Archive for the ‘Resorts’ Category
Thursday, March 18th, 2010
Sugarbowl is located west of Lake Tahoe and off I-80. I have been there several times including once with a broken leg during which I just sat around and sulked about how much fun everyone else was having. On March 11 we went to Sugarbowl – this was two days after a 10+ inch storm. (Map, Homepage)
This caught me by surprise but I absolutely loved this mountain. I thought it was much smaller from my previous memories. The beginning area that I saw by Mt. Judah actually looked fun for beginner’s and I thought it provided enough to progress new skiers and riders to the rest of the mountain. The park is nothing like Northstar-at-Tahoe’s but has enough features for the riders that do choose to use them. As for the rest of the mountain… the terrain was phenomenal. We used the Summit Chair and Mt. Lincoln Express to access the double black diamond chutes with minimal hike required. Given the thick snow, by the time we made it to the bottom we were definitely ready for the rest on the ride up. The intermediate groomers were also fun and in particular I liked the Sidewinder and Harriet’s Hollow runs.
A view of the mountain taken from the Summit chair.
As I stated before, we were skiing on 10 inches of snow that had fallen two days before we went. The moisture content in the snow had increased so skiing the chutes definitely required leg muscle to move through the chop. The snow on the groomers was fine. At approximately 12:30 the groomers began to slush up and before that some of the sun-exposed off-piste felt like sierra cement.
Right below Mt. Lincoln Express after the Sisters.
I believe the resort has 9 chairlifts. The new Summit Chair which brings you to the Mt. Judah chutes is a great addition from summer. The chairs are a bit on the slower side but are still considered detachable quads.
I was very impressed with the food available at the Judah Lodge. We did try to go to the other base lodge for food but they only had a bar and sit down (tablecloth) restaurant. Going from “The Village” back to Judah Lodge took a bit long for someone who gets less patient the hungrier they become. Once there the cafeteria offered Mexican, Pizzas, Burgers, Sandwiches and Pastas. Pricing was typical resort pricing but I felt the quality of the food was a bit on the better end.
The “Village” of Sugarbowl is one of the base lodges and is where the tram drops you off if you choose to use the west parking lot. This includes a hotel which would be pretty cool to stay at, the hotel restaurant, bar and outdoor seating area. The other base is Mt. Judah which includes the shop and cafeteria. These are definitely not going to keep a non-skier entertained with shopping and activities but provide enough amenities for the skiers and snowboarders.
Sugarbowl is about 3 – 3.5 hours from San Francisco via I-80 East. It was about 40 minutes from us at Northstar (closer to the lake). In order to get there you need to leave I-80 and go on Donner Pass Road which is the famous route the Donner Party took back in the day. Sometimes this road can be incredibly gnarly especially during a storm in which case I would use the west entrance.
While skiing here we almost never had to wait in a line to get on the chair lift. This could be due to the fact that it was a weekday during a non-busy week but I also think that in general this resort is not as crowded as some other big ones.
Monday, November 9th, 2009
The area of Chillan presents different scenery from what I experienced in Southern Chile and Central Chile (Portillo, Santiago). The landscape still has the very dramatic mountains rising steeply from the ground but with a slightly different coloring: the trees were less jungle or European green and more of the light wiry moss green.
The town does not have many amenities: There were a few restaurants and a few stores but they were spread out over one road and it does not seem the place to walk around and sight-see. As you drive closer to the resort there are a couple quick attractions you can look at.
The first is a cave/hide-out where the bandits used to camp. This is on private property and the owners now request a small fee to view the cave due to the amount of trash visitors used to leave. The walk is only about a minute from the parking area and you find yourself looking at a slight rock overhang and a waterfall off to the side. You can truly picture bandits hanging out and cooking meat with the horses tethered slightly off to the side.
The second natural attraction that we visited was a grout located on the drive up to the resort. To view this one you park on the side of the road and hike up a path where you are given two options: to continue upwards and view the grout or to go to the right to a waterfall. I was initially worried that this would be quite a long trek however both of them were only a couple minutes away from the car. I wouldn’t recommend the hike to the grout for people uncomfortable walking up steeper terrain.
The area also features a casino/hotel located at the resort which provides the area nightlife and upscale lodging.
The final attraction is at the resort where you can enjoy the hot springs. We booked ourselves a jacuzzi but there were also other options available including an outdoor pool. The smell of sulfur was fairly predominant in the area which brings me to the resort review!
We skied at the Chillan Resort on September 3rd. The weather was sunny and cold in the morning but quickly heated up towards noon. We had been informed by a local that the conditions were getting slushy early in the day.
The ski area of Chillan is located on two volcanoes with spouts of steam visible at various areas of the mountain. In addition to the two volcanoes (which in my opinion are pretty exciting to be skiing on) the resort at the top is covered in gullies and ridges giving the terrain a sense of adventure as you explore it. The top of the mountain accesses a very large amount of terrain with lots of diversity even though it does not include trees. If you want you can even hike up to the very top past the lifts and reach the volcano. I was very happy with the terrain at the top and was not surprised to hear that Chillan has the top freeski team in Chile.
We took a run from the top of the mountain all the way down, I believe it was called Tres Marias, and this run is apparently known as the longest run in South America. This run reminded me of one of my favorite childhood runs from Kirkwood called Happiness Is. It has the gentle rolling hills with a nice pitch to relax and cruise at a pretty decent speed. I was even more surprised by it when we continued and all of a sudden were transported into a forested area. The run continued to wind down the mountain (yes it was very long) and eventually dumped us out at a beginner bowl area.
Of the seven resorts I have skied in South America this one without question had the best terrain available for beginners. There was plenty of space and trees in between sections which I know kids love. In addition to the space we dumped out at the entire area from this bottom of the resort to the parking lot where we actually started had terrific beginner terrain. The area by the parking lot was located near the top dining complex with a chair lift and rope tow with a gentle gradient. Between this area and the bottom there were also a couple runs that ran narrowly between the trees which are a kids wedging heaven. I truly wished that I could be a kid doing pizza down these runs… especially when I looked up and saw bamboo arching overhead and parrots eating at the bottom!!
The snow we skied on was old and the resort did not experience new snowfall any time recently. At first in the morning it was very similar to east coast skiing conditions in that it was very hard pack and you had to really focus on edging while skiing. I tried having fun and going off the groomers at the top onto what looked like untouched old powder only to realize it was rock solid and the only reason there were no marks was because digging into the ice was difficult.
Another hour or two later the snow had enough time to warm up with the sun and was quite pleasant to ski on. I actually stayed in the beginner area and just had fun because the snow was the perfect level of soft to be very forgiving for “playing”.
The lifts at Chillan consisted of rope tows for the beginner areas and lifts and t-bars for the rest of the resort. Chillan houses the longest lift in South America although I do not know what the criteria are for this claim. They are not high speed.
The food was actually pretty good. We ate at the base area by the parking lot. The other area is actually the true base by the casino and all of the lodging where most of the beginner areas are. We ate inside although there was a large outdoor deck that many guests were using. Inside we had various options including good and big sized burgers, steaks, and sushi.
As mentioned before there are two areas for people to hang out. The first is at the resort parking lot where the Resort has its main lodge with restaurants and access to the hot springs facilities. The second was below this level through the trees located by the casino and other condominiums. The condos were spread out throughout the trees and while we were there several different international teams were housed at the condos.
Chillan is located further away for people in the Santiago areas so it is more of a destination resort than a day trip option. The roads to reach Chillan were fine and for the last couple kilometers we were driving on a dirt road to the resort however it was in better condition than the road to the La Parva, El Colorado and Valle Nevado resorts.
The resort terrain itself is perfect for skiers of all ages and levels which is a first for me to say of the resorts I have skied at in South America. This resort actually had easily accessibly beginner terrain as well as challenging terrain.
There was more of a crowd in the beginner areas for people going up and down the tow rope than there were on the lifts accessing the rest of the mountain. We were rarely the only ones on a run but we also almost never had to change our line due to other people either. I would say there were almost always a couple people there whether they were hanging out on the side or somewhere way in front or behind of you.
All in all, this resort was my favorite of the ones I went to in South America. I enjoyed Cerro Bayo in Argentina and thought the terrain at Cerro Catedral was interesting however this one had the most fun and adventure built into the terrain. I would definitely recommend this resort over others for a South American ski experience as I believe it the area has something for everyone: casino and hot springs, skiing for beginner to advanced levels, hiking and horseback riding. I would definitely come here again.
Saturday, October 24th, 2009
We skied Portillo on my birthday, August 21st. As I mentioned in my post on La Parva, the day before Portillo we skied off-piste powder the entire day. Unfortunately this meant our muscles were incredibly burnt out when we reached Portillo so we did not ski as much as we had envisioned we would.
The lift-accessible terrain at Portillo was definitely steeper than the previous resorts. We were ambitious and decided to do the famous Roca Jack poma first thing, sans warm-up. After a few turns I quickly realized that my muscles were shot from the day before and there was no way I would ski gracefully for the rest of the day.
The groomers at Portillo were nice and were slightly steeper than you would find at other resorts. Unfortunately it was whiteout conditions so we did not ski the entire mountain. One thing to note however is that the mountain seems to be split in two sections – the section behind the hotel and the section behind the round lodge. In order to get from one to the other it does require a lot of skating which might not be so nice for people who aren’t used to it.
Between these two lifts you can see a white triangle area which is where Roca Jack is located.
The snow was good and heavy when we were there. The groomers had more of the squeaky element to it so it was a bit colder than La Parva. The powder was heavy and chunky with ice underneath.
The lifts are slightly older utilizing more pomas and t-bars. They did have a cool lift that actually brings you over the highway. A few of the pomas are different from what we are used to: they are actually a set of five pomas attached to a metal bar so everyone needs to try to get on the poma on an uphill slope next to other people. This was a fairly difficult task but I guess it helps keep beginners of the run. Once everyone had their own poma seat and was holding on, the lift operator would allow the bar to be pulled up the slope – the very steep slope. By the time you get to the top your legs are burning and adrenaline rushing. I was nervous the entire time because someone kept pulling his poma down so I had to keep pulling mine up or risk losing it between my legs.
We ate at Tio Bob’s which had many options but not that much seating when the porch seating was unavailable. It had a nice view of the Laguna.
This photo was taken from the lodge base area.
Portillo has the blue and yellow hotel with full amenities available as well as a round hut that people can stay in. As far as I am aware that consists of their village.
In order to get to Portillo you need to take a road that crosses from the town of Los Andes, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina. This means that the narrow curvy road with lots of avalanche danger also happens to be a main trucking route and tourist route between the two countries. Because of the snow storm the pass had been closed for days and opened the day we arrived or the day before resulting in a line of trucks parked on the side of the road for miles and miles, waiting for their turn to go up. To their credit they did let passenger vehicles pass and when cars came in the opposite direction they just tried making three lanes instead of two. By the time we headed back down the road the entire line of trucks was gone.
While we were at Portillo the Austrian team was training as well as the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC). We were allowed to tag along with some of the NASTC crew and ski with some of the best ski instructors in North America. The local soldiers from the mountain division were also training there. While the lines were never empty in front of us we never had to really wait either in order to board a lift or poma.
The soldiers heading back to the parking lot.
Saturday, October 24th, 2009
We skied El Colorado August 28 and 29.
The bottom half of the mountain is much more beginner friendly than the other resorts so far with milder stretches accessible by poma lift. These runs did not taper off gently at the bottom though so you would see many beginners doing power wedges at the bottom section while trying to get in line for the t-bar without running into anyone. The upper half of the mountain consisted of intermediate to advanced groomers on the front side with the back side having slightly more off-piste terrain options.
I sat on the backside underneath the rocks and had a snack.
The snow was hard pack which meant that the entire front side (south facing) was icy corduroy and fairly scary to ski unless you have racing skis that are tuned as such. I skied on the back side which faced the sun earlier in the day and had much softer snow until it started turning into corn slush at which point I returned to the front side.
El Colorado had a few regular chair lifts, some of which were incredibly slow. The t-bars were faster than the chair lifts and were for the lower mountain beginner areas as well as the steeper terrain on the backside.
Here you can see El Colorado’s free ski team working on the mogul run they created on the backside. Behind them runs the t-bar.
I liked the food at El Colorado more than the food at the other Chilean resorts so far primarily because they also had a crepe stand at the base. I felt the restaurants were slightly more like restaurants instead of cafeterias. They also had lots of seating space outside on the deck.
The village at El Colorado was larger than La Parva and Portillo but smaller than Valle Nevado. It had a few shops and restaurants and was multiple stories.
To get to El Colorado you take the same road as the one to Valle Nevado and La Parva. I have spoken about it in previous posts. For some reason we saw the most animals on the days we drove to El Colorado though.
A wild horse eating on the side of the road
On the 28th there was a special deal running that allowed three people to ski for the price of one so there was a rather large crowd at the mountain. I actually did have to wait to get on the t-bars or chair lifts but it was never more than a minute or two. The terrain on the front side was more crowded as well as the traverses but I would attribute this mainly to the special deal.
The view from the top of the backside
Saturday, October 24th, 2009
I skied at La Parva on August 17th and 20th. On the 17th we had a dump a few days earlier and whiteout conditions in the morning – it was pretty cold. On the 20th it dumped the day before and we spent most of our time off piste for the blue bird day.
The terrain at La Parva is pretty standard of a larger ski resort – it had something for everyone and enough for the Canadian team to practice wedge christies. It also has tons of off-piste areas that are not too steep which include a couple gullies. I thought these were very fun and was glad to have experienced them on a powder day. While the first day we had white-out conditions with slight vertigo, the second day was blue-bird with powder and we spent most of the time off-piste.
Because we skied at La Parva after some dumps the snow was fresh powder. However a note on the type of powder and snow I have experienced at Valle Nevado, La Parva, Portillo and El Colorado: Chile does not get very cold and many of the skiers are accustomed to warmer weather skiing. This likens the snow and conditions more to the Sierras so while La Parva might get 2 feet of powder it will have a higher moisture content and condense more quickly than “champagne” powder. Basically I was very happy that I was skiing on fat skis and our legs got tired fairly quickly from skiing all of the powder. Poor us.
Some of the top lifts were not open due to winds (and yes it got pretty windy and uncomfortable while we were there). La Parva seems to use pomas for the beginner terrain and regular quads for most of the mountain. On one of them they had hoisted up a fake mini which was pretty cool.
We ate at the mid-mountain lodge. The food was decent, nothing special.
La Parva doesn’t have much of a village other than a base lodge are (couple shops and restaurants). It does differ from Valle Nevado and El Colorado in that it has many upper scale condos and houses by the base area.
To access La Parva you need to take the mountain road from Santiago up. I don’t really like this road because it brings you up 8k feet or something within forty minutes and I tend to get headaches. Other more relevant comments include that when it has just snowed it takes a long time to go up because there is not enough space to pass people and some people do not know how to drive on ice or snow. Cars did slide out or could not make it around turns which would cause all traffic behind them to stand still until they figured it out.
The resorts rarely feel crowded and definitely not at the same level of the larger US resorts. The busiest I have experienced a lift line might include a wait of a minute. On the day after the storm the runs were more crowded however we spent most of our time off-piste so it was not an inconvenience.
The off-piste terrain on the right side of the mountain (looking up) was easily accessible for skiers and allows you to ski almost from the top to the bottom lifts.
Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
Saturday, August 8
After visiting the Lake, we decided to drive up Volcan Osorno.
This is one of my favorite photos so far
The ski resort was incredibly windy (very very cold!) We decided we would return on Monday to go skiing and would prepare with many layers!
A view of a lava run out
There was a sign saying there was a bubble. On the way back we investigated the “bubble”.
Turns out it was a cave that you can go spelunking in with guided tours.
We did end up returning to Volcan Osorno on Monday expecting lots of powder at the mountain since it had been raining at the Lake. Unfortunately it also rained at the mountain so all the snow you see in the resort photo was gone and we were the only ones there. This turned out ok though because we just went on another adventure in the end involving hiking up a waterfall (more to come later).
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
Here is a superb example of how much Chilean scenery can change over 20 kilometers. After crossing the Andes we took a slight detour to check out the Antillanca ski resort (Friday, August 7th). Unfortunately it was foggy at the top so we couldn’t really see much of the terrain and for more information on the actual resort I would recommend visiting their website.
We crossed this creek with a tiny wooden bridge
I think the moss is absolutely beautiful here
Success!! An absolutely beautiful drive. Unfortunately we decided not to ski this day due to fatigue but the resort definitely looks interesting (I recommend looking at the photos on their website too!) and I would love to ski it and check it out sometime.
Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
I got about 7 days in at Cerro Catedral but spent slightly less than a month in the city of Bariloche and pretty much had daily reports from campers on how the conditions were at the mountain. For more photos I recommend my earlier post on hiking Laguna.
This mountain is huge. You can not see all of it at one time and when you’ve skied the lift accessible terrain you still have the off-piste terrain on top of it. It is moderately steep and there are actually patches of beginner terrain dispersed throughout the mountain (so yes you see hard core wedges at the summit). I think that basically they have whatever you want be it bamboo, trees, cliffs or groomers.
Lift Accessible Rock Chutes on Nubes
The snow is very similar to that of Tahoe but I think slightly worse. The mountain base is at a pretty low elevation so they are lucky when it is snowing at the base and not raining. Because of this the snow when it falls is more likely to be the heavier type than the light Utah pow. Coverage can also be minimal – I successfully turned my brand new skis into rock skis after three days at Cerro Catedral.
Cerro Catedral has one Sextuple (6 person lift), a 4-person gondola with no snowboard rack (you have to put a felt cover on your board to bring it inside), a pedestrian tram and many many lifts. Nothing is really high-speed but its not terrifyingly slow either. The lifties will stop the lift (even if you are bending over and have a backpack on) to yell at you to put the bar down.
At the base and some other lifts they also have electronic gates so if you are a passholder or have a card, you just walk into the stall and the gate opens up for you.
The view from Laguna on one ridge on one side of the mountain
The food is pretty good. The restaurants are all owned independently and most of the bathrooms are absolutely disgusting. A popular item is a Lomito which is basically a steak sandwich.. yes .. super good. If you like cleaner places I would recommend the fancy restaurant at the top of the skier gondola. It has a super clean atmosphere with a breathtaking view (clean bathrooms too) and the pricing is equivalent to cafeteria rates at ski resorts in the US.
The village has a skate ramp, tons of restaurants and shops. All of these are independently owned so there isn’t much of a cohesive feel. At the bottom of the Sextuple there is a mall with an escalator and food court. They also have like five different chocolate brand stores so if you want super rich chocolate milk or need to buy chocolate for friends you can find a place no problem. Tagé plays Austrian uppity folk music.
Cerro Catedral is located 20 minutes out of the town of Bariloche. Bariloche is pretty cute and has a lot of shopping available as well as the nighclub life. The only thing you might need to watch out for on the way up is a protest blockading the road with burning tires. This probably doesn’t happen too often though.
I would recommend this resort for anyone really but it’s probably better if you aren’t a beginner. While there I saw a blind child being given ski lessons as well as Milka people hitting the park.
The view of a ridge on the other side of the mountain with Lago Nahuel Huapi in the background
Saturday, July 11th, 2009
I arrived in Chile the morning of June 24th and spent the night in Reñaca by the beach. The next morning we left to Valle Nevad0.
First, the drive was about 2.5 hours from my location (just over an hour from Santiago). The drive itself is quite amazing: you end up on a very narrow two way street with something like 30 zig-zag turns up the mountain. As you climb the mountains you pass wild cows, dogs, and horses on the side of the road.
At the top when you start heading towards the resorts (El Colorado and La Parva to the left of the fork, and Valle Nevado to the right – you can ski from one to the other with the right ticket) and you are surrounded by blankets of cushy white snow. Apparently you can even ski to this section of the road from the resort if you feel comfortable hitching a ride back up.
The resort itself has several hotels of various star levels and special parking for the sponsor vehicle: Jeep.
The snow conditions were great (in my opinion) and here is why:
- The snow itself was cold and of the squeeky kind
- Light weight
- The grooming was good and there were no ruts or ice patches
- Off Piste was a bit heavy and deep – somewhat difficult to maneuver
- No lift lines
- No crowded runs (was there Thurs/Fri of a non-holiday weekend)
That being said, I’ve been informed that the conditions were in fact crappy because only 30% of the mountain was open while we were there and the snow coverage was not up to standard. This was also four days after they opened with a slightly late season to boot. I would love to come back and explore the mountain in more depth.
I can’t really recommend the resort to anyone because I didn’t get to ski all of it. I would say this is not a place for beginners considering that the beginner terrain is difficult to access for fearful people.
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Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
As a Young Kid
- Kirkwood (Mighty-Mountain Kids Ski School) (Tahoe)
- Ischgl, Austria
- Kronplatz, Italy
As a Teenager
- Northstar-at-Tahoe (Tahoe)
- Sierra-at-Tahoe (Tahoe)
- Diamond Peak (Tahoe)
- Boreal (Tahoe)
- Sugarbowl (Tahoe)
- Donner Ski Ranch (Tahoe)
- Copper Mountain (Colorado)
- Stratton Mountain (VT)
- Bromley Mountain (VT)
- Okemo Mountain (VT)
- Squaw Valley (Tahoe)
As a College Student
- Wachussett Mountain (MA)
- Ascutney (VT)
- Pico (VT)
- Mad River (VT)
- Middlebury (VT)
- Loon (NH)
- Waterville Valley (NH)
- Heavenly (Tahoe)
- Smuggler’s Notch (VT)
- Jay Peak (VT)
- Nashoba Valley (MA)
- Stowe (VT)
- Sunday River (ME)
- Alpine Meadows (Tahoe)
- Flaine? (France)
As a Ski Instructor
- Homewood (Tahoe)
Planned Resorts from Now through Summer
- Mammoth Mountain (CA)
- Portillo (Chile)?
- Valle Nevado (Chile)?
- El Colorado (Chile)?
- Cerro Catedral (Argentina)
- Las Leñas (Argentina)?