Backcountry Skiing Nevados de Chillan, Chile – First Days

Post by blogger | August 7, 2012      
Volcan Nuevo on the left, Volcan Viejo on the right. We roughly followed the red dots to the top of Nuevo.

Volcan Nuevo on the left, Volcan Viejo on the right. We roughly followed the red dots to the top of Nuevo.

After spending a few hours in Santiago getting my airbag canisters filled and waiting for our bus (which was an hour late), we made our way to the town of Chillan. Getting there late, we stayed at the Hostel Canada in town.

The hostel was a terrific family run place. For 8,000 pesos ($16 US) we got our own room with two big beds and a TV! The next morning we bought food and managed to find some white gas. That afternoon we checked out Chillan’s open air market and then hopped on a bus headed for Las Trancas, the small town below the ski resort of Nevados de Chillan.

Skyler above the clouds.

Skyler above the clouds.

Arriving in Las Trancas, we found the cheapest hostal to be full, however we were able to camp out back for 3,000 pesos ($6 us) which was perfect since we are trying to keep the cost of our trip down as much as possible. Apparently in a normal year there is a few feet of snow on the ground, but this year is so dry that we can sack out on the ground.

While packing for skiing the next day, I found I had left my beacon in the hostel in Chillan. Of all the things to lose, a beacon is probably among the worst. Not only is it essential safety equipment, but it’s something that’s hard to buy in Chile. I would have had to go back to Santiago to buy one, a 5 hour bus ride away, and then it would be super expensive.

The next morning we called the hostel and luckily they had it. Fabrice, the owner of the hostel where we are staying, kindly offered to pick it up when he went into town and gave me his to use in the mean time. Thanks!

Skiing through the wind down Volcan Nuevo

Skiing through the wind down Volcan Nuevo

After resolving my beacon mess, we headed out to go skiing. Getting a late start, and with reports of winds up high, we weren’t sure how far we were going to get, but we decided to go as far as we could. We started by hiking up the ski area and reached the top in 1.5 hours. Volcan Nuevo, a volcano directly above the ski area, looked awfully close so we decided to head up there. The wind was persistent but not very strong.

We followed a snowcat track up above the ski area to a saddle between Volcan Viejo and Volcan Nuevo. At the saddle the wind was intense. We could barely stand up. But from what I’ve heard, in Chile if you can stand up, it’s good weather, so we kept going. We made it to the top a bit later and enjoyed a beautiful view of several other volcanoes as well as the Andes to the east.

The ski down was fun even though the snow was a field of inverted cast iron soup kettles. Still, it was awesome to be skiing a volcano in Chile, especially on our first day on snow!

The next day was forecast with bad weather so we decided to ski around and explore different areas for future trips. We toured up the ski area and then took a left and headed over to the Refugio Garganta del Diablo (Devils Throat Hut). I had read a few brief descriptions in Spanish online about this refugio describing it either as too decrepit to use, while others said it was great. We found other skiers staying there and it looked nice enough. The building is quite large and parts of it are falling apart, but it has several rooms that are holding together and you get a wood stove with tons of fuel. The best part though, is that every morning we can ski right out of the door rather than hitching a ride to the ski area and hiking up below the lifts.

Refugio Garganta del Diablo, above the town of Las Trancas

Refugio Garganta del Diablo, above the town of Las Trancas

Tomorrow morning we head up to the Refugio Garganta del Diablo, stay there for a few days, and hopefully ski some more volcanoes. Perhaps we will find some powder pockets (one can dream anyways).

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18 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing Nevados de Chillan, Chile – First Days”

  1. Sunny August 7th, 2012 10:49 am

    Thanks, Louie for keeping us posted- glad you guys got the skis on and have skied on another continent!

  2. Lou Dawson August 7th, 2012 11:23 am

    That is looking quite nice! But where is the hut keeper and the beer tap?

  3. Paul Forward August 7th, 2012 1:23 pm

    Thanks for that! I’l be coming through SCL for a month long trip on the 24th and was thinking of bringing my Mystery Ranch airbag. Where in Santiago did you refill your canisters? Any tips or advice for that process? Hope you get good snow soon! Cheers, Paul

  4. Lou Dawson August 7th, 2012 2:12 pm

    Paul, I think Louie and Sky went where there is no internet… they’ll be back in a few days and perhaps can answer your question. Meanwhile, Anton at Ski Arpa is who got them lined up for the fill:

  5. Lisa Dawson August 7th, 2012 3:20 pm

    What’s the mouse count at the Refugio?

  6. Charlie August 7th, 2012 3:26 pm

    Totally awesome! Thanks for the TR. Keep them coming!!

  7. Jason Caudill August 8th, 2012 12:09 am

    Stoked! Looks like an awesome adventure! Skiing volcanoes in Chili…. and it was 85 here today.

  8. Zap August 9th, 2012 11:12 am

    When in Pucon a cheap place is Hosteric iEcole. We stayed next door at Hostal La Tetera (very nice, private rooms) because David Owen’s wife was the manager. David owns; contact him for info.

  9. Kevin August 9th, 2012 3:18 pm

    Always wanted to ski down in SA. Now you’re tempting me in a big way to do it. Looking for more of your TRs. Thanks!

  10. Louie Dawson August 12th, 2012 6:38 am

    Just got back from the refugio. I’ll put up a TR with some photos in a bit. It was a great place, we spent 5 days there, and got some great skiing. We are heading to Pucon right now, where there is supposedly snow forecasted, woohoo!

    As far as airbag cylinder refills, I filled mine in Santiago at the Chilean distributor for BCA I have some friends who got theirs refilled at a scuba shop in Santiago, but it was a multi-day epic of looking for shops and adapters.

    Zap, should I just contact David through the powderquest website?

  11. Zap August 12th, 2012 11:05 am

    David Owen should be contacted at

    Snow storm !

  12. Lou Dawson August 12th, 2012 1:13 pm

    Well! I for one am looking forward to hearing what 5 days were like up there!

  13. John August 12th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Just Got back from Portillo. The snow is really good in the backcountry, lots of recycled powder with some windslab on certain aspects. More snow in the forecast. Dav and I booted up from Roca Jack to the Super C on Friday. Rob from Alta came up about 30 minutes later and commented how solid the boot track is now. Snow is thin and hard with some wind slab, but still a good ski.

  14. John Mattson August 14th, 2012 12:51 pm

    We did a similar trip a few years ago, and I hope Lonquimay, and Llamai, are on your list. The Arocaria forest on Lonquimay is spectacular. I second the vote for Ecole hostel in Pucon. Have a great trip!

  15. Nick August 17th, 2012 4:30 pm

    Excellent – I was in the Chillan a couple of years ago and scored big with lots of powder. It was one of the best trips of my life. I loved the area and terrain. Have fun down there.

  16. mel August 19th, 2012 3:04 pm

    Thinking of heading to Chillan in the next few days, how long did it take to get to the hut and was it necessary to have a gas and stove? and what was the name of the hostel you stayed at in las trancas

  17. Louie August 26th, 2012 1:55 pm


    It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the hut, but we didn´t take the shortest route. It might be half an hour shorter if you had the route dialed. If you pay for lift tickets, however, you can ski right to it. You definitely need a stove and gas. There were a few fuel canisters lying around with a bit of fuel.

    The hostel we stayed at was called the Chill’in. It seemed like it was the cheapest in the area. Unfortunately they don’t have a kitchen for guests to use.

  18. Fernanda da Silva February 20th, 2014 5:28 am

    The south of Chile is my favourite destination for backcountry Skiing! Skiing down the volcanoes is just amazing! This year I want to try Corralco Mountain & Ski Resort (90 minutes from Temuco). It is located on the southeast slope of the Lonquimay Volcano… I am looking forward to it!

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