Patagonia Skiers Road trip
On a four day odyssey we took in 3 Argentinean ski resorts and a thermal hot spring in Chile.
From Bariloche we rented a beat up ride, filled her up with ‘Fangio XXII' unleaded petrol, and ventured forth through forests, up hills and across borders. First stop on our 700 km journey was Cerro Bayo a super ace boutique ski resort over looking lake Nahupl Haupi and our base of Villa Angostura, with it's charming timber & stone architecture, lake front lodgings and hearty home cooked meals.
Cerro Bayo is small by international standards but punches well above it's weight with mad back country bowls and chutes feeding nicely into empty groomers and cracking black runs such as 'Los Lagos', 'Del T-bar' & 'Tobogán' and if the runs don't take your breath away then the views certainly will.
You feel that one wrong turn could lead you directly to the lakes forested shore. But sure enough, the queue less lift lines offer a dryer and more appealing alternative.
Impressive expansion plans for Cerro Bayo promise to add some muscle to this bad boy and it'll soon be an Argentine heavy weight.
Our journey literally takes us past 7 lakes (which correspond to the Argentinean National Route 234), through an enchanted forest of lenga coihue trees on a predominantly unsealed road bordered by finely worked gabions. A brief stop for 15 minutes due to road works shortly after crossing the Correntoso River, which, at 200 metres is claimed to be the 'shortest river in the world', allows us to take in the magical scenery across Lake Espejo Grande.
Chapelco is cool, high and big. Gondolas, modern detachable chairs and a couple of high velocity crutch crunching pomas provide superb access from base to peak. Chapelco has its fair share of off piste and steeps, but time spent in the natural half pipes, wide long groomers and in the trees is the order of the day.
Despite the great skiing, the highlight for me was the cheese and spinach crepe and fried egg for lunch.
The road-works force us to take a less direct & longer yet equally stunning return journey along the famous Ruta 40 past more lakes, through sparse and scorched desert in the shadow of mere hills that would be called mountains any where else. But them there hills are in the Andes so one needs to keep ones perspective.
Today we head off to Chile for a rejuvenating dip in a thermal pool. Appropriately, the Sound of Music plays on the radio as we cross the border through the Paso Internacional Cardenal Antonio Samore at 1,321 metres.
The Aguas Calientes (hot water) located in the Parque National Puyehue is a pretty low key affair comprising a large wadding pool fed with geo thermally heated water. The setting in the Puyehue National Park is spectacular as was the buffet lunch.
After filling our bellies we set off on our last leg to South America's largest ski resort, Cerro Catedral high above Bariloche.
Cerro Catedral is a Southern Hemisphere gem. It's truly massive, has bucket loads of snow, European inspired mountain restaurants and views to die for. The skiing is great with plenty of on and off-piste action, fine lunches on sun drenched decks and a hearty après scene both on and off the mountain.
The off-piste terrain is as tough and varied as most places around the world (for a hacker like me), and it's easy enough to get to off most of the lifts and there are plenty of exit opportunities back onto the groomers.
The charming European styled village with its boutiques, chalets, fine and casual dining, along with bars, nightclubs and chocolate shops is a hive of activity that would keep anyone happy for a week or more.
Overall, Patagonia totally rocks. The scenery, the wine, the food and the skiing combine to make this neck of the woods a very special and fun filled place indeed.