South America ski trips

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South America ski trips
Q: A friend and I are considering a ski trip to South America, probably Argentina. Any advice would be helpful, as we are in the early planning stages.
Brent Fassett
Boulder, CO

A: High ski season in the Andes runs from late June through mid-October, and as long as you're committed to flying 5,000 miles on your summer vacation, the Southern Hemisphere is the place to go for copious amounts of snow and radical terrain. In addition to powder conditions that, in a good year, rival any snow on earth, Argentina offers first-class ski resorts with panic-inducing cliffs, mind-bogglingly steep couloirs, and a hearty commitment to après ski. Don't be alarmed by what looks like dangerously antiquated lift equipment--you'll be so distracted by the knee-deep powder and European jet-setters to care. Just chalk it up to foreign adventure.

For a taste of Switzerland in Argentina's Lake District, consider Bariloche--probably the country's best-known resort. The Cerro Catedral slopes, serviced by cable car and chairlift, are about 12 miles west of the resort complex on the southern shore of Lake Nahuel Huapi. With its three-mile-long runs and 3,280-foot incline, it's no wonder that Bariloche has attracted its fair share of international competition.

To escape the resort's at times agonizing lift lines, head for more low-key slopes at Cerro Otto, Piedras Blancas, or Lopez--all within five miles of Bariloche. Book a room in one of several ski hotels in the Swiss-style village or settle into the Catedral Ski Hotel, right at the base of Cerro Catedral. A ski week, including room, meals, and lift tickets will run you about $1,000, depending on when you go. Call Dexel Tours at 800-338-2288 for information on ski packages from the United States.

Another good bet is Las Leñas Resort, about seven hours south of Mendoza in a remote wilderness valley in western Argentina. With its 15 square miles of terrain and 4,000 feet of vertical drop--making it twice as big as Colorado's Copper Mountain, Winter Park, and Breckenridge combined--it's easy to see why Las Leñas is Argentina's magnet for serious skiers. A week ski package, including lodging, lift tickets, and two meals a day starts at about $600--depending on the month and type of accommodation. Call Las Leñas's stateside booking agent at 800-862-7545 for more information. For other ideas, check out "Storming the Southern Hemisphere" in the Destinations section of our May 1992 issue.

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