Bariloche: Winter wonderland once more

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Normally in July, Bariloche, Argentina, is a month into ski season. Cerro Catedral, Bariloche’s launch point into the Andes Mountains, overflows with ski schools, tourists, and locals all vying to ski the resort’s groomed slopes, backcountry trails, and terrain park. But this winter has been marred by the potent combination of Chile’s Puyehue Volcano eruption, whose ashes have disrupted flights all over Argentina, and a rare lack of snow.

Recently, I arrived in Bariloche via the “Cruce Andino” tour boat, which departs out of Puerto Varas, crossing spectacular Andean Patagonia lakes to get there. Snowboard in hand, whether it was luck, or my stubborn belief that Bariloche in July equaled snow, I was rewarded. My taxi could hardly enter the parking lot of the Galileo Boutique Hotel in Cerro Catedral, due to one meter of powder blocking our path. After such a welcome, I was shocked when the receptionist told me, smiling, “Oh, no- the only people who have skied so far have walked, the lifts are opening tomorrow!”

Only here for two days, I refused to spend one inside. After asking around town, I found a trail leading up the mountain, and commenced a two-hour hike up to the first base camp of one of Cerro Catedral’s ski lifts. Luckily, I found a group of locals doing the same thing, and another four hours later I was confronted with breath-taking views and waist deep powder all around.

We had an entire Andean Mountain Range all to ourselves.  

For me, the toil of the hike made the ensuing half-hour run sweeter, but I was still happy to hear that lifts would be running the next day. When I started my walk from the hotel to the slopes that next morning, the once-silent streets were alive once more with throngs of people answering the snow’s siren call.

More trails are opening as you read, but even on the resort’s inaugural opening I didn’t ski the same run the entire day.

Right now, Bariloche’s offer is hard to beat. Hotels, travel agencies, ski schools, and restaurants -- the greater part of Bariloche’s economy have come together to offer promotional discounts of up to 30 percent in an effort to encourage travel to this classic winter destination. Combining affordability with some of South America’s best skiing, this winter wonderland is one you won’t want to miss.

Places to stay: Bariloche offers a wide variety of hotels and hostels, here are some of the more affordable, best options:

Hotel Edelweiss: located in downtown Bariloche, the Hotel Edelweiss offers all the comforts a 4-star hotel should: a beautiful swimming pool located on the top floor offering views of the surrounding Andean Mountains, proximity to multiple restaurants and nightlife, and slopes 20 minutes away. For more info, visit: http://www.edelweiss.com.ar/

Galileo Boutique Hotel: a 19-room wooden chalet located 200 meters from the ski in Bariloche’s Cerro Catedral, Hotel Galileo provides everything you need before and after a long day of skiing. A hearty breakfast of cereals, meats, and cheeses is brought to your room in the morning in preparation for a day on the slopes, and upon returning a Jacuzzi located in your room proffers warmth and relaxation. For more info, visit: http://www.galileoboutiquehotel.com/

Cacique Inacayal Lake & Spa Hotel: Next to Lake Nahuel Huapi, the third-largest lake in Argentina, the bedroom view of Hotel Cacique Inacayal is incomparable. A well-furnished gym, pool and game room provide plenty of entertainment within the hotel. And, if you’re looking for a night out, one of Bariloche’s most popular clubs is located next door. For more info, visit: http://www.hotelinacayal.com.ar/el-hotel.html

How to get there: While flights are still being delayed due to the Puyehue Volcano, there are several other options to get to Bariloche. Bus trips are available from all over Argentina, currently at heavily discounted prices. If coming from Chile, I recommend the “Cruce Andino,” a one or two day tour that leaves from Puerto Varas and traverses the region’s multiple lakes and parks to reach Bariloche. There is an option to stay the night in Peulla, located in the heart of the Andes, where multiple excursions are offered including horseback rides, canopy zip lining, and powerboat tours. For more info, visit: http://www.cruceandino.com 

 

Photos by Eric Gresham for Patagon Journal

 

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