August 18, 2014

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures Start in Las Trancas, Chile


It’s been two weeks in Chile since I joined my brother Edward for the skiing part of his South American odyssey.  I arrived amidst reports of terrible snow at the traditional big name resorts like Portillo, Valle Nevado, and Las Lenas in nearby Argentina. But Edward was in Las Trancas getting ready for a big storm to hit Nevados de Chillan about 8 hours south of Santiago.  I decided to get there as fast as I could to meet up with Ed and start skiing.

The views from Nevados de Chillan have adventures for lifetimes.

The views from Nevados de Chillan have adventures for lifetimes.

We hunkered down at a friend’s house to wait out rain and high winds to get a typical bluebird, wind-buffed, and often icy Chilean day that gave us a feel of Nevados de Chillan.  The resort has a handful of hotels that we definitely weren’t staying at, but more importantly each with their own thermal hot springs for pretty cheap that offer good down time to relax after skiing or waiting out some weather.  The old lifts service a variety of terrain set against a picturesque backdrop of 3 volcanoes looming over a beautiful forested valley.  You might think the resort doesn’t have that much freeride terrain at first glance, but the rolling pitches and gullies full of fun wind lips and cornices lead to many steep faces that are very easy to find.  There isn’t too much backcountry awareness down here and you don’t always know when you are getting on an unpatrolled slope or not, so it’s good to always wear your beacon and your backpack here even if the local ski schoolers trying to get their shred in before work aren’t wearing anything and tag teaming avalanche slopes with ignorant bliss.

Heavy snow on the lifts.

Heavy snow on the lifts.

The storm delivered over the next two days, dropping 2-3 feet of wet snow. We skied down in the trees during the storm while the higher lifts wouldn’t open until the sun came out and visibility improved the next day.  Nevados de Chillan has great tree skiing before it sets up and refreezes, a novelty for the skier who is used to high alpine skiing further north by Santiago. When the skies cleared we had fresh tracks all day off the Otto and Wenche chairs that made for some really exciting skiing. We got a couple fun laps in the dedos, which are the long finger chutes that attract every skier’s first glance when you arrive at Nevados right above the hotel and base area.

Pow Days at Nevados de Chillan from Ed Dujardin on Vimeo.

The Dedos hang over the hotel Alto Nevados and are as fun as they look!

The Dedos hang over the hotel Alto Nevados and are as fun as they look!

As usual, the Andean wind made its presence felt again immediately, returning some slopes to their standard hard pack while refreshing some wind-buffed pow on others lap after lap. Over the next few days we varied between fun laps in the resort and a couple touring days off the top chair.  You could fill a couple weeks checking off the plentiful resort-accessed backcountry around Nevados de Chillan.  Two popular tours include visiting the aguas calientes, nearby natural hotsprings, and the Volcan Chillan Nuevo, the centerpiece of the three volcanoes above the resort that make Las Trancas and Nevados de Chillan such a beautiful place.

Touring to Aguas Calientes should be on every skier's hit list.

Touring to Aguas Calientes should be on every skier’s hit list.

Las Trancas itself is not much but a quiet little town just 15 minutes down the road from Nevados de Chillan on the way back from the city of Chillan.  It offers plenty of affordable accommodations in the form of hostels, cabins, or more expensive hotels and lodges.  Our buddy Chopo Diaz had recently opened Hostal Onai in May so we’ve stayed many nights there and look forward to getting back there this trip.  Chopo and his partner Fabian have created a great atmosphere in their modest and tasteful wood-paneled common room and adjoining bunkrooms.  The big kitchen allows you to save money cooking meals and make friends with your new housemates.  The building’s big glass windows offer a spectacular view up valley towards the resort and allow for abundant sunlight.  On down days the two wood stoves keep the place warm and you are only a short 5-15 minute walk from local restaurants, bars, and shops. You can get a good meal and party late at Ocho Loco, or get some internet and pizza at Chil’en just to name a few.  The nighttime scene is pretty small, but the locals and visitors know how to party, with most people heading towards Ocho Loco or a local dive called Pallo Huacho.

The view from Onai back to Nevados de Chillan.

The view from Onai in Las Trancas up valley to Nevados de Chillan.

The sun sets over Nevados de Chillan.

The sun sets over Nevados de Chillan.

As Nevados de Chillan got tons of snow, the situation remained pretty bleak up north.  The Freeride Series event at El Colorado was cancelled two weeks before the event, despite an effort by Mother Nature to drop a foot of snow on the venue last week. So our schedule opened up quite a bit as we spent a few more days exploring Nevados de Chillan and it’s fun terrain.  We’ve made friends with other gringos and Euros trying to chase the snow around South America, so we now find ourselves on the way to the touristic Pucón with hopes of some snow this weekend to make an attempt to ski the Volcan Villerica a little softer. We look forward to heading back to Las Trancas in due time, but for now we’ll enjoy the sights and sounds of Chile in Pucón.  Pray for more snow!

Follow #billandtedsexcellentadventures and #spedgoestosouthamerica on Instagram and the brothers are at @spedwardstomps and @will_westelk.

About the Author

2. Will Dujardin
Will Dujardin is our content editor at West Elk Project. He competes in big mountain competitions and coaches the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team. Skiing is his life and he likes to mix it with other fun things like DH mountain biking and traveling.