Pucon Ski Center, Chile
Lifts: 9 (4 chairs, 5 surface)
Stats: 2198 vertical feet, 2442 acres,
1 terrain park
The one-of-a-kind Pucon Ski Center is uniquely placed on the side of an active volcano. With the billowing smoke from the cone shaped peak and a number of lakes below, the scenery alone is worth a trip to this mountain. Like a text book volcano, the resort is flat at the bottom and increases in pitch as the lifts climb the mountain. The beginner runs at the bottom are wide open, long, and are accessed by the Juncalillo double and El Bosque (the forest) platter lift. The scenic ride up these two lifts passes through one of the forest in the lakes region, which has florescent lichens covering all of the bark. The lifts in the middle of the mountain lead to some wide open intermediate terrain with lava chutes dividing the slopes as they twist down the mountain. The Allaquilen and Calafquen doubles climb about 700 vertical feet and lead to the steepest lift on the area. The Huilipilun “T” bar reaches the top of the resort where the back country access is at its best. Traversing rider’s left leads to one giant gully after another. Watch out for the lower traverse back to the Calafquen lift, otherwise it is a long walk back. The longest lifts with the most vertical are on the far rider’s right of the mountain. The Caurga “T” bar rises over 1,000 vertical feet and the terrain has wide open bowls and more halfpipes.
The 9,372 foot peak of the Volcan Villarrica is climbed almost daily when the weather cooperates. Many tour companies lead the recommended accent and then ride down the mountain. From the top of the Colico lift, the climb can take anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on fitness level. Looking down at molten lava in the breathing volcano is quite an experience, and the 5,412 vertical shot afterwards, is just an added bonus.
Pucon has one small terrain park off of the Juncalillo lift. There are 4 kickers and 5 rails and boxes. The park is spread out nicely and has a nice flow to it. However, the natural halfpipes and cornices are usually a better option.
The resort has two cafeteria style restaurants ($-$$) one at the base and the other at the top of Juncalillo. Each serves sandwiches and a special entrée of the day. The upper restaurant also has a little bar and a giant deck looking up at the volcano and down on to the town of Pucon and the Lago (lake) Villarrica.
The mountain has a small ski school with group and private lessons. Group lessons begin at 10:30 and 12:00 and last for 1 ½ hours, ($24). 1 hour private lessons ($50) can be arranged at any time.
Lift tickets: Adult – high/low season $33/24; Kids 12 and under – high/low $24/18.
Thirty minutes away, the town of Pucon is the
adventure capital of Chile and has unlimited accommodation options. Inexpensive hostels to 5 star luxury hotels are all available for any taste. With all the thermal activity in the area there are many mineral hot springs to soak in after a day at the mountain. If the weather is bad for riding, check out the national parks, rafting, or bike tours the town has to offer.
The famous 5 star Gran Hotel Pucon ($$$, 56-45-913-300) sits on the beach overlooking Lake Villarrica. This is one of the finest hotels in the area and has unbelievable views in every direction. Transports to the mountain leave from the Gran Hotel Pucon ($12) at 9 a.m. Taxis and other transportation services can be arranged from any of the hotels for about $20 each way. Renting a car is also another option and may be a cheaper and easier if traveling with a group. Prices are around $40–$60 a day depending on vehicle. The reliable and trustworthy Hertz [(56)4-544-1664] has an office in the center of town.
Photo courtesy of El Colorado Ski and Snowboard Area, Chile