While I may have felt badly about leaving my sons at home when my husband and I skied Portillo in August, any cares my husband might have had evaporated with his first taste of Chilean wine.
Just as Portillo has special family weeks and programming in July, in August the resort has two special wine weeks, with unique tastings each evening, led by some of the top wine makers in the country.
Not a bad way to end a day of skiing.
Portillo for Couples & Friends
Relaxed meals. Meals at Portillo are included with the lodging and served to most guests in the historic dining room with captivating views of the mountains.
Upon arrival at Portillo, you’ll be seated at a table that you’ll keep for the rest of the week, allowing you to get to know your servers and ensuring that you always feel at home, with no waiting or inconvenience.
Chef Rafael Figueroa emphasizes local ingredients on a menu that changes daily. Breakfast is relatively simple, but lunch and dinner offer several choices of starters and entrees, almost always including Chilean seafood, and with enough range to appeal to every palate.
Kids are, of course, present with their families in the dining room, although for parents seeking a “night out,” there is also an early children’s dinner in the downstairs cafeteria.
Sleep In and Still Score Powder
While we feel we have to wake with the roosters to get the best turns in Colorado, skiing at Portillo is more relaxed. First, there aren’t many skiers on the mountain. With so much terrain and so few people, good lines persist for days after each storm.
We arrived the day of a storm, the first significant snow to fall at the resort for several weeks (and, as it turned out, the beginning for an abundantly snowy period). On our first morning, we met friends for breakfast at 8:00 and began skiing around 9:00.
Undoubtedly, these untracked runs were among the highlights of our visit. But even 4 days later, we were still skiing steep pitches with soft and sometimes barely tracked snow.
Additionally, I was surprised to find that the lifts at Portillo operate from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Even in winter, the sun is up until at least 6:00 p.m.
It’s a long day, perfect for a late breakfast, late dinner, and in between, a long lunch.
Lunch at Tio Bob’s
Several people gave me advice before we left for Chile. Ski the Lake Run we were told (we couldn’t, it was closed due to adverse conditions). Another bit of shared wisdom? Eat as often as you can at Tio Bob’s.
Tio Bob’s is one of two on-mountain restaurants at Portillo, the other being The Ski Box (which has the best on-mountain restrooms). Perched atop a rocky plateau overlooking Laguna del Inca and surrounded by rocky peaks, there is no better place to take a long lunch.
The menu ranges includes self-serve salads, giant burgers (check out the new Rogan Burger named for the current mountain manager, with avocado, bacon and a fried egg), camarones de bil bil (garlic shrimp stew) and grilled chicken, fish or sausage. While they serve plenty of wine, our group was all about beer, celebrating with a special Portillo 65th anniversary brew.
Since you’ll want to be outside if it’s sunny, bring sunglasses or a hat and sunscreen (which is also provided in the restroom).
Stay Up Late
Chileans eat later than most North Americans, which necessarily pushes back bedtime. With wine tastings beginning at 6:30, pisco sours in the bar at 7:30, dinner at 8:30 or 9:00 most evenings and live music back in the bar until midnight, it can be a long day. And while you don’t have to do each of these things each day, you may find you want to!
Visit the Ski School For Lessons or a Guide
No matter what your level of skiing or riding, it’s a good idea to hire an instructor for at least one day.
First of all, it’s nice to have a guide to orient you to the mountain. If it’s your first time at Portillo, you’ll better understand the layout of the mountain, the traverses, and which aspects are best at which time of day.
An instructor will also explain the slingshot lifts, which while they look at bit intimidating, actually make perfect sense, running on demand, and spacing skiers out quite effectively.
The Portillo ski and ride instructors are among the best in world. Ski School Director Robin Barnes takes great pride in her staff, noting that each instructor must hold the highest certification from their home country and teach year-round. Robin also chooses instructors for their language skills, so that almost all guests can learn in their native language.
Next: Tips for the Best Portillo Experience
- Why Ski South America? April 17, 2013.
- Plan Now for Summer Family Skiing at Portillo, Chile, October 6, 2014.
- The Portillo Experience: Tips for Your Best Ski Vacation, October 13, 2014.
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