I went to El Colorado in late August last year (2007) for a few days around the same time as the other poster who saw Shaun White. I stayed in the Puerta de Sol Hotel which is the mid-range hotel at Valle Nevado. Overall, its a decent place to ski for a day or two if you are staying in Santiago, but I'd avoid the Valle Nevado hotels and would much prefer Portillo both for the hotel, food and skiing.
Valle Nevado is big by acerage, but doesn't feel nearly as big once your there. A lot of the terrain is the same, but they do have a high speed that allows you to log big vertial. The trail underneath the high speed is nice before the mountain flattens out. When I was there it hadn't snowed in a week or two so snow was extremely hard. It made going off piste very difficult. Given that Valle Nevado sees a measly 150 inhes of snow a year I don't think this was all that uncommon.
What really compounded the hard snow conditions was extremely flat light coupled with the lack of trees or other terrain features. I don't know if its common, but for the 3 days I skied there there was overcast skiies with strong sun behind then or even worse complete white out. I don't know if these are common, but I was totally unable to see any terrain features even with Pink Lense Goggles.
Since Valle Nevado is completely above the tree line and lacks major rock features the groomed runs are only market by an occasional stick or two. With the flat light it was impossible to tell where the trail was and I often found myself skiing on ice moguls. When I did go off piste I found it diffiult to see these features which made skiing off the groomers impossible.
On the final day we had a white out where I missed the trail to get home on more than one occasion. It was impossible to see the hotel from even 20 feet away.
It looked like there was some good terrain off the upper pomas, but not the variety of terrain, rocks or trees, that you see at some of the premire ski resorts in the world. I'm sure that if the sun was out and it had snowed recently these areas whould have been fun, but in no way transcendant.
I will say however that skiiers right off Andes Express provided massive amounts of open terrain and natural halfpipes. This area was awesome and by the last day I spent all my time there. This area may technially be out of bounds, but it is easy to get back to the lift. The out of bounds signs must keep some skiers away and the snow was very soft. The slopes for whatever reason also got more sun then the other half of the mountain. Anyway this valley whih is huge between Valle Nevado is the best skiing in the Three Valley's region. Once you get comfortable with the undulatiosn you can just rip across what feels like and probably is a couple thousand acres and 2600 or so vertical. Particularly for boarders this is a dream.
There are a few downsides of this area though:
1. Its technically OB.
2. If you ski down the wrong valley you'll end up at the El Colorado T Bar. It's an awesome lift too, but if you don't have an Colorado lift ticket you have to hike out.
3. One you get to the bottom your stuck taking 3 chairlifts to get back to the top. That's the trade off I guess.
To sum it up the trails are ok with nothing great. The one area to skiiers right off the Andes Express is great but its technically OB and difficult to get to.
Hotel: I stayed in the Puerta de Sol Hotel which is the mid range of the three Hotels at Valle Nevado. The whole hotel felt a little run down, but nothing dramatically bad. The rooms were decent and fairly priced, included lunch and dinner. The hotel had some nice amenities: Hot tub, Bar, Pool table, Foosball, Free computers and Wireless. Nonetheless the overall disorganization was unbelivable and would deter me from ever going back. I know that general disorganization is part and parcel of going to South America so maybe this is standard, but this was certainly worse than what I saw in Portillo or the several Santiago hotels I stayed at.
The problems below:
1. When we first arrived check in took 45 or so minutes. I was hoping to ski immediately so this delay was not appreciated.
2. The number one disastisfier was probably the restaurants. Dinners were included at any of the 5 Valle Nevado restaurants. We could eat at whichever we wanted, but had to make a reservation that morning on some computer that had serious difficulty combinign reservatiosn for the two rooms we were staying in. As a result we would repeatedly show up at restaurants and they would tell us that they didn't have our reservation or would only seat two of us. At the French Restaunt La Fourchette, we showed up late and they refused to seat us even though teh restaurant was completely empty. There were actually two other groups who were having the exact same problem, but the restaurant manager still refused to seat us. I think the problem was that the hotel would reimburse the restaurant, but only if we were on file through the reservation system. As a result they wouldn't seat us even when it was obviously not our fault. Since we had made a very late reservation there was no where else we could eat and we would have the same problem anywhere. We were pretty furious nad eventually the hotel security was called by the restaurant. Hotel security finally sorted out the problem and we were seated, but its hardly the experience I like to have on a vacation.
As far as the restaurants go La Fourchette D’or is really phenomenal and I'd make every restaurant there for every night if I went back. La Trattoria was pretty decent, while Don Giovani was a disaster with poor food and services. I didn't eat at the swiss/fondue restaurant, the sushi bar (not an option with the hotel plan) or the Chilean place.
3. Checking in was also a huge problem because thye were totally inapable of delivering our bags to our room on the first day or even assigning us to our rooms correctly.
4. Our keys never worked correctly and I was constantly going down to the front desk to get them exchanged. With three people in a room and all over the resort this created serious difficulties.
5. The hotel is a lot of stories ~10 and there are only two small slow elevators. Even if you wait for them they are often completely full. As a result, you need to take the stairs which is bothersome at 8000 feel after a day of skiing.
Oveall: There are some decent areas or the mountain. The hotel complex has major disorganization problems that by all accounts are not just contained to the Hotel Purerta del Sol. Given the mountain, lack of snow and the crappy hotels there are much better places in South America to go for a vacation. If I was in Santiago for business I might consider getting one of the Ski Vans to take me up for a Day or Two for skiing, but the trecherous road makes this a scarey and time consuming proposition.