For obvious reasons, top ski destinations have always been fairly limited and from the final organ chords of the school Carol concert to the first signs of melting mini eggs, the Alps fill with families looking for their snow fix. The names Whistler, Chamonix and Gstaad are bandied about at the school gates by mothers waiting for their children like luxury goods thrown into the Waitrose trolley. However, if you are looking to break from the herd, steer clear of the Alps and bomb down to South America for the Summer holidays: The new Verbier, Val d’Isere and Courchevel all rolled into one.
For the demon racers: If your family have been skiing since they could walk and laugh in the face of notorious black run ‘La Face’, then Puma Lodge is the choice for you. The brain child of former ski racer and private guide, Mark Jones, Puma Lodge is a new Heli-skiing lodge that is due to open for its first season in mid June and it is set to break the bar to heli-skiing experience in the southern hemisphere. The remote spot has some of the best snow profiles, slopes and weather conditions, coupled with excellent skiing terrain spread over 3 stunningly beautiful, remote mountain ranges. Puma Lodge has 24 single occupancy rooms with vast King sized beds, a wine cave stocked full of Chilean gems, a gym catering for professional skiers, a ski boutique, magic masseuses in the spa and an outdoor Jacuzzi to soak away the days aches and pains while contemplating the spectacular view. The top class restaurant serves organic vegetables and the freshest seafood flown from the coast 100 miles away. And that’s only the lodge- the real draw of Puma Lodge for Heli-skiing aficionados is the level of attention to the skiing itself with high-end service both off and on the mountain – each group, with a maximum of 4 skiers, are allocated their own eurocopter A5350 B3, the Ferrari of helicopters, and a highly trained international guide. Puma Lodge bonus points abound: from the world’s highest vertical ski drop, to skiing in the nearby national park, where Puma Lodge are the only ones to have a permit, meaning you really will have the slopes to yourself. The top trump of skiing experiences.
The All-Rounder: Located just 100 miles or so from Santiago, Portillo is a unique ski resort with an exclusive and fun social feel to it as you can only ski there if you are staying at the famous Portillo Hotel. This is the oldest, and many would argue, the best ski area in South America with roots that reach back to the early 20th century when British engineers commissioned to construct the railroad strapped on their planks and showed everyone just how much fun could be had on the snow! Portillo benefits from excellent snow conditions and offers a wide variety of skiing levels, from excellent off-piste powder for the advanced to big open bowls for beginners. Unlike most ski resorts Portillo has no town and only one hotel: the grand Hotel Portillo. In this regard, the Portillo skiing and resort experience is unlike that of any other ski resort in that it is almost impossible to get lost during Apres-ski drinks. The hotel’s restaurants and bar are great fun as is their nightclub. The spa has a range of treatments and the heated outdoor pool enjoys spectacular views of the mountain scenery. Sipping a cold beer in the pool as the sun goes down behind the soaring Andes is an experience not to be forgotten.
The Retreat: Patagonia, a mythical landscape of clear blue lakes and dramatic snow capped peaks is one of the world’s ultimate destinations to experience natural beauty in its purest form. Arelauquen lodge lies on a beautiful lake side a mere ten minute drive from the Cerro Catedral ski resort, Argentina’s largest and most modern ski resort with a skiable area of over 600 hectares, 39 lifts and over 120km of pistes, in that stretch across a range of difficulty. The resort cater for all levels of skier and lessons can be arranged with English speaking instructors for beginners and heli-skiing for those who want the ultimate off-piste experience on some of the world’s best powder. While the luxurious lodge is set in its own 500 hectare nature reserve, it is only a short distance from the local town of Bariloche, that during high season overflows with great restaurants, nightlife options and Argentine ski bunnies. Tired of Skiing? Jump on the back of a snow-mobile James bond style and head of to ‘El Refugio’ (The Retreat), Arlauquen’s hidden gem of a restaurant – where the lavish afternoon tea and spectacular views over the valley make the knuckle-whitening climb all the more worth-while.
Dirty Dancing on Ice: Also within Bariloche’s radar is the luxury hotel Llao Llao which offers a slightly different experience from your typical ski lodge. Voted by Conde Nast Traveller as one of the top 5 hotels in Argentina, its grand selection of facilities spread over expansive grounds conjure to mind Dirty Dancing’s famous ‘Kellerman’s Resort’ and would be a perfect place to take stroppy teenagers looking for some light-hearted fun. Set a little away from Cerro Catedral ski on the shorelines of Lake Nahuel Huapi and Lake Moreno, the hotel has facilities including an 18-hole golf course, solarium, heated indoor and outdoor infinity swimming-pools, Spa and Fitness Center. All of the rooms enjoy stunning views of the lake and mountains and there are 5 excellent restaurants and numerous bars in which to enjoy a quiet drink after a hard day on the mountain. Just 20 minutes by shuttle from the slopes, Llao Llao offers all the amenities of a top resort hotel, with the added bonus of their on- mountain base (open during the ski season and for the exclusive use of guests), which boasts its own ski shop, restaurant and bar, ideal for some après ski cocktails before the short journey home. Just make sure the teenagers know the Spanish for ‘Nobody put’s baby in the corner’.
Sleep on the Slopes: Pire-hue is the hotel of choice for those who are serious about their skiing, as it is the only ski-in ski-out lodge in the area. The lodge offers a wealth of activities from sled trips and snow motorbikes to paragliding and snow polo (the snow polo championships are held in Cerro Catedral each August). Since you save on time travelling to and from the slopes, you will have more opportunities to enjoy the indoor and outdoor heated pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath and spa treatments which the lodge offers. Pire Hue’s two restaurants specialize in Patagonian treats such as wild boar, trout and deer. As well as your usual hotel rooms, Pire-hue also has four mountain houses, with space for up to 8 people, offering the warmth and privacy of your own mountain house but with the service of a top hotel.
Contact Dehouche to book a Summer Ski trip that will more than justify that Winter Sun later on in the year.