Post Villarrica, Adam, Jake and I sat down to figure out the next couple of objectives. A couple of bottles of Bio Dynamic Chilean Red wine later we had a plan. First go to Corralco Ski Resort and ski there and tour up Lonquimay, then continue to Nevados de Chillán for 3 days to explore and ride. The info we received from our friends earlier was the tour on Lonquimay from the top of the Corralco chairlifts to the summits was less than 2 hours so a day seemed reasonable. Chillán’s reputation demanded we take some time for a wall-to-wall inspection of the terrain everyone raved about.
We packed up the truck and left before sunrise, helping us arrive @Corralco Ski Resort by
10. The wind beat us, whipping at 40+mph sending snow to Argentina. A couple of firm runs in driving rain and white out forced us back to the lodge. The chairs shut down before we finished our fries. At the truck we ran into our Euro Rando group from Osorno getting ready to skin up, fully Gore-Texed up for the elements so we could not tell what drugs they were using to convince themselves to get out of the van. The Araucaria forest covered the lower slopes below the resort so we took in the Dr. Seuss landscape for a few minutes then looked at the map at saw another ski area on the NE side of Lonquimay.
We drove through a tunnel into a series of valleys that reminded us of the interior of BC near
Nelson. Deep bowls began to reveal themselves as we arrived in the town of Lonquimay. A short climb up a local pass, Cordillera de Las Raíces, was Los Arenales Ski Resort. We felt like kids who discovered where the pot of gold was at the end of the rainbow. The lodge was open and flying the Mapuche flag proudly. The surface lifts lay dormant, towers without
cables. Boot tracks climbed up to the ridgeline all over the place giving us the feeling that the soul of skiing burns bright here. We booted up and skinned to the main summit, passing a Wolverine Cirque like feature that had us wishing for more time in the day. The valley behind the ski area reminded us of some Sherpa Cinemas scene and had us planning on grabbing a snowmobile the next time we come here. The weather still limited our visibility so we dropped into some Monkey Trees for a sublime tree run back to the Lodge. The local vibe ran strong as we enjoyed Pisco Sours and sopas before hitting the road to Chillán.
“Whoops,” was all we could say as we realized we had another 5 hours of driving. No short cuts as we winded through the streets of Old Chillán. The kitchen of our hostel closed just as we checked in, leaving us incredibly hangry. A nightclub served us pizza to Techno as we relaxed trying to take in the day. A late start allowed the snow to soften as we rode the chairs of Nevados de Chillán for the first time. Right out the base area, fumaroles steamed on the ridge just out of the ski area boundary creating the sense that we arrived in the Land of the Lost. The terrain split above and below treeline, laid out like a fan expanding as you ski around. The summits of Nuevo and Viejo stood above the runs belched out ash 2-5 times a day giving us a sense of impending doom. We ripped around, getting an idea of where we should ski the next day. On our last run, Jake missed his landing and wacked his shoulder. This ended his ski trip, but the Dads would not be denied.
Adam and I spent the next day dropping into the many canyons and bowls, having an amazing time when we bumped into my friends who run the Refugio Frey. Pana yelled, ‘Dude!!!!’ and I recognized them in the base area. We hugged and I introduced Adam to the Frey Trio of Santiago, Frederico and Pana. They were wired as they explained they arrived in the morning, skinned up to the summit of Nuevo then it erupted in their face(Nuevo Erupting). Narrowly skirting death, they ran for their lives and that was when we met up in the base area. We agreed to meet up later as Adam and I wanted to hit the Termas Naturaleza just outside the ski area, North of Viejo. We got off the top chair when one of the ski patrollers approached us and asked where we were heading. We told him and he proceeded to inform us that Nuevo usually erupts 3-5 times and the wind was forecasted to shift in the direction of the hot springs. As he spoke the flag began flapping in the direction of the hot springs and we realized no rationalization would make our wives see how this seemed like a good idea. We skied down and hung out with Jake and the Frey Amigos.
Our last run at Nevados de Chillán would be from the main summit. The guidebook mentioned 7-8 hours and we felt the chairlift would cut off a few hours. What we thought of but did not comprehend was the Hoyos (volcanic canyons) were numerous and time consuming to travel across. 5.5 hours later we developed deep respect for the Hoyos and saw the actual route we should of take the next time. We soaked in the views of the Andes as they rose up to the north leaving us with future dreams. Our estimated return time passed as we dropped into an unending series of Hoyos for a couple of hours till we finally skied by the Refugio and linked back into the ski area. Over 7 hours later we reunited with Jake and the truck and hit the road.
We took the weekend off and Jake rebooked for an earlier flight as the weather forced Adam and I to focus on one more tour. Quetrupillán popped up meeting our freezing level, corn cycle criteria. We drove up a series of deteriorating dirt roads, then skinned up to where the route description and a solid skin track diverged. We discussed where to go and initially we stuck with the plan 10 minutes later the trail we hoped to find did not materialize and we
looked over at the ski tracks and agreed that there were enough to give us evidence we should try it. We did and discovered with snow some amazing tree skiing holding down the infamous “culeo” which gives the PNW bushwhacking a run for its money. We summitted and agreed investing in a snowmobile would give Pucon an infinite volume of great touring once out of the valley. Lanín loomed large and made my list for the next time.
The next two days wrapped up an epic trip of touring new terrain with new and old friends. Jake pointed out we beat the odds by neither of us ending up in a shallow grave (according to an Onion study of road trips). I said my goodbyes to Adam, Welling and the kids and drove to Termas Geometricas, which lived up to the hype. Beautiful series of pools in a narrow gorge with tranquil open space and a nice café put me in a great mood to continue the long drive to Puerto Varas via the Interlago route and Valle Cochamó. I soaked in the amazing views and the crazy transition from broad valleys with volcanoes looming over grand lakes to fjords with steep u-shaped (think Yosemite) granite, glacier carved valleys and waterfall everywhere. I ate salmon, took many photos and girded myself for the 28 hour flight home.