Portillo is one of the most unique skiing experiences in the world – but it’s definitely not for everyone. If you just visit for the day, you might not “get” Portillo because what happens on the slopes is just as important as what happens when you’re off them. Long, grand dinners, pumping nightlife, and lots of camaraderie exist here in a degree not seen at any other resort I can think of. Portillo is a very intimate resort and something like a cruise ship in the sky – there’s no town, just a main lodge (with simple doubles and a handful of suites), a mid-range “octagon” with shared rooms, and a backpacker’s lodge called the Inca – this last option is dirt cheap, loud, and cramped, but then at Portillo you don’t spend much time in your room anyway. If you’re on a budget, splurge for the Octagon because it is far more comfortable and you can eat in the main dining room.
The terrain at Portillo will blow you away if you’re an advanced or expert skier or snowboarder, but if you’re an intermediate and not interested in pushing yourself, you might consider another resort altogether. Also, if you don’t ski or need a lot of shops and such, this is also not your resort. The terrain can look compact at first glance, but believe me the mountain looks HUGE when you’re standing at the top of Roca Jack. Also, with short traverses there are gigantic bowls, chutes, and cliffs, and when their lake freezes in August you can ski the Lake Run and walk back across the lake to the resort. While on the lake, the magnitude of the Andes becomes shockingly real. Portillo’s location on Lake Inca and facing an amphitheater of jagged peaks is spectacularly beautiful. What’s funky about the place though is that their Juncalillo run and lift go over the international highway, which is usually full of semi trucks heading to or returning from Argentina.
At Portillo, you can sense a certain kind of peer pressure – the pressure to relax. Seriously! A few skiers work themselves from 9 to 5, but most guests here wake late, enjoy a long lunch at Tio Bob’s (does a mountain restaurant anywhere boast a more beautiful view than this restaurant?) ski the rest of the afternoon and then kick back in their antique bar for an extended après ski. There are no lift lines here, so you can get a lot of vertical in one day.
One other perk of this resort is that every pro skier and national ski team seems to head here every summer, and the atmosphere is so friendly that you can just walk up to anyone and have a chat. People make friends so easily here that many plan to return together year after year. If you haven’t been here, try to experience Portillo once in your life if you can.