Portillo Lifts & Terrain


Portillo Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Open Portillo Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
     2,548– 3,310 (762)
  • Average Snow Fall
    5.1 metres
  • Lifts (14)
    3 Quads
    1 Triple
  • Ski Hours
    9:00am - 5:00pm
    Mid June - Mid October
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 19
    Longest run – 2.5 km
    Beginner - 15%
    Intermediate - 30%
    Advanced - 30%
    Expert - 25%

Portillo Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Skiing at Portillo Chile can be absolutely awesome! With no crowds and a mix of fast groomed runs and big mountain skiing, the only thing missing at Portillo is tree skiing!

The Portillo ski resort is reasonably compact with only 500 hectares of ski terrain. In-bounds there is an even spread of terrain to suit all levels, but for each ability level there’s not much variety. For advanced and expert riders there is an array of backcountry areas that can be accessed, although the extent of out-of-bounds areas (and in-bounds runs) that can be accessed is dependent upon the conditions. Runs may be closed due to avalanche risk. So sometimes Portillo feels like it’s a huge ski resort and at other times it feels rather small. Portillo is really about quality not quantity.

The treeless terrain at Portillo is divided into two halves that are separated by the hotel. It’s really easy to orient yourself to the ski area because the hotel acts as a major landmark. It’s often good to start on the Juncalillo side in the morning where the sun warms Roca Jack and other runs. The west facing slopes on the Plateau side are better in the afternoon after the crunchy snow has softened.

There is greater bias towards skiers at Portillo. Snowboarding is definitely permitted, it’s just that the terrain isn’t ideal for boarders, particularly for advanced and expert riders. There are various flat spots near the hotel, and a lot of traversing is required on the black and double black runs to get to the freshies. Riding a va et vient lift and keeping the disc between the legs is also a little tricky on a snowboard, but it’s a great spectator sport!

Ski Portillo Chile: Lifts

The main lift infrastructure at the Portillo ski resort consists of 3 quad chair lifts and 1 triple chair, and even though these are not detachable, they move at a reasonable pace. In addition to standard surface lifts, Portillo Chile is renowned for the strange lifts that are designed especially for the steep avalanche prone slopes. The va et vient (French for “comes and goes”) lifts don’t have poles or towers, just a cable anchored into the rock face. A bar has 4 or 5 poma discs attached to it, and riders stand side by side and “waterski” up the mountain. The lifts are sort of like riding a standard poma lift except that they go 20 times faster!

The va et vients (slingshots) are much easier for skiers to ride than you’d think. On arrival to Portillo, the hotel gives you a 10 step pamphlet on how to ride a va et vient that makes you unnecessarily nervous. For those new to the sport of skiing up a hill, the only important tip is to wait at the top until the lift has absolutely completely stopped, or you might end up on your bottom. Las Vizcachas is the easiest of the va et vient lifts, so perhaps practise on this one before progressing to El Cara Cara.

Portillo Ski Resort is uncrowded. It is a far cry from the Bariloche ski resort in Argentina because there are no lift queues.

Lift Tickets

Lift tickets are included in the Portillo ski packages, but day trippers can purchase lift tickets that are reasonably inexpensive. High season is early July to mid August.

Portillo Snow and Weather Conditions

Portillo typically has short intense storms followed by blue sky days, with not many days finding a compromise in weather. The Portillo ski resort prides themself on the statistic of an 80% chance of a sunny day. This is great for fair weather skiers and for getting a goggle tan (or full body tan!). You’d think that at such high altitude the temperatures would always be cool, but sometimes Portillo has hot spells during winter where you can sunbake by the pool!

Like elsewhere in South America, the Portillo snow conditions can be very inconsistent. Sometimes Portillo suffers from melt-freeze issues whilst at other times the resort has deep dry powder. To supplement the annual snowfall of 5.1 m (down from 7.4 metres circa 2010), Portillo has snowmaking on a few of the groomed runs.

Avalanche risk is ever present because of the incredibly steep rocky peaks that sit above the Portillo ski area. Blasting is difficult in many of these areas due to the rocks, and whilst the patrollers can use cannons to control some areas, in others all they can do is monitor the situation and close runs as necessary. La Traversia area, Primavera and Lake Runs are examples of uncontrolled areas. The closing of runs is obviously necessary, but it can be very frustratingly limiting for advanced and expert skiers.

Ski Portillo Chile for the Beginner

The beginners’ areas are conveniently located next to Hotel Portillo. For complete novices the place to be is the magic carpet adjacent to the Ski Box kiosk. The next step is a small slope on the other side of the hotel.

The green rated areas are pretty small but some of the Intermedio (blue/green) runs are not too difficult. The Canarios runs and those off the Los Lomas chair are gentle and form the next progression for beginners.

Portillo Ski Terrain: Intermediates

There is not huge variety for intermediate riders at Portillo, but the groomers are of high quality and there is good progression from easy blues to a dark blue run. Juncalillo is a long run that passes over a couple of bridges over the road and has exciting rollers. Amateurs can have a go at attempting to smash the 200 kilometre per hour speed barrier, or you can leave it to the international racers to whizz down this run.

Confident intermediates can enjoy a fang on an even better slope, the dark blue Plateau run that feeds into Las Lomas. This is an awesome fall line steep groomer and often timed race gates are set up for the public to use. If you want your ego quashed, compare your times to the Austrian ski team!

Terrain Park

There is no terrain park or pipe at Portillo. The only fun for terrain park junkies is around the rocks under the Plateau chair or with self-built kickers. Luckily they’ve got an orthopaedic expert on hand at the hotel for when you break something!

Portillo Ski and Snowboard Terrain - Advanced

All the runs at Portillo ski resort serviced by the va et vients are suitable for advanced riders. The piste often form small moguls quickly, and if the melt-freeze cycle is underway, some of these runs are not particularly enjoyable until the sun has warmed the slopes. However when the powder is in good condition these runs can be legendary, with Roca Jack the common fave.

The Garganta run is a good one in the afternoon, especially after a few beers at Tio Bob’s. At the top is a wide chute (the throat) that is commonly bumped up. This opens up into a wide bowl and the long run suits the show-ponies who love to put on a display to those sitting on El Plateau lift. To really impress the audience, there are various rocks near the bottom of the run for hucking off.

The Lake Run next door is also good and the addition of the egress track means that the lake doesn’t need to be frozen to get back to the main part of the hotel. However the track is not for the faint of heart because there’s only a little fence (knee high in places depending on how long your legs are and the snow depth!) that separates you from the cliffs below.

Another good run if the snow isn’t sun-baked is the Cancha del Tren which starts from the old railway tunnel. It is accessed from a traverse from the Condor lift. You’ll need to take the skis or board off a couple of times to cross the road.

Expert Skiing Portillo

The steeps and chutes of Portillo Chile are the major drawcard for many expert skiers. Freshies last a while, although not in the really obvious areas.

There are various in-bounds chutes to the left of Garganta. The degree of difficulty varies from very tricky to suicidal depending upon how much snow is covering the rocks. Otherwise most of the expert terrain is accessed via tough high traverses from the va et vients, so these are not always popular with snowboarders. From Roca Jack the Traversia leads to chutes of varying widths. You could try to reach speeds of 200km/hour on the Kilometro Lanzado, but further across, El Estadio is even better.

From the sling shot lifts there are also multiple options if you hike up or traverse out-of-bounds. It’s possible to get a guiding service from the ski school if you don’t want to do your own backcountry experimentation. Many of the runs go down to the lake and the feasibility of egress can be dependent upon the lake being frozen. Otherwise don’t end up in the lake!