Termas de Chillán
Southeast of Chillán, campgrounds, cabañas, and country-style restaurants line much of the paved highway to Valle Las Trancas, where a gravel road continues through southern beech forests for the last few kilometers to Termas de Chillán, the only southern Chilean ski resort that can match Portillo and Valle Nevado in terms of luxury accommodations and snowfall—while not so far above sea level as its northern counterparts, it enjoys a climate with generally higher precipitation.
Beneath the slopes of the 3,122-meter Volcán Chillán, at a base elevation of 1,600 meters, Termas de Chillán’s ski season extends from mid-June to mid-October. It is also a summer destination, though, thanks to its luxury lodgings and hot springs.
Termas de Chillán’s 28 separate ski runs range 90–700 meters in vertical drop, and 400–2,500 meters in length. For nonguests, lift tickets cost US$38 per person. Day-use admission to Termas de Chillán’s heated pools, open all year, costs US$17 per person for adults, US$13 for children; a full-day program including lunch costs US$35.
Accommodations and Food
For those who can’t afford to stay at the extravagant Hotel Termas de Chillán or its slightly cheaper neighbor, Pirigallo, Albergue Las Trancas (Km 73, tel. 042/243211 or 042/244628, www.vallelastrancas.cl, US$12–14 pp in summer) has rooms with 1–6 beds whose prices rise only moderately in ski season. Affiliated with Hostelling International, it’s a bargain in this resort area, especially for a hostelry with natural wood decor throughout and a homey fireplace in its restaurant and bar.
Hotel Parador Jamón, Pan y Vino (Km 74, Las Trancas, tel./fax 042/242316, US$78 d) offers hotel and cabaña accommodations set among sprawling lawns surrounding a swimming pool and a wading pool. It also has good food.
Also at Las Trancas, in a quiet woodsy setting just off the main highway, Hotel Robledal (Km 72.5, tel. 042/214407, www.hotelrobledal.cl, US$47/85 s/d with half board) has fine midsized rooms in a building that, despite its prefab exterior, is stylish enough inside. Rates are rather less in summer; the restaurant has very fine desserts, in particular.
In ski season, weekly accommodations at Termas de Chillán’s luxury Nuevo Hotel Pirigallo start at US$800 per person and reach US$1,800 per person, double occupancy with half board; rates include lift tickets and other amenities. Weekly four-to-a-room bunk accommodations range US$650–1,095 per person with half board, including lift tickets. At the even more sumptuous Gran Hotel Termas de Chillán, the range is US$1,050–3,800 per person weekly.
In summer, nightly hotel rates at the Pirigallo start at US$96 single, $160 double with full board; the Gran Hotel starts at US$147 single, $240 double, also with full board. Centro de Ski Termas de Chillán (San Pío X 2460, Providencia, tel. 02/2331313, fax 02/2315963, www.termaschillan.cl) also has a regional office (Panamericana Norte 3651, Chillán, tel. 042/434200).
Termas de Chillán is 82 kilometers east of the city of Chillán. In summer only, the resort offers its own transportation for US$25 per person from the city. At Chillán’s Terminal de Buses Interregionales, Línea Azul (tel. 042/211192) goes as far as Las Trancas at 8 a.m. daily, returning at 6 p.m.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition