Near the end of a winding mountain highway, 2,240 meters above sea level, self-contained Las Leñas is Argentina’s most exclusive ski resort. Because of its isolation, most visitors come on week-long package tours. That said, it’s close enough to Malargüe and Los Molles that even some shoestring skiers can afford to spend the day—especially when the resort offers half-price lift tickets to those lodging in nearby towns during ski season.
Open mid-June to early October, Las Leñas claims 40 separate runs, the longest of which exceeds four kilometers, with a maximum elevation of 3,430 meters; there are seven chairlifts, the steepest of which gains 786 meters, and four other lifts. Slopes range from easy to very difficult, and there is even one sector with restricted access where helmets are obligatory. Some of the runs are lighted for night skiing, and there is a ski school with instruction in Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese.
In addition, Las Leñas enjoys an active nightlife, with pubs, discos, cinemas, and casinos, and it even has its own radio station (specializing in bland Anglo-pop). It’s trying to make itself into a year-round destination as well, offering nonwinter activities like rafting, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, tennis, paddleball, volleyball, and basketball.
Las Leñas is 445 kilometers south of Mendoza via RN 40, RN 143, RN 144, and RP 222 (note that the rough unpaved segment of RN 40 south of Pareditas makes the longer paved detour via RN 143 and RN 144 more desirable, especially in winter). It is 204 kilometers southwest of San Rafael via RN 144, RN 40, and RP 222, and also 70 kilometers northwest of Malargüe, also via RN 40 and RP 222.
Prices for lift tickets vary throughout the ski season, which runs from mid-June to early October. For the most current figures, see the Las Leñas website (www.laslenas.com). Children and seniors get a roughly 30 percent discount, while skiers lodged in Malargüe get a 50 percent discount.
Lifts operate 9 a.m.–5 p.m. daily and sometimes at night when lighting is available. Rental equipment, including snowboards, is readily available.
Las Leñas has five four-star luxury hotels (tel. 02627/471100 for all) with capacity for 740 skiers, plus apart-hotel accommodations for another 2,219. Since it’s oriented toward package tours in ski season, this is obviously not a drop-in situation, but when things are slow in summer it’s possible to stay at places like Hotel Géminis and Aparthotel Delphos (www.maxisol.com.ar) for as little as US$25 pp.
Las Leñas’s five hotels all have restaurants, but there are also Johnny’s Restaurant and Innsbruck (tel. 02627/47-1100, ext. 1205), which also delivers from a menu that’s primarily pasta and sandwiches.
Las Leñas’s on-site Oficina de Informes (tel. 02627/47-1100, ext. 1241 or 1243) is open 9 a.m.–8 p.m. daily. Its Buenos Aires contact is Ski Leñas (Cerrito 1186, 8th floor, tel. 011/4816-6999, www.laslenas.com).
In season, Aerolíneas Argentinas operates charters from Buenos Aires to Malargüe, including transfers to and from Las Leñas. There is seasonal bus service from Mendoza and San Rafael, and year-round service from Malargüe.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition