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Ski fans from the northern hemisphere get a chance to escape the summer heat and hone their skills in a southern ski resort on an annual training trip.
The word “portillo” means “opening or road between two heights” – an apt description for both the Chilean ski resort and the transformations that occur on its slopes every summer when the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) spends a week at the resort. This annual trip sets a standard for personal exploration unlike any other ski experience. To truly immerse yourself in the adventure, start by clearing away any preconceived notions you might have of what a ski vacation entails. Full-immersion NASTC training in Portillo will redefine your expectations.
The Portillo ski resort is located approximately 100 miles – and at least 37 switchbacks – from the Chilean capital of Santiago. Approaching the grand, yellow Hotel Portillo feels a little like seeing land after a long time at sea. The soul of Portillo greets you upon arrival, transporting you into a trancelike state, a combination of the warmth of the hotel and the immensity of the outlying environment.
Get off the shuttle and just try not to gawk at the infinite skiing possibilities. With more than 1,300 skiable acres serviced by 14 lifts, the Chilean Andes resort offers steep groomers, couloirs, deep powder runs and trails that look like expansive tongues lapping up the sides of the rocky summits. Adding to the locale’s formidable physical strengths is the logistical icing on the cake: Portillo limits the number of guests to 450 to avoid the long lift lines and crowded restaurants that are the hallmarks of many U.S. resorts.
The summer training ground for many national ski teams, Portillo comprises two sides of a huge valley where the slopes fall steeply from the summits to the more moderate terrain surrounding the shores of glacial blue Laguna del Inca. The higher reaches of Portillo skiing are serviced by five-person Poma lifts that rocket you 1,500 vertical feet in seconds (be prepared for the abrupt stop at the top).
The steep runs available off the Roca, Condor, Vizcacha and Cara Cara lifts will challenge even the most advanced skiers. The Juncalillo and Plateau lifts can satisfy any level but are known for excellent cruising and carving possibilities. And for those who like to take their boards out of bounds, there are ample options as well. Traverse out into El Estadio after a short climb from the Roca Jack and ski huge bowls or dramatic chutes before carving it back into the ski area boundaries.
The days in Chile can blend into a weeklong continuum of exhilarating alpine ski descents, lazy lunches at the restaurant Tio Bob’s, challenging hikes to untracked powder in the Laguna runs, wine and conversation in the main living room, lounging by the pool, fine meals in the dining room and highly entertaining hours in the bar and disco. A perfect combination for those who love this sport in white.
The North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) will run its 17th annual All Conditions/All Terrain Adventure Skiing Week during August 12-21, 2011, in Portillo, Chile. NASTC’s goal is to guide you to some epic big mountain skiing (whether you are intermediate or expert) and advance your skills by a full level.www.skinastc.com
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