I probably shouldn’t write this story because of the intense bias I have towards Bariloche. I think it’s similar to when you say – “no offense but…”. It gives you free license to say whatever you want afterwards and no offense can possibly be taken, right? So it is with me declaring my bias for Bariloche. If I declare it outright, I can exaggerate Bariloche’s level-of-radness all I want, right?
WHY BARILOCHE IS GREAT:
– The biggest ski resort in South America, Catedral (40 lifts, 3,000+ acres, 3,773 vertical feet)
– Stunning vistas including one view ranked #8 most beautiful view on Earth (Campinario)
– The discotecas (dance clubs) go off 7 nights a week
– Unrivaled tree skiing (no leaves, no low branches, no tree wells, good spacing)
– Steep, convoluted, rocky, cliff, complex terrain features are abundant
– The city has over 150,000 people
– #1 tourist destination in Argentina
– Beautiful men & women are everywhere
– The local people are horribly friendly and will invite you to asados (BBQs) within 5 minutes of meeting you
– Local breweries and chocolate shops are top notch and ubiquitous
Ok, now that I got all that off my chest, I can start talking about the skiing. Catedral ski resort in Bariloche is suberb because of the simple side-country access. You ride lifts up, engage in a bit of hiking, and you’re into some killer terrain.
You can get into some big terrain from the ski resort with only 30-40 minutes of hiking (“Little Alaska” & more). You an opt for a shelfy cliff zone called La Laguna (very similar to some Tahoe terrain) with a quick 15-minute hike. A couple hours of skiing and walking get you into the steeper, longer, more challenging terrain of Refugio Frey. The out-of-bound possiblities at Catedral are tremendous.
In bounds, Catedral’s terrain is very similar to Mammoth ski resort. Long, sloping runs with no trees at all on top, then tree-cut runs at the bottom. The main difference here being the thick swaths of bamboo that cover the forest floors of lower Catedral.
The old growth tree skiing in Bariloche is unparalleled. Large Lenga trees shed their leaves in the winter, have no deadly tree wells, few low branches, and have spacing that every skier will admire. Iridescent spanish moss hangs from every branch and adds to these forests’ enchantment. Downed trees create fun pillows to pop off at low snow levels.
It generally snows a lot. They don’t exactly keep records, so there aren’t accurate snowfall averages, but it’s likely around 300” near the top (only a 3 month season). Big storms are ferocious and I’ve still never seen it snow as hard as I’ve seen it snow at Catedral.
That said, Catedral’s only drawback is its elevation. The base is 3,379 feet, the summit is 7,152 feet, and the latitude is only 41 degrees South of the equator (the equivalent of Northern California in northern hemisphere). This translates to some seasons with lots of rain down low. Which isn’t too big a problem, as all the best terrain is up high and it almost always snows up there.
What do you do in Bariloche when the snow isn’t good or when the mountain is closed on huge storm days? This is where Bariloche shines brightest. I’ve never been to a new world ‘ski town’ with so much to offer. Bariloche has over 200 restaurants along with a plethora of nightclubs, bars, casinos, and even brothels. The place lights up at night and the beautiful people come out play. Argentines are world renown for their beauty, large eyes, long eyelashes, and ability to have a good time. Brazilians are known to have a bit of fun as well and when the two come out in tourist-vactaion-force together, it can get wild. When the snow is bad on the hill, the times are still good in town.
I could go on about Bariloche and its people, culture, scenery, food, wine, ski terrain, snow, beer, flora, fauna, and fresh air, but I’ll leave it for another article. For now, you can be satisfied knowing that there is an amazing ski town in the middle-of-nowhere that has everything you’ve ever wanted.