Review of Termas de Chillan aka Nevados de Chillan
Regular readers: please excuse this interruption to our regular round-the-world programming. If you're not planning on skiing or snowbarding in South America, please ignore this post. If you're looking for options for some Southern Hemisphere skiing, however, please read this warning about Nevados de Chillan aka Termas de Chillan!
Normally we wouldn't be so outspoken about a resort, but our week in Nevados de Chillan was expensive and also disappointing. Although our hotel staff looked after us well and we enjoyed some good hikes, our intention had been to snowboard - something we did very little of in Nevados de Chillan. Hopefully this warning will persuade a few other winter-sports enthusiasts to go somewhere else and avoid losing as much money as we have.
Valle Nevado. Go here instead.
Nevados de Chillan, known as Termas de Chillan before 2010, is a ski resort in Southern Chile which should have a lot going for it. It has the longest run in South America, at 13km, as well as stunning scenery and great snow. This is what attracted us to the resort. Unfortunately we've discovered that disputes between two competing resort companies have left the town in a state of disarray and disorganisation.
Many Chilean skiers and snowboarders seem to be aware of the situation and are avoiding this resort this year, but few foreigners are aware of the resorts problems.
- Ski-in, ski-out accommodation at the resort is astronomically expensive - prices are the same as Chile's other (already super expensive) resorts, for example Valle Nevado, even though very little of the resort is actually operating at the moment. This means that most tourists (including ourselves) stay about 10km down in valley in the muddy little town of Las Truncas.
- UPDATE: From Las Truncas, there is a single bus to the slopes, taking passengers up once in the morning and down once in the afternoon. The other option is to hitch-hike (I'm told it's fairly easy) otherwise you'll need to budget about $25 per person per day for a taxi to the slopes.
- You'll need to purchase your lift pass daily and the prices are astronomical. There are no weekly deals. Monday to Wednesday is $40 per person per day. Thursday through to Sunday cost $60 pppd. This is on-par with- or is more expensive than top-class European resorts like Val D'isere. To put this in perspective, Val D'isere has something like 95 lifts. Chillan has 10, although only 1 chair and 2 drag lifts on the baby slopes were operating when we were there.
- No piste maps. I'm serious. The resort will not provide any trail maps for the piste. Someone did offer to sell us a piste map for $10, but they'd run out of stock. These are free and easy to obtain at every other resort I've ever been to. UPDATE: The resort has now updated it's website and has a piste map available online.
- Food & drink prices are astronomical. At the base station - not even up on the slopes - expect to pay $20 for a Hamburger or similar junk food (the only options). We payed $6 each for two coffees and they were some of the worst coffees I've had. They were served as a polystyrene cup of hot water with a sachet of nescafe instant for us to mix in ourselves. No milk. This wasn't a nice cozy restaurant either. This was a freezing cold, draughty wooden box of a cafeteria with a small stove in the corner around which everyone was jostling for space for a little warmth. (It was the only restauarant option, however)
- Terrible facilities. Take the toilets at the base station: they have no doors. None. Not outside and not on the cubicles. If you're unfortunate enough to need a -erm- number 2, you'll have to go about your business while you watch the world go by - and the world watches you go. Kate tells me that the woman's toilets had a door on the outside but also not on the cubicles.
- The lifts are slooooooow. It's well known that the resort has some of the slowest lifts around. And the hard wooden slat benches of the chairlift get oh-so-cold while the chair inches its way up the mountain.
- The lifts to shut down in any weather. Any snow, fog or wind and lifts will be shut down. On the days we tried to snowboard it was snowing, but the conditions didn't seem bad, yet only one chairlift and two drag-lifts were operating. Don't expect a discount on your lift pass, however. It'll still cost you $60. The operational chairlift takes about 10 minutes to get you to the top of a very easy blue run which takes about 4 minutes to ride. We feel that the management company was using the excuse of the weather to close the resort when there weren't enough skiers on the slopes to make it worth their while. Several local residents shared our feelings on this.
- The resort is deliberately misleading skiers and snowboarders about their operational status. We telephoned in the morning to find out about conditions and were told that all lifts were running. $30 worth of taxis later, we discovered that only one was. Staff at our hotel told us that, on the phone, the resort always say that all lifts are operating, no matter whether they actually are or not. We've also been told that online status shows all lifts running when they're not. Worse: many of the attractions are currently not running at all during the 2010 season: for example, the snowpark, and some of the lifts are closed, including the lift which services the resorts primary attraction: the Tres Marias run (the longest run in South America - but only if you can manage to traverse the slope to it!)
- Disputes between two companies are driving this ski resort into the ground. We were told that the reason the lifts are not operating is due to the disputes between two companies - Termas de Chillan and Nevados de Chillan. Termas de Chillan were operating the concession for the ski resort until this year when it was given to Nevados de Chillan. This changeover has left some of the lifts out of operation.
Some hotel staff told me that they're worried about the resort being around in a few years time, as they're not getting any repeat business. After all, who in their right mind would return to a resort with so many problems? We arrived at the beginning of high season and there were hardly any visitors (we were the only guests at our lodge)
All in all, our experience at Nevados de Chillan / Termas de Chillan has been one of the most expensive weeks of snowboarding we've had, yet it's also the one with the worst service, worst resort management and worst facilities. To be fair, things might have been better had the weather been better but the bad weather merely brought out the worst in the resort. Having said that, we've spent weeks in European resorts where we've had far worse weather but have had much more access to the slopes and a infinitely better experience overall.
After this experience, we decided to go to Valle Nevado instead. Our experience at this resort couldn't have been more different: Valle Nevado was professionally run and felt like a proper resort, and even though it was expensive, it was good value for money. If you're looking at heading to the southern hemisphere to ski, avoid Termas de Chillan.