Best Southern Hemisphere ski resorts
Winter is well on its way in the Southern Hemisphere, which means it’s time to get out on the snow! Although we’ve got plenty of great resorts right here at home, maybe it’s time to consider exploring further afield and seeing what the rest of the Southern Hemisphere has to offer.
Typically, the snow downunder is less reliable than some of the bigger European and North American resorts, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything less than spectacular when the snow is good. There are plenty of great guided packages available too if you’re worried about the language barrier or finding the best runs.
1. Las Lenas, Mendoza Province, Argentina
Great powder, challenging terrain – an expert’s mecca
Are you happiest bombing through fresh powder on a technical run? We know just the place for you. Las Lenas is one of the largest resorts in the Andes Mountains. It’s as well known for its stunning terrain as it is for the unpredictable weather it often suffers.
While it does mean the higher slopes are sometimes inaccessible, the upside of this weather is that there is great powder once it clears! Visitors to the resort will agree that it’s always worth the wait for the fantastic conditions and awesome runs for skiers and boarders alike.
There’s no terrain park at Las Lenas, but there is night skiing for those who can’t get enough during the day. While the more experienced powder hunters can enjoy the challenging terrain accessible from the top of the Marte chair, there are also plenty of facilities on the lower slopes for the whole family.
2. Cerro Catedral, Bariloche, Argentina
Family friendly with great nightlife
Cerro Catedral is Argentina’s second big gun when it comes to ski resorts and is conveniently located close to the scenic ski town of Bariloche. It’s a long way south of Las Lenas and at a lower altitude, so it’s sheltered from storms but also has less powder. As a result, Cerro Catedral offers some great tree runs and is easy to access via a sealed road.
You’ll be blown away by the stunning mountain vistas and beautiful views over nearby Lake Nahuel Huapi – just don’t forget to watch where you’re going!
Cerro Catedral is also a fantastic family resort with great facilities for kids and learners. There are plenty of lifts to access great beginner and intermediate terrain – the largest lift access in South America! English is widely spoken too, so you won’t have any trouble communicating.
The added bonus of Cerro Catedral is its proximity to beautiful Bariloche. Even if you don’t feel like hitting the slopes every day, the town offers some great cafés, bars and chocolate shops. What more could you ask for?
3. Cerro Bayo, Argentina
Uncrowded boutique field
If your idea of a perfect ski field is getting away from the crowds and enjoying a smaller, family run resort, Cerro Bayo is for you. It’s in a similar area to Cerro Catedral and is also easily accessible from Bariloche, but is a strong contrast from the two larger commercial fields of Argentina.
Not only are the views jaw-dropping across the Andes into Chile and out over lake Nahuel Huapi, but the family-run field also offers a real taste of authentic South American hospitality.
Although it’s a safe field, it always pays to keep an eye on your gear. Remember not to leave your things unattended. Even though everyone leaves their boards in the racks unattended, if it’s not locked up or put away before you go for a hot chocolate, you won’t be covered if its stolen.
You can enjoy the best of both worlds here, with modern lifts and facilities under constant development (including a newly added terrain park) and a real family atmosphere. The freestyle park even has bean bags and couches perched around its edges, so you can take a break with a great view of the action!
4. Valle Nevado, Chile
Largest in the Southern Hemisphere with great facilities
The old saying ‘bigger is better’ couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to the largest and grandest ski resort in Chile.
Within easy driving distance of Santiago, it is a high altitude mountain situated in a ‘valley.’ This creates a great micro climate and means the resort is well protected from the elements.
In short, you can count on Valle Nevado to have a solid snow base and good skiing conditions. The lifts here are faster and more modern than most of the other Patagonian ski fields, providing access to great runs whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
The staff at Valle Nevado are renowned for speaking good English, too. This resort also has two sister resorts, El Colorado and La Parva, for which you can buy multi-resort lift passes to make the most of the Andes. Just bear in mind that you’ll need to speak some Spanish if you’re planning on visiting these smaller resorts.
5. Portillo, Chile
Skiers’ mountain with legendary steep runs
Much like New Zealand’s Treble Cone resort, Portillo is renowned as a skiers’ mountain, due to the steep slopes and traverses within its domain.
It’s beautiful bright yellow lodge has featured in many ski movies and is right next to Laguna Del Inca, a beautiful lake high in the mountains. And it is high; one of the highest altitude ski fields in South America in fact.
Portillo was the first South American ski resort to hold the World Ski Championships in 1966 and was also where the 200kph barrier was broken on skis in 1978, which says a lot about the calibre of the slopes here!
Even if you want to set new records yourself, always remember to ski within your ability, be safe!
The resort is high on most skiers’ lists and is run by a North American family, so expect to see plenty of ‘gringos’ on this field. The major bonus to this is that the staff all speak good English!
6. Canterbury Club Fields, New Zealand
Diamonds in the rough
New Zealand’s ski fields are well known for Southern Hemisphere skiing, with resort towns like Queenstown and Wanaka bustling with tourists throughout the winter season.
What many people don’t know is that the club fields around the South Island can offer some of the best snow with virtually no crowds to share the slopes with. If you’re heading across the ditch this winter, why not venture into some of the smaller fields? Craigieburn, for example, has some of New Zealand’s most challenging patrolled runs; while Mount Dobson offers great runs just a stone’s throw from the picturesque Lake Tekapo.
If you’re interested in branching out, try the ChillPass, with 13 different fields from the smallest Canterbury Club fields up to the commercial Treble Cone on offer. Just keep in mind that some of the club fields only run nutcrackers for lifts, (nutcrackers are small metal ‘handles’ that clip to a rope). They can be tricky to use and you can put in as much work getting up as you will coming down – but it’s worth it!
If you’re interested in exploring what the Southern Hemisphere has to offer, you can choose to add skiing and snowboarding cover to your international travel insurance policy for an additional cost.
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