When we think about where the highest ski resort on Earth lies, visions of Switzerland, Austria, France, & Colorado fill our minds. Reality is strikingly different.
The highest ski resort on Earth lives at only 16° south of the equator in the South American country of Bolivia. It is called Chacaltaya (bridge of ice in the Aymara Indian language). What Chacaltaya lacks in latitude, it makes up for in elevation. The ski area summit is located at 17,785-feet (that’s higher than the Mt. Everest base camp).
Chacaltaya ski resort was created to allow good winter snow skiing from November to March every year. The lift was only open on weekends due to the extreme cold of the area. Summer glacier skiing on the 18,000-year-old Chacaltaya glacier was possible before the glacier completely melted away in 2009 (6 years before its estimated demise). Big, snowy winters are the only thing that can get the Chacaltaya ski lift spinning nowadays.
CHACALTAYA SKI RESORT FACTS:
– The highest lift-accessed terrain on Earth at 17,785 feet (higher than Everest base camp)
– 1 Rope Tow (first rope tow installed in South America when it was installed in 1939)
– Rope tow Installed in 1939, runs via a car engine & allows 660 vertical feet of skiing/riding
– 2nd closest ski resort to Earth’s equator at 16° Latitude (closest is in Indonesia…)
– Further North than any other ski resort in South America
– This is the only ski resort in South America outside of Chile & Argentina
– Chacaltaya is located only 20 miles from La Paz, Bolivia (population of 2.3 million)
– Chacaltaya is a popular destination for “mountaineers” as you can drive your car right to 17,115 feet. Then you hike the final 600+ vertical feet right to the 17,785-foot summit of Chacaltaya.
ANDEAN GLACIAL LOSS:
“Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented.” – Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study and a scientist with the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France
This is a big concern as most of the population in the arid Tropical Andes survives due to glacier meltwater that fills their rivers and streams. Once these glaciers are gone, there will be no water for local populations to survive on.
“Climate change has shrunk Andean glaciers between 30 and 50 percent since the 1970s and could melt many of them away altogether in coming years, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal The Cryosphere.”
– Reuters, Jan. 24th, 2013
Sadly, this ski resort doesn’t run consistently any longer. How cool would it be to cruise down to Bolivia and rip laps at the world’s highest ski resort? 17,785-feet is a helluva lot higher than most of us will ever ski.