them.  The wine list is comprehensive and the desserts are homemade. 
The live band can be heard starting up in the bar as dinner comes to an end, and stopping by for at least a song or two is definitely recommended.  They play until 23:00hrs and the atmosphere is always lively – many nights’ festivities in the bar have been known to make their way downstairs to the Disco where the party goes on until the last person leaves.   
Every day in Portillo can be as different or similar to the last as you want it to be.  Variety among the relaxing and the active is what we strive to provide, and it is all there waiting to be enjoyed.
Tio Bobs Slope-Side Restaurant
This slopeside restaurant offers stunning views of Lake Inca and the Andes that surround it.  It is located at the top of the Plateau Lift, before accessing Condor. For lunch Tío Bob's offers barbecued meats and fish and a delicious variety of salads.  Guests have been known to ‘lunch for hours’ after discovering the wine list and comfort of the restaurant.  We sometimes host special dinners at Tío Bob’s on Friday nights. Tío Bob's can also be rented to host a private evening party, allowing guests to ride the chairlift and view the stars over the Andean peaks. It makes for a truly unforgettable evening.
Hours: Tío Bob’s is open from 12:00-3:00 pm, weather permitting.  

Note: On Thursdays guests who either do not wish to/or cannot ski down the Plateau run, are invited to ride the chairlift to Tío Bob's without skis (1:00-3:00 pm, weather permitting).
History of Portillo Ski Chile (information directly from Portillo)
Portillo is the oldest ski area in South America, and its history holds an important place in the legend of skiing. It is a history of adventurers and the Andes, and of dreams and accomplishments in the wonderful world of skiing.
In 1887, the Chilean government contracted English engineers to study the feasibility of a railway through the Andes at Uspallata Pass, which could transport goods and passengers from Chile's Central Valley to the Argentine city of Mendoza, and eventually on to Buenos Aires. The English engineers then contracted two Norwegian engineers, Elmar Rosenquist and Michel Hermundsen, to conduct winter studies of the proposed line. The Norwegians spent two winters in 1887 and 1888 traversing the region on skis. They were surely the first skiers to cross the slopes of the Portillo ski area.
Two years later, in 1889, the Chilean government hired 14 Norwegian skiers to transport mail between Chile and Argentina, however this, apparently, was not successful and therefore not repeated.

During the construction of the railroad, skiing was common among the engineers in charge, most of whom were Englishmen who used skis in their work - and no doubt for enjoyment. Following the inauguration of the international railroad in 1910, these pioneers were followed by recreational skiers who used the train to get to the top of the mountain at Caracoles so they could ski down to the Juncal crossing - an area that is now within the Portillo ski resort. Thus, the Transandean Railway became the first ski lift in Chile.
Ski clubs began to appear in Chile about this time and were the driving force behind the development of skiing in Chile. The first club was the German Excursion Club, founded in 1909 in Valparaíso. By early 1930, skiing enthusiasts focused their efforts on developing the slopes around Laguna del Inca (Lake of the Inca), an area known as "Portillo," or "Little Pass." The first lift in the area was a tow lift similar, in a rudimentary fashion, to today's Poma lift. Adventure-seekers came from Europe and the United States to ski the Andes alongside Chileans. European ski instructors then arrived, and a small mountain hut for lodging was built, known as Hotel Portillo.
The tiny Hotel Portillo grew and developed services. In the early 1940s, a share-holding company known as Hoteles de Cordillera S.A was formed and shares were sold to pay for the construction of a large hotel that was to be known as the "Grand Hotel Portillo." But the company failed, and the hotel was still far from completion when World War II began, which then occupied the minds and energies of the men. Later, the Corporation for Development of the Chilean government resumed construction and inaugurated the 125-room hotel in 1949. The ski area boasted two single chairlifts and one surface lift. The ski school, high-mountain school of the Chilean Army - and even guests - all pitched in to groom the slopes. The Portillo Ski Area was born.
Portillo's first ski school director was the internationally-famous French champion Emile Allais, who stayed until the mid-1950s. The great Stein Eriksen then took over the direction of the ski school. The 1950s were difficult years for Portillo as the government struggled with the complexities of running a ski area.
Unable to make a profit, the government sold Portillo in 1962 to two North Americans, Bob Purcell and Dick Aldrich. It was one of the first government businesses sold to the private sector in the history of Chile.
Portillo - The Modern Era
Bob Purcell and Dick Aldrich were two men who had long travelled and worked in Latin America. Both had skied in Portillo and were impressed by the magnificent beauty and incredible skiing that they found at the resort. Portillo offered great opportunities, and both felt the time had come to invest in modern ski facilities.
Bob Purcell hired his nephew Henry Purcell, a green 26-year-old, as General Manager of the new organization, largely because Henry was the only relatively young and adventure-minded person that they knew in the hotel business. He was a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and had worked for 5 years for the Hilton Corporation, but was tired of big city hotels and big corporation life, so he jumped at the chance and moved his whole family to Chile. Henry soon discovered that nearly everything he had learned about the hotel business at Cornell and with Hilton was not going to be much help at Portillo.
The Olympic gold medallist Othmar Schneider was hired as Director of Skiing and the U.S. firm Needham and Grohmann were appointed to start a publicity campaign. Henry began to try to get the hotel operation on its feet, hire some personnel and clean the place up (there was a large black sheep called Lumumba living in the living room of the hotel when he got there).
To inaugurate the new management, on June 15, 1961, Bob and Dick chartered a plane from the Unites States to bring a group of skiing dignitaries to Portillo, among them Howard Head, Ernst Engel, Alf Engen, Merril Hastings, Mrs. John Randolph Hearst, Ernie McCulloch, Wille Schaeffler and Cliff Taylor. At that time, the only way up to Portillo was aboard a narrow-gauge railroad - and the train operation in the high Andes was precarious at best. The VIPs spent most of their first day in a tunnel on the railroad waiting for the railroad workers to clear an avalanche that had fallen across the tracks. In the meantime, no one had no way of knowing where they were because communications were not much at the time. There was only one surface telephone line and only one telephone number: the Portillo One, and this line worked just fine in the summer, but went out with the first snowstorm each winter. Thankfully, everyone had fun, so the ski area inauguration was a success, of sorts.
At some point during that first year it occurred to the owners that Portillo and South American skiing needed an event to put it on the World “skiing” map. Portillo requested to host the Alpine World Ski Championships for 1966. In those days the World Championship was very important because there were only two events on the skier's calendar when all of the Worlds skiers could come together to compete against one another: the Olympics and the World Championships. After a great deal of negotiating, politics and promises, and surely with serious misgivings on the part of the International Ski Federation (FIS), the competition was awarded to The Chilean Ski Federation and to be hosted at Portillo.
The preparations for the World Cup were enormous. New ski lifts were put in place, new rooms and recreational facilities were built, a downhill course was prepared, a communications system installed and the transportation system was improved. Prior to the main event a pre-championship race for in the summer of August in 1965 was planned in order to give the new installations a try and the national teams a chance to experience skiing in the summer - something that was very unusual for most ski teams in those days.
Nature has a way of laughing at mankind in situations like this, and she went at it with a vengeance that year. On August 15, a typhoon from the South Pacific moved through Portillo, blowing winds of up to 200kph. Monstrous amounts of snow fell and avalanches took out all but two of the ski lifts including the two newly-built chairlifts. The brand-new 1,800-meter Juncalillo Poma double chair lost 13 of its 24 towers, including the base and return stations. Five skiers were killed in an avalanche that destroyed part of employee housing. Ski teams that had gathered for the event were trapped in Portillo - and when the weather eventually cleared they had to ski out to the nearest train station 20 miles away.
The FIS was understandably distressed and asked the Portillo owners what they intended to do. There was a great deal of soul searching, studies, estimates and advice. Dick Aldrich was entering into U.S. politics and could not devote time to South America. He decided to sell his shares to Bob Purcell, whose dream of Portillo remained as strong as ever. Bob was convinced that it could be done, and he gave the FIS his answer: He will rebuild and the 1966 World Ski Championships will be held in Portillo. With an admirable spirit of generosity, the FIS agreed to let him try.
The Poma factory, which had built all of Portillo's ski lifts, sent a young Polish engineer named Janek Kunzynski to Portillo to rebuild the lifts on-site. In an attempt to avoid future avalanche danger the ski area had to be redesigned following the expert advice of men like Othmar Schneider, who was well aware of the dangers of these great mountains. Portillo hired the top avalanche expert of the moment, Monty Atwater, to give his opinions and to head up the avalanche control program during the World Championships. The Chilean Army offered artillery for avalanche-blasting control and a regiment of mountain troops to prepare the runs. The Portillo management begged, pleaded and negotiated every aspect of the event. The timing control, press facilities, communications and housing were finished and approved. After a long and hectic summer everything was finally ready to go. The FIS gave the go ahead and in August of 1966, Marc Hodler, President of the FIS together with the President of Chile, Eduardo Frei, inaugurated the first major World Ski event south of the equator.
Nature, after behaving so furiously in 1965, gave the events her blessing with days of bright sun, cold weather and perfect snow conditions. It was a great event, especially for the French, who won 16 medals including all of the gold - except the slalom, which went to Carlo Senoner of Italy. The women's downhill went to Marielle Goitschel, although she had to wait several years to claim her medal from Erica Schinneger, the original winner who underwent a sex change shortly after the championships and later renounced her medal. Annie Famose won the Slalom, and Marielle won the Giant Slalom and the Combined. In the men's races, Jean-Claude Killy began his collection of medals, taking the gold in the Downhill and the Combined. Guy Perillat won the Giant Slalom. Carlos Sononor from Italy won the gold in the slalom and went home to fame and glory.
It is interesting that the Giant Slalom was run on two courses for the first time in Portillo. The FIS was experimenting with new formats and, in fact, the World Cup was also invented in the bar of Portillo, during those happy, sun-filled days. The skiers of the world would henceforth be able try their luck against each other many times each year instead of only once every two years.
Speed trials were held on three occasions, first in 1963, when Dick Dorworth and C.B. Vaughn skied 171.428kph; in 1978, when Steve McKinney broke the barrier of 200kph; and in 1987, when Michael Prufer ran 217.68kph. Portillo has hosted many great national ski teams who come to train for world events, including the U.S., Canadian, Austrian, Italian, Japanese, Chilean, and German teams. These great skiers have always shown true sportsmanship and mingle unobtrusively with Portillo guests and staff.
Bob Purcell's dream has become a reality, and Portillo has grown into a successful ski area that is loved by thousands of skiers around the world. Apart from the generations of U.S. Ski Team members who have raced down its slopes, a large share of characters and everyday people have come to see what all the talk is about. The Kennedy children were chased by the Chilean border police, Argentine polo players tried their luck on skis, Peruvian surfers took to the snowboard, Scotsmen skied in kilts and supermodels passed through the hotel halls in furs. Bankers and businessmen trying to do their business fought over telephone access to Portillo One. Families grew closer at Portillo, guests made lifelong friends; romances bloomed (and new families were founded!). Many a fashion shoot and TV commercial have also been shot in Portillo.
In 1972 the Chilean government discussed the nationalization of Portillo.
Portillo Today
Henry Purcell, with his younger brother David, purchased Portillo from their Uncle Bob Purcell and have continued to develop the Portillo product. Unfortunately David died in 1995 and Henry recently retired as CEO after more than 40 years in charge and handed it over to his son Michael Purcell, who is current CEO.
The ski area itself has not changed a great deal over the years. Snowmaking and grooming machines have replaced the boot-packing of the Chilean Mountain troops, but today there are 14 ski lifts, including five chairlifts, and the unique Va et Vient lifts designed by Jean Pomagalski in the 60s, to permit access to the steep, high-avalanche chutes across the Roca Jack and the Condor slopes, challenging expert skiers and offering access to some great open-slope powder skiing and a myriad of steep chutes.
Communications are better today, and Portillo One is now a fat fiber-optic cable; an outside telephone line is always available. There is also a cybercafé now with access to broadband internet connection. Sadly, the railroad no longer runs, and although an efficient road has replaced it the old trains are missed. The people of Portillo, though, are still the same kind of people. Guests and personnel are wonderful people coming together in the magical world of skiing. It is the fulfilment of Henry Purcell’s dream.
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