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I've done the premium slopeside version of Chile skiing a number of 
times.  It's difficult to do a dirt bag ski bum trip at the resorts within a 
couple of hours of Santiago (the Valle Nevado/La Parva/el Colorado 
complex and Portillo.  The ski areas are off in the middle of nowhere 
and just about the only lodging is controlled by the resort.  You can day 
trip up from Santiago but the service I experienced stopped at a ski 
shop along the way so the tourons could rent gear and clothing.  That 
cuts into your morning.  The easy to find outfit is called SkiTotal and 
they have a web site.  I'm sure there are other ways to get up the hill 
but I never found them.  The roads require chains and I'm not sure 
about the availability of cheap rental cars with chains.   The resorts 
around Santiago are also quite intermediate.  You find little pockets of 
steeps if you traverse and/or hike a little but challenge really isn't their 
thing.

This isn't for you but if you're an intermediate/low-expert on a budget 
and want to stay at the resort, Valle Nevado in September slashes their 
prices.  Your biggest problem is the price gouging getting up and down 
the hill.  If you leave from a hotel in Santiago, it's way cheaper than 
going from the airport.  I'm sure you can find better pricing if you have 
the language skills.

Another option is to stay in Farellones down the hill from La Parva and 
el Colorado.  You shuttle van up to the ski areas and can ski back at 
the end of the day.  The transportation fee is more reasonable.
http://www.skifarellones.com/


Chillan is probably the best place to go on a budget.  I think it has the 
best terrain in Chile with some great sidecountry off the Don Otto lift.  
Again, I've done the premium thing where the Sprinter van meets you 
at the train station in Chillan and brings you to the hotel around 75 
minutes away.  There's a small town a few miles down the road called 
Las Trancas that has inexpensive lodging.  The road those last few 
miles is dirt but it's usually mostly at or below the snow line you you 
can typically drive it without chains.  You can take the train down to 
Chillan and either rent a car in the city of Chillan or make your way on 
public transportation.  I've never needed to sort that out but I imagine 
some basic spanish language skills would be most useful.  The other 
advantage of Chillan is that it's lower so you have some oxygen.  At 
Valle Nevado, you're sleeping at 10,000 feet.  If you live at sea level, 
that's tough for many people the first few days.

You might want to drop onto His Editorship's FirstTracksOnline site.   
He has a "down under" site. Patrick has done the low budget trip and 
can give you better beta.  He has enough language skills that I believe 
he was able to scout out the deals.

I noticed that airfare is reasonable at the moment.  In the last decade, 
it's been unusual to see airfare to Santiago for less than $1,100.00.  
I've always made the trip using frequent flyer miles but I take a glance 
at prices once in a while.  I saw a sale recently that was more like 
$800.00.  LAN has a non-stop from JFK to Santiago.  I'm not sure if it's 
on a 7-day schedule but that's the flight I would take if I were a New 
Yorker.

I did a 3 week New Zealand trip a decade ago.  The mountains are 
much smaller and lower than Chile and you don't get a heck of a lot of 
vertical.  Treble Cone is the best terrain and that's where I'd try to get 
most of my days.  You can probably find inexpensive lodging in Wanaka 
and they must have transportation up the hill to the ski field.  In New 
Zealand, you pretty much always stay down in the flats and climb 3000 
vertical feet of dirt switchback road to get to the snow and lifts.  I was 
also entertained at Mount Hutt.  I was there for spring skiing season 
and the club fields were already done for the year so I can't comment 
about rope tows and earning your turns.  The Kiwi vibe is great and the 
skiing is OK but it's a very long flight unless you've going for a pretty 
long time.  I rented a CR-V.  You can probably survive with public 
transportation but it cuts back your options on the days when the 
mountain is on wind hold and you want to do things in the flats.

Geoff

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