Exploring South America: Untracked Lines In Portillo

Portillo is a unique and stunningly beautiful resort hidden high in the Andes Mountains on the border between Chile and Argentina. The 16,000-foot peaks loom much higher than the North American Rockies and offer some of the most outrageous skiing in South America. The resort lies at the base of a valley beside the Laguna del Inca, a turquoise alpine lake said to be haunted by the spirit of an Incan princess.

The bright canary-yellow lodge cheerfully welcomes travelers who all arrive together at the beginning of the week. Guest packages are designed for a week stay, giving you the opportunity to meet and ski with some amazing people from every corner of the world. The guest number is limited to 450 skiers. By the end of the week, every face in Portillo becomes a familiar one. The resort has been compared to a private ski-club of days past.

The mountains of Portillo shoot directly out of the resort lined with dramatic rock features and chutes. Some of the pitches are so steep that the ski lifts we are so used to seeing in North America won't get the job done. Instead, they have four-man toe lifts that pull you up the 30+ degree incline.

Portillo offers some of the best off-piste extreme skiing in South America, and you're going to want to dig into the backcountry and heli options while you're there. Heli skiing will give you an up-close view of the incredible Andes Mountains and the endless steep terrain they offer. Back in the resort, with some hiking, sidestepping and traversing you can access a ton of untracked snow and screaming steeps. If the conditions are good, it's a dream come true for backcountry skiers and snowboarders.

Portillo has several types of hotel accommodations, including Hotel Portillo with double and twin rooms, and apartment-style quarters for families. The Octagon Lodge offers more rustic conditions with two sets of bunk beds in each room. Our home for the week, the Inca lodge, is a great option for budget travelers. The cozy rooms are tight and lined with bunk beds, but the price can't be beat.

Overall, Portillo is completely enchanting, and the skiing, breathtaking views and unique lodging definitely warrants future visits. The best time to come down is in August, when Mother Nature is most likely to dump snow over the resort's peaks.

Photos from Portillo:

Portillo

Portillo

Portillo

Portillo

Portillo

Portillo

  • Ski Arpa
  • Ski Portillo
  • Suunto
  • Valle Nevado

Through the Adrenaline In The Andes program, Active Junky's gear test team raised $1699.62 for Protect Our Winters' Coal Kills Snow initiative. With a commitment to donate $10 for every 1,000 vertical feet tracked by the team, the team logged a total of 169,962 vertical feet throughout the week.

>> Learn about Protect Our Winters


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