It was clearly not a season with an abundance of snow, which was one of the (other) struggles we had faced for the winter. The mountains around Santiago host some of the northern (commercial) ski fields of the Andes. All these places were lacking snow this year, but the Andes had a good snow year overall. Most Chilean snow fell further down south, so that’s where we were heading.
Following the main highway down south, we visited some of the mountains (or ski fields) less known outside of Chile. Smaller, more local, places with sometimes older facilities. Some lifts were actually antique, and most of them imported from Europe after they had been replaced with more modern lifts.
The place we enjoyed the most was Los Arenales, which you won’t find on the map any more. This is because it closed more than 10 years ago. Currently the only things left are the remainders of the lifts. It was quiet and peaceful. Our only company far away was the Chilean army with their winter training program. We liked it because we were (almost) alone, but also because Layla could come anywhere. All other places had been quite conservative and we weren’t (officially) be able to bring her. Since she’s part of our family, it’s never the intention to leave her behind for our adventures. No Layla, no fun.
Getting there was actually interesting, and because of an unexpected detour we almost called if off. We came from a volcano field (Coralco) not far away and Maps.me showed us a road connecting the two places. When we took the turn-off it became clear that it wasn’t a road for winter time. Snow compressed so much it was almost ice was the only thing left of the road after the first bend. Although Grisu is equipped with a very capable 4×4 for its age and class, we decided not to continue.
After we almost completed the 70km detour to the other end of the road, we were faced with a dirt track that had turned into a mud-fest due to the melting snow. This was connecting to the start of the road where we had turned around, with zero other possibilities along the way. Grisu ploughed through and at the end, just were the ski field used to start, a wall of snow blocked the road. The road had been cleared until what used to be the ski field. A good decision in the end, since from the side we turned around, it would have become impassable.
Since nobody could pass, we camped on the road for the night. The next day another van arrived, with our “soon to be German friends”. They also came for the snow and had also brought their touring gear. So as a team of 5 we went up, with skins to climb, and with skis, telemark skis and snowboard for the turns on the way down. And Layla, she joined us running, the fastest dog in Chile! 😉
We happened to head in the same direction as our German friends and after a 2 day break we caught up again in Pucón. This is where we organised the paperwork for Layla to be able to leave Chile. Since entering Chile had been a total disaster at the border due to the imperfect regulations, we were extra careful. This included a bunch of bureaucratic paperwork for no reason. But at least the scale balanced out in our favour when we had to get an insurance (for Argentina). The Chilean system didn’t work, it didn’t allow a payment but it did sent a confirmation per email. Winning!
We had a failed attempt with our German friends to summit the Villarrica volcano. We had hoped for a break in the weather, but in a complete white-out it made no sense to proceed. These turns were our last in the Chilean snow in the south, because the weather wasn’t getting any better we decided to head to the border with Argentina.