Traveling to Ski Portillo at a Moment’s Notice
In early August, in Salt Lake City, writer and photographer Grayson Schaffer had enough. His social media feeds were inundated with perfect powder photos from Ski Portillo and he “noticed an outrageous snow forecast calling for 14 feet in the Portillo area.” He decided to take action….
36 hours later, Schaffer and professional skier Kalen Thorien were boarding a Santiago-bound plane and headed to sample Portillo’s powder. Recently, Grayson Schaffer wrote about his summer ski trip to Ski Portillo for The New York Times.
Here’s an excerpt from Schaffer’s story:
When we arrived Aug. 9, the road had just reopened to local traffic. The historic yellow Hotel Portillo, which opened in 1949 along an old rail line, was taken over in 1961 by the New York hotelier Bob Purcell, who hired his nephew Henry, now 81, as the general manager. The resort, which is perched 30-odd switchbacks above the valley, offers several levels of service, including the hostel-like Inca Lodge, the dormitory-style Octagon Lodge, cozy chalets and four-star suites in the yellow hotel itself. But at its core, Portillo offers only one product: The all-inclusive ski week. Occupancy maxes out at 460. During our stay, there were 357 guests (which meant untracked snow all week).
“If you have people checking in and out every day, it takes away from the sharing and the exchange of getting to know people and hanging out in the mountains,” Mr. Rogan said.
Meals are served in the common dining room or cafeteria or at the mid-mountain Tio Bob’s restaurant. Each night until midnight, a different band — all-female ’90s cover acts seem popular — plays in the bar, where we saw a 12-year-old boy crowd surfing and the ski-film stars Wendy Fisher and Ingrid Backstrom dancing on tables. We spent one Pisco-and-Escudo-soaked evening at a bar called El Paseo, in honor of the ninth birthday of Radka, the St. Bernard usually found asleep in the hotel lobby. And Kalen learned some crude Chilean slang meaning roughly, “no way!” that became her catchphrase.
Mostly I kept marveling at how well everything seemed to work, despite there being so many different people from so many backgrounds, ages, abilities and alcohol tolerances steeping in the same giant hot tubs overlooking the Laguna del Inca, the nearby lake.
“The walls talk to you,” said Bill Johnston, a banking executive from Connecticut who was vacationing with his wife and four children. “They’re haunted with ski history.”
You don’t have to be an expert to ski Portillo, but it’s more fun if you are. Groomed beginner runs descend to the hotel from most of the elevated chairlifts, but the powderfields like Primavera and a hike up into an apron called Two-Hundred Turns are what get people worked into a feverish lather.
CLICK HERE to read the entire story, “In the Andes Mountains, a Ski Run of a Lifetime” by The New York Times.