Skiing Volcán Osorno

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Photo: Jimmy LangmanPhoto: Jimmy Langman
By Mary Katherine Gwynn
Ski centers are busy clearing slopes and fine tuning ski lifts as a new ski season gets underway in Chile. If you’re planning a ski trip, consider Volcán Osorno in the Los Lagos region of southern Chile. The views are worth it on their own.  On a clear day from the roof of this volcano you can look out at all of Lake Llanquihue and its surrounding towns, Volcán Calbuco, Andean mountains and even the Pacific Ocean. On a cloudy day, the view is no less impressive.
Of course, the skiing is terrific, too.  The ski center here has increasingly become a destinatiean of choice for international and local ski enthusiasts over the past few decades.
This 2652 m (8,701 ft) glacier covered, stratovolcano has also made its mark in a far more substantial way since it first erupted more than 700 years ago. Osorno’s twelve eruptions over time have greatly impacted the surrounding geography, including separating the lakes Todos Los Santos and Llanquihue. Currently, Volcán Osorno’s status is dormant, the last eruption was in 1869.
According to local legend, the furious volcanic activity ceased after the sacrifice of Licarayen, a virgin Mapuche princess: a great bird flew down, snatched her heart, and threw it into the crater of Osorno.  Today, that so-called appeasement and tranquility persists, allowing skiers to enjoy the slopes on the southwest flank of the volcano, the diversity of which, according to veteran ski enthusiast and fly fishing guide Francisco Castaño, sets Volcán Osorno Ski Center apart from South America’s other ski centers.
Photo: Jimmy LangmanPhoto: Jimmy Langman 
“I have been to many ski centers,” said Castaño. “This is a small one but it has an incredible ski area. Some people might disagree, but for me it is one of the top five most interesting places for skiing in terms of its characteristics and the ski opportunities it offers."
Castaño adds the unique qualities of the ski area at Osorno have made him a passionate regular on the slopes. He says he skis there nearly 40 times a year.  
“As a volcano, it offers many areas and possibilities for skiing,” said Castaño. “Varied and entertaining slopes, cornices, rock cuts, very diverse slopes that are suitable for skiers of all levels while other mountains have many areas where skiing is practically impossible.”
Volcán Osorno Ski Center not only offers a special terrain for skiing, but a variety of other activities such as tubing, trekking, back country skiing and snowboarding. And that is just for the winter season.
Volcán Osorno is open all year, and outside of the ski season services include the chairlift, a zip line with a descent of nearly 1500 meters (4,921.3 feet), a seven-meter-tall (23 ft) climbing tower with three different routes and guided trekking around the glacier and crater.
The ski center also has a cozy restaurant on site, and an apparel store, in case you forget gear such as gloves, goggles or a helmet. Above all, a friendly atmosphere pervades the ski center in which coworkers and clients both share in the enjoyment of the volcano. “We are like a family [here],” says Angel Rafart, operations manager.
Photo: Rodrigo TroncosoPhoto: Rodrigo Troncoso
When planning a trip to Volcán Osorno Ski Center, consider a stay at Teski Refugio, which sits at the base of the volcano. It not only offers convenient access to the ski center, but its inviting interior and secluded surroundings make the bed and breakfast a great place for rest and relaxation after a day on the slopes.
If you’re looking for a little more action, consider driving just an hour or so southwest to Puerto Varas. Here you’ll find many lodging options, ranging from hostels to boutique hotels, cafés, restaurants, pubs, handicraft and outdoor stores, great volcano views, and more.
Lastly, finding a good window of time on the volcano is key: be sure to check the weather report before you go as frequent storms can prevent skiing.
“All I can say is that skiing here when there are [good] conditions, it’s an experience that every skier in Chile should have at least once in their life,” says Castaño.
Coming at least once is recommended, although it’s likely after one visit you’ll be hooked. You might even move all the way from Spain, just like Angel Rafart did, just to be near some of South America’s finest slopes.
Photo: Mary Katherine GwynnPhoto: Mary Katherine Gwynn
How to Go:
Volcán Osorno Ski Center: Route V-555 (Osorno Volcano) Km 14,2, Puerto Varas, Los Lagos, Chile, +56 09 9158 733,
Teski Refugio: Route V-555 (Osorno Volcano) Km 12, Puerto Varas, Los Lagos, Chile, +56 65 256 6622,
Vulkano Boardshop: Local 3, Sta Rosa 575, Puerto Varas, Los Lagos, Chile, +56 65 223 7647,