Regions outside the epicentre of the massive earthquake (8.8 on the Richter Scale) that rocked Chile Saturday, Feb. 27, were largely spared from the tragedy that unfolded, leaving ski regions largely unaffected.
Turismo Chile told OnTheSnow the country's tourism infrastructure has, overall, fared well, reporting little damage. The mountain regions have been preserved and the Chilean ski resorts of Valle Nevado, Portillo, El Colorado, La Parva, and Ski Arpa are intact. News from Termas de Chillan and Villarrica/Pucon has not yet been verified. But, Chile's ski country is indeed moving straight ahead toward the 2010 ski season, which will roll out as usual, in June.
The quake struck just off the coast near the cities of Concepcion, Talcahuano, and Constitucion. Santiago, located 310 miles north of the epicentre, experienced damage to older structures in the downtown area. Santiago Airport, currently in limited operation, is expected to resume normal schedules very soon.
Henry Purcell, owner of Ski Portillo, says the resort has escaped without damage, "We have some superficial cracks and some painting to do, but the roads to Portillo and all the lifts made it though the earthquake without incident. We are very fortunate to have escaped without any injuries or damages, but we grieve for the people of Conception."
Similiarly, General Manager of Valle Nevado, Ricardo Marguilis told OnTheSnow, "Following an exhaustive inspection, engineers found only a few minor surface damages at Valle's hotels and buildings like broken windows, fallen ceiling panels, and things knocked over."
Ski resorts in Chile and Argentina are popular destinations for skiers and snowboarders in North America and Europe who can't get enough of their favorite sports and are unwilling to trade in ski poles for golf clubs.
Skiing in the Andes offers an exhilarating combination of Latin culture and nightlife, and the terrain is served up on the world's longest exposed mountain range. Many international airlines provide connections with Santiago Airport, including British Airways, Emirates, and Lufthansa. Best bets from the U.S. and Canada are LAN, Air Canada, American Airlines, and Delta.
Pablo Moll, executive director of Turismo Chile says, "Chileans are a resilient people and we are hard at work to get the country back on its feet quickly. We look forward to continuing to welcome travelers and are making every effort to making them feel safe and secure."
Chile is a modern country with a strong infrastructure, good hospitals, and emergency services, all of which have been credited for managing the tragedy and helping to minimize the damage.
That is most certainly good news for the ski resorts and those planning holidays in the region. But, we remain mindful of the devastating tragedy that will linger for many Chileans near the coast. All of us at OnTheSnow send our deepest sympathies.
Summer ski deals:
Valle Nevado: Valle Nevado is offering North American skiers and riders 15 percent off seven-night package stays if booked and paid before April 15. More information
Portillo: Prices at the grand Hotel Portillo begin at US$1,590 per person and include seven nights' accommodation, seven-day lift tickets, four meals daily, and access to the many activities and entertainment offered at the hotel. More information