Explore some of the best untracked powder in the world with heliskiing or catskiing excursions in the Andes.
When it comes to heliskiing Chile is the place to go. Some of the established operations are based at ski resorts, like Valle Nevado and Portillo, and others at exclusive lodges in the heart of the mountains.
At Valle Nevado, ascend in a helicopter to an altitude of 4500 metres (14,764ft) and descend through the Andes Mountains on untouched snow. Expert mountain guides use state-of-the-art safety equipment, as they escort clients up to steep verticals (1830m/6000ft) packed with powder. With the helicopter pad directly at the Valle Nevado Resort, it offers easy access to the backcountry powder. Special gear is available at the ski rental shop and discounts are offered to hotel guests.
A heliskiing tour in Valle Nevado starts from $190 (USD) per person, based on four passengers.
Heliskiing is also offered in Portillo by the company Eurocopter S.A. Skiers hire Eurocopter's services once they are on the mountain, depending on climate conditions. They are transported to the fresh powder snow surrounding the resort and ski with a certified professional guide.
A heliskiing tour in Portillo starts from $290 (USD) for the first run and $160 for each following run. Prices are based on four skiers and one guide per helicopter.
Located 108 kilometres (67 miles) north of Santiago, Ski Arpa specialises in backcountry snowcat skiing and riding adventures.
Sergio Begue, founder and trip leader for Andes Ski Tours, says, "Ski Arpa is the first true snowcat skiing operation in the Andes and is by far the best experience. It is different to many snowcat skiing operations in the U.S or Canada as runs average a vertical of 800-1000 metres (2,600-3,200ft)."
Accessing Ski Arpa is an adventure in itself: the only way to get up the unpaved road is by 4WD vehicles. Once there, two snowcats, with a total capacity of 22 riders, takes skiers to the summit (3740m/12,500ft). Before riding down the mountain, take in the breathtaking views: to the east, Cerro Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Americas (696m/22841ft), and to the west, the Pacific.
Ski or snowboard down into some of the best untracked powder in the world. The price of a full day's snowcat skiing in Ski Arps, including four runs with a guide, is $195-225 (USD) per person. Skiers must be over 18 and of intermediate level.
Andes Ski Tours offers a seven-night heliskiing tour in Valle Nevado and Portillo priced from $8990 (USD) per person. The package includes four full days of heliskiing; a professional guide; premier lodging at both resorts; private ground transport; gourmet meals; and unlimited lift tickets. More information
Ski Arpa offers a five-night all-inclusive catskiing package, including lodging, all meals, and transport, priced at $3117 USD per person. More information