Most visitors see Ushuaia in summer, but it’s also becoming a winter sports center given its proximity to the mountains. Downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and even dogsledding are possibilities.
The major ski event is mid-August’s Marcha Blanca, which symbolically repeats Argentine liberator José de San Martín’s winter crossing of the Andes from Mendoza to assist his Chilean counterpart Bernardo O’Higgins against the Spaniards. Luring upwards of 400 skiers, it starts from the Las Cotorras cross-country area and climbs to Paso Garibaldi, the 430-meter pass between the Sierra Alvear and the Sierra Lucas Bridges.
Ideally, it takes place August 17, the anniversary of San Martín’s death. (Argentine novelist Tomás Eloy Martínez has called his countrymen “cadaver cultists” for their apparent obsession with celebrating the death dates rather than the birth dates of their national icons.)
There are two downhill ski areas. The aging Centro de Deportes Invernales Luis Martial (Luis Martial 3995, tel. 02901/15-61-3890 or 02901/15-56-8587, esquiush [at] tierradelfuego [dot] org [dot] ar), seven kilometers northwest of town at the end of the road, has a single 1,130-meter run on a 23-degree slope, with a double-seat chairlift capable of carrying 224 skiers per hour.
East of Ushuaia, Cerro Castor (RN 3 Km 27, www.cerrocastor.com) has up-to-the- minute facilities, including four lifts and 15 different runs. In high season (July), lift tickets cost US$28–41 per day, with discounts for multiday packages; in low and shoulder seasons, there are additional discounts.
Other areas east of town, along RN 3, are for cross-country skiers. These include Tierra Mayor (Km 21, tel. 02901/43-7454, www.tierramayor.com), Las Cotorras (Km 26, tel. 02901/49-9300), Haruwen (Km 35, tel./fax 02901/43-1099, www.haruwen.com.ar), and several newer options. All of them rent equipment and offer transfers from Ushuaia.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition