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El Colorado Ski & Snowboard Resort, Chile

Internet: www.elcolorado.cl

18 lifts (4 chairlifts, 14 surface lifts); 2470 acres; 2,963 vertical feet; 2 terrain parks

Click here for the trail map

Both the closest ski area to Santiago and the most economical, El Colorado is undoubtedly the locals’ resort of Chile’s capital city. With one of the best terrain parks in the country, this mountain attracts a younger crowd and has plenty of options for entertainment from the best happy hour around to the almost weekly competitions.  Resembling a snow capped volcano, it is possible to ride on any side of the mountain, which increases the chances of good snow being somewhere.  From the peak the view looks down to the other two big resorts in the area, La Parva and Valle Nevado, and can be easily accessed.

At the bottom of El Colorado, the resort connects with the little ski area of Farellones. All El Colorado lift tickets include access here.  The ski school and beginner slopes are also in this area and are all serviced by surface lifts.  These runs are long and gentle, which make it a great place for beginners to practice.

As the lifts climb higher up the mountain, the slopes generally get steeper and more aggressive. With an average pitch of thirty three degrees and a vertical drop of 1,000’ plus, the Leno and Condor triple chairs are a must when the powder day arrives.

Once warmed up here, check out the backside of the resort for the steepest terrain in bounds. The Cono Este (translated-“this cone”) “T” bar lies on the south side of the mountain and touches boundaries with Valle Nevado. Unique rock formations, cliffs, and chutes are scattered on the rider’s right just off the peak. Usually the powder stays good on this south face, and the fresh lines exist for days after a storm since most of the locals prefer the groomed slopes rather then the thick, creamy powder (don’t ask).  Be extra careful not to miss the turn off back to El Colorado, because it is a long walk from the bottom of Valle Nevado.  It is possible to buy an El Colorado-Valle Nevado pass, which might be worth it on the good days.

The Colorado Chico 1 and Colorado Chico 2 are “T” bar lifts that mainly access the terrain parks. The two parks run parallel to each other down the mountain for a length of 3,000’.  The rider’s right park starts out with a banked “border-cross” style line that runs into number of rollers and some big kickers. The last two hits are pretty serious, and should be scoped first. This park also has a pretty original stair case feature that has some serious consequences if not cleaned.   The left side park contains a few medium to small kickers and a ton of rails, boxes, and a sweet wall ride.

Lessons: The El Colorado ski and snowboard school is at the base area and has 1½ hour group lessons at 12:00 and 1:30, $22.  All day kid classes are $43, ages 4-10, and are from 11:30 to 4:15; half day classes are $22 are from 2:00 to 4:15.  One hour private lessons are $44 for one person; $13 each additional person. 2½ hour private lessons are $100; $6 each additional person, maximum 10 people.

Surprisingly, there is another ski school on the premises, Los Zorros (tel. 3211624 [email protected]). This is a great spot for the little ones, and prices are a little cheaper then El Colorado. Los Zorros is also a restaurant with great homemade pizzas and quality coffees at a reasonable price.

Lift Tickets: Adult high/low season – $43/32; Kids ages 5-12 high/low – $26/21; seniors older than 65 high/low – $10/6

Dining: A variety of restaurants and bars are spread out at the base of the mountain.

El Parador ($) cafeteria quickly serves up sandwiches, soups, and some entrees. On nice days a barbeque cooks up burgers on the spacious deck looking up the mountain.

Above the cafeteria, the Alambique ($-$$) bar/restaurant has an unbelievable selection of food and spirits. From fondue, steaks, seafood, big salads, to sandwiches, this establishment will satisfy any taste with a reasonable price.

A few turns down from the base lodge is Cadaques Restaurante ($-$$). This fine dining option has a wide selection of local wines and piscos that can be enjoyed by the two cozy fire places in the living room. Dinners are very popular here, but lunch is also available if desired.

The Mirador ($-$$) is the mid-mountain restaurant at the base of the Condor chair lift. Burgers and sandwiches are the norm on the wide open deck. Cold beers are also tasty at this 10,000-foot elevation.

Lodging: The best thing the Aspen Apart Hotel ($$$, 2123627, or 3211002) has to offer is its proximity to the base of the resort. Only a 30 second walk to the lifts, it is a convenient choice, especially for families. The rooms are slightly rundown for a resort hotel. Breakfast is included at the on site restaurant ($-$$).

The slopeside Colorado Apart Hotel ($$$-$$$$, 56-2-321-1021) is the nicest and most comfortable option in the area. The rooms resemble tiny condos with a kitchen and small living area. The lounge by the restaurant has 2 cozy fireplaces and a game room. Outside is a gigantic wrap around deck with amazing views in every direction.

Getting There: From Santiago to El Colorado: Ski Total (56 2)246 0156, www.skitotal.cl, $15 per person. Ski Van (56-2)2192672, www.skivan.cl, $13 per person. These services run daily, and private pick up from hotels can also be arranged.

Note: On weekends and holidays up hill traffic is limited to 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and down hill traffic is limited to 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.