Portillo

Chile

Surrounded by the towering peaks of the Chilean Andes and perched on the edge of an emerald mountain lake, Portillo is one South America’s most renowned and historic ski resorts. Pristine mountain valleys with larger-than-life skiing, teamed up with old-world traditions and hospitality makes for an unforgettable South American ski vacation.

Scout Loves

  • Old-world vibe of the entire resort
  • Excellent service
  • Enjoy a Pisco Sour, Chile’s national drink of choice
  • Incredible mountain views (just, wow!)
  • Everything is so easy. From meals to skiing. Valets hand you your boots and skis and you literally step out onto the snow and push off.

Scout Tips

  • Portillo mostly works on set weeks (Saturday to Saturday) and short stays of 3 and 4 nights.
  • The resort terrain is great for beginners and intermediates. Advanced skiers will want to get a guide and do some exploring or book a day or two on a heli.
  • Kids Ski Free and Family Weeks are great value for families
  • Be wary of the high lift-serviced elevation (up to 3,700 m / 12,139 ft)
  • Apres is often late in the day, and dinner is even later (but enjoy a siesta along the way!)
  • Lack of trees means some lifts may be on wind-hold in inclement weather
  • Book your heli-ski as soon as you arrive as spots are limited (and unable to be pre-booked).

Scout Review

Situated only two hours from Santiago, nestled in the heart of the spectacular Andes, is a ski resort unlike any other in Chile – or for that matter in the world. Portillo ski resort boasts the legendary skiing and terrain we yearn for, whilst honoring the true heart and soul of skiing that many other world-class ski resorts seem to have lost. You won’t find any large condo complexes or shopping malls at this resort; long-time owners, the Purcell family, have stood steadfast and preserved Portillo’s traditions, creating an intimate and welcoming vibe that makes guests feel like they are skiing at their own private Andean resort.

Trademarked by its iconic bright yellow building, Portillo is an all-inclusive experience. By that we mean of course what's included in your package (accommodation, meals, skiing and entertainment) but also the experience feels inclusive and like you're part of one big family. One way we describe it is like a cross between a Club Med or cruise ship (at the QE2 level) and a Dirty Dancing style American lodge. But with skiing as the main event. And no Patrick Swayzee.

What makes Portillo one of the ultimate South American ski vacation hotspots is this combination of fantastic skiing and the fabulous Latin cultural experience all in the one easily-accessible location. With a maximum of 450 guests at the resort at any given time, visitors can expect no crowds or lift lines, no fighting for the fresh powder, but plenty of opportunities to mingle with like-minded skiers (Pisco Sour in hand). The tradition of dining and relaxing together is kept well alive in Portillo, creating a fun, intimate, and social atmosphere and an ideal spot for that perfect relaxed ski-week – the South American way.

The service at Portillo lodge is old-school excellence. The all-inclusive resort boasts a 1:1 guest to employee ratio and an unsurpassed level of service only seen at a few high-end ski hotels worldwide. During your stay you are allocated a table in the dining room, at which you will sit for four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner) and are served by the same waiter for the duration of your stay. Many of the staff have been there for well over 20 years and they welcome the same guests back each year like long-lost family. The ski valet is run by a guy who has been there about as long as the resort, and he's the most talented we've seen. The moment your face appears out of the lift near the boot room, he runs to grab your ski boots and by the time you reach his window they're sitting on the bench. 

Each evening there's different entertainment for children and later on for adult guests in the hotel bar. Live music, the bar tenders' famous pisco sours and the fact many people know each other after years of coming to Portillo, means the atmosphere can get quite roudy and fun - old ski lodge style.

Portillo Skiing

Portillo’s pristine mountain valleys and sparkling blue lake create high altitude skiing that is both intoxicating and dizzying. When compared to North American or European resorts Portillo comes in quite small at just 500 ha/1235 ac. Perfect for families and beginners, the slopes are wide and uncrowded, and there's enough terrain for most ability levels, particularly lower intermediate. Advanced skiers will want to head off-piste to some of the famous terrain that is so often photographed in magazines or featured in ski movies. Treeless terrain provides the opportunity to explore the wide-open bowls, rocky chutes, and incredible off-piste skiing on offer at Portillo. If you’re a strong intermediate skier or an advanced skier that doesn’t want to go off-piste (or the snow conditions aren't up to it) a week here will involve plenty of late morning starts, long lunches at Tio Bobs and early hot tub sessions, since the in-bounds skiing may get a bit repetitive (but hey, who’s complaining about a relaxing ski week!).

The snow at Portillo is usually reliable with an average 450 inches of snowfall annually, though recent years have seen some fairly dire conditions. The resort has recently invested heavily in snow-making technology and thanks to a combination of that and the altitude the resort can usually function even with barely any natural snow. Regardless of whether it's powder or not, one can expect an abundance of sunshine and bluebird days. The ski school is world-class and known for its first-timer and beginner lessons and highly trained instructors – many of whom are year-round instructors and have been teaching here for over 20 years.

The resort is serviced by 14 lifts, including several of the infamous Va et Vient (as used on the Roca Jack); a high speed poma able to transport 5 skiers at a time, sling-shotting them up steep short slopes. Check out this video. They take a bit of getting used to and aren't great for beginners but it's certainly a unique and memorable way of getting up a mountain. It’s also famous for having a lift that goes above a 4 lane switch-back highway busy with trucks and cars heading to the Argentine border just 1km away.

Advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders flock to Portillo thanks to its easily accessible backcountry terrain and areas of challenging steeps, including the Roca Jack. Hiking is all part of the experience for advanced skiers, with memorable big mountain free-skiing served up on a backdrop of stunning views of the emerald Lagune del Inca. If you’re feeling strong and fit a week at Portillo would not be complete without a hike to the famous Super C Couloir.

For those wanting to ski even closer to heaven, Portillo heli-skiing will surely go down as a once-in-a-lifetime experience you’ll never forget. The flight alone through the Andes is worth the trip, let alone the fantastic powder conditions found across the untouched peaks. Compared to other operations in Chile, Portillo is less impact on your wallet, and provides plenty of options to suit most budgets.

Most guests head back to the lodge for lunch since it's included in the package. However on a beautiful day it is well worth a visit to Tio Bob's famous on-mountain restaurant. With its spectacular views of the mountains and lake and an outdoor deck it's hard to get back on your skis as the temptation for one more drink in the sun stretches into the afternoon.

It is possible to ski Portillo without staying here - a limited number of day tickets are available for purchase at the main lodge. However in low snow years the slopes are generally reserved for guests with no day tickets available.

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Portillo For Families

Portillo is an excellent choice for families that want a super easy and upmarket all-inclusive ski vacation. It’s for families that have a high level of expectation of service and who want the opportunity for their kids to mix and mingle with other kids in lessons and apres activities. It's a fanatstic place for kids to learn skiing and gain confidence as intermediate skiers. Apart from the chalets there is no self-catered accommodation in Portillo.

Portillo Accommodation

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Due to its all-inclusive, high service level style, Portillo is perhaps one of the easiest, relaxing, upmarket ski vacations you can have. There are three main lodging options with most people staying at the main yellow hotel, while the Octogan and Inca Lodges offer a little better value. There are also a few self-contained chalets for exclusive use. Hotel Portillo is where all the action is and it’s ski-in ski-out. The rooms there are beautiful and those with lake views are well worth the splurge. All the lodges in Portillo operate on a Saturday-to-Saturday basis for most of the season with shorter mini-weeks of 4 nights (Sat to Weds) and 3 nights (Weds to Saturday) also available thoughout most of the season. All-inclusive packages include lodging, four meals daily and lift tickets.

Easy is an understatement for a week at Portillo. All meals for guests in the hotel and Octagon lodge (including a sit-down afternoon tea) are served in the traditional dining room with table service by the same server at every meal (alcohol isn't included). For guests in Inca lodge the meals are served at the hotel's cafeteria. The main hotel is right on the slopes so after being handed your boots and skis by the friendly valets it’s a matter of clicking into your skis and pushing off to the lift. Entertainment is provided including live music on most evenings in the hotel’s lively bar. So at the end of an evening, after some delicious Chilean wine and a few (or a lot of) pisco sours all you have to worry about is remembering your room number.

The Purcell family which owns Portillo also owns the wonderful Tierra hotels in Chile - in Patagonia, the Atacama desert and Chiloe island. These hotels are an increible experience with a focus on daily activities exploring local nature and culture. A trip to Portillo can be combined with a stay at Atacama or Chiloe with a discount offered on both your Portillo and Tierra stays when doing a combination (Patagonia is closed in the winter). If you're making a trip all the way to Chile we can't reccomend more highly the opportunity to add on a memorable side trip to one of these destinations. Ask Scout for more details. 

Resort Activities

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Despite being a small resort with no village there are a surprising amount of activities to do, apart from a soak in one of the famous, lakeside hot tubs. Use of all the hotel facilities is included in your package including;

  • Sauna
  • Day spa (treatments are extra)
  • Fitness center
  • Full court gymnasium
  • Aerobics and yoga classes
  • Cinema
  • Game room with rock climbing wall
  • Children's activities
  • Disco
  • Piano bar

One two weeks a year Portillo hosts "Wine Weeks" where there are special talks and wine tastings each day about different Chilean wines. These are a great way to explore the wonderful local wines on offer as well as mix and mingle with other guests. Ask Scout for dates if you are interested.

Getting There and Around

Portillo is located just over a 2 hour drive from downtown Santiago or Santiago International airport via the town of Los Andes. The road from Los Andes is busy – it’s a major transport route between Santiago and Argentina and can be a little hairy. It becomes a major switchback 4-lane highway just as it approaches Portillo.

There is no need to rent a car to come to Portillo. Transfers can be arranged between the airport or downtown Santiago as well as Val Paraiso or Valle Nevado ski resort.

When To Go

Portillo is open from the end of June through to the last week of September. High season is mid-end of July. July and August are the most reliable months for snow.

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