The struggle is real. Digging out the top lodge at Catedral after an August Storm. Ben Girardi photo.
Argentina and Chile are the two most common countries for skiing in South America. The winter in Chile and Argentina is during the North American summer months between the end of June and beginning of October. That said, skiing conditions in Argentina and Chile can vary dramatically during that timeframe. Thanks to running a guided backcountry program in Argentina for the past 11 seasons, we have come to realize that the most consistent snowfall tends to be during the entire month of August. If you are planning a trip to South America to ski or snowboard, we most highly recommend booking your trip during the month of August. Not only does that give you the best chance at some powder days, it also gets you out of North America during the hottest time of the year, a serious bonus for those of us that would take winter over summer any day of the week. This also gives the mountains enough time to build a significant base, something that will certainly affect the terrain you'll be accessing.
When picking the perfect time of year to ski in South America, it is important to consider the type of skiing you are planning on doing. If you are a family looking for on-piste terrain with good coverage, July can be excellent. But if you are looking to push into bigger terrain and potentially out into the backcountry, waiting for the season to get going is a good call. The Andes are known for high alpine terrain accentuated by dramatic rock features. If you are planning on taking full advantage of the vast terrain, it is highly recommended to wait until August before showing up.
South American snow storms also become more consistent as July leads into August. This is obviously great for powder days and soft snow, but can mean that you are shut out of the high alpine during the biggest storms in Patagonia. At SASS, we moved our base of operations from Las Leñas to Bariloche thanks to the incredible tree skiing at Catedral, South America’s largest ski resort. Most ski areas in South America do not have a lot of options below treeline which makes storm days pretty much impossible to enjoy at those resorts.
If your goal is backcountry skiing in South America, any time between the beginning of August and mid September is going to be best. As the calendar turns to September snow storms become less frequent and bluebird days are more common, but significant storms still roll through. This is when you could be lucky enough to experience the Santa Rosa storm Cycle known throughout South America for its intensity. If you are looking to head deep into the backcountry in the Andes, it might make the most sense to hold off until September, and if your goal is some of the bigger summits in the Andes waiting until spring (end of September and even October).
We run our flagship SASS Argentina program from July 30th through August 27th to take advantage of the best and most consistent snow conditions. During this time we are able to push out into the backcountry, enjoy the high alpine and hit the lower trees during storms. Our clients are looking to push their skiing and riding into bigger terrain and this gives us the ability to show them those zones when they are at their best.
If you were wondering what the best time of year is to ski in the southern hemisphere, chances are you are looking to get the most out of your ski or snowboard trip. As guides, we know where the best snow is on any given day and pride ourselves with having the extensive knowledge necessary to show you to the terrain you are looking for starting day one. Showing up at a new mountain in a foreign country on your own on a powder day will no doubt be fun, but not knowing where to go will be no fun. We know from experience, having someone show you to the best of the goods is the way to take full advantage of the day and of your trip.
Also keep an eye out for updates about SASS Chile slated for early September…