Advantages Better terrain than El colorado
Disadvantages Further away from the hostels
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Lets get one thing straight from the word go. Visiting these resorts isn't going to be your average week on the slopes. A holiday here is going to be as much about visiting South America as going skiing, and whatever method you use to get here, it is going to be a very different from spending a week getting shepherded round the Alps by a spotty-faced rep in a brightly coloured shirt.The area.
Accommodation in La Parva is limited and hard to find out about.
There is almost nothing in the way of big apartments or hotels in either El Colorado or La Parva, most of the property is either chalet style buildings which I suspect are owned by wealthy Chileans or the original Andean stone/wooden buildings. I have never stayed in La Parva, which as far as I know has no budget accomodation. If I was going with my family now, and wanted something midrange I think I would try and book from Santiago upon arrival, and I wouldn't be confident about finding anything in La Parva. Possibly Valle Nevado would be a better place to start looking - it certainly has more hotels.
Going as a backpacker, your best (only?) option is to stay in the hostel in Farellonnes and commute to La Parva by skilift, bus, or hitchhiking, which is the transport method of choice up in the mountains.
The Farellonnes hostel is engraved forever in my memory. Its a big stone building hacked into the hillside for protection from the winter storms, and must be over a hundred years old. It is built to last from local stone and massive wooden beams and has a number of 6 or 8 bed dorms, as well as a few odd double rooms. The facilities are pretty hardcore, with heating and running water clearly having been added when they became available. The dormitory-style rooms are dark and traditional, and each bed has a number of extra blankets on to help keep out the cold. The showers are run from gas boilers, which you will have to light yourself in the morning, and boy oh boy is the tiled shower room ever cold. The communal area upstairs is great - huge and complete with table tennis, a balcony, and a massive open fire. Internet access is at a pub about 4 doors up the street, and the lowest lift is about 10 mins walk further up. Downstairs is the kitchen and a big eating area, where the family who own the hostel take their meals. They will cook include enough food for guests as well for a small price, but these are served at set times which may not be compatible with your apres ski requirements. Unfortunately, I can't remember the name of the place - maybe its the university hostel? There is only one though. so you cant miss it - just ask for the hostel on arrival in the town.
Ski and board hire is no problem, but you will probably be hiring old equipment. The ski shop at the base of the lift is friendly, helpful, and english speaking. If you are going to make a big trip round Chile, there are 2 or 3 big ski/snowboard retailers in Santiago, most of which you will drive past on the way from the city centre to the resorts. The kit will be considerably cheaper than Europe, (Andorra excluded) and less than a year old. Back at La Parva, eating arrangements are a small shop close by the lifts, from where you can get bread, cheese and snacks. The alternative is a ski-restaurant which would be up the mountain in europe, but is located next to the beginners slopes here. Ideal if you need to keep an eye on your kids, I imagine.
On piste, several of the European national ski teams come here to train, and some of the pistes are sometimes watered to make them faster for the race training. There is a snowboard park in El Colorado and a decent halfpipe in Valle Nevado, but nothing in La Parva, which is fine as there are plenty of natural hits if the snow is good.And the snow can be VERY good. The resorts are high up in the Andes but relatively close to the coast, so a big storm can give you 50cms or so of snow in a couple of days or less. The photo I have included was a car parked in 3 inches of snow 24 hours earlier. Now that was a good day.
Apres ski there is, so far as I am aware, nothing at all in La Parva. If you are lucky, (and can speak spanish) one of the lift attendants will let you use your La Parva pass to get a ride on the lifts over to El Colorado, where the main lift station restaurant is the place to be for Apres ski. A real bonus with an apres-ski session here is that once you know the resort you can then ride down the slopes to Farellonnes. Time it right and you get to see the sun setting over Santiago whilst you are riding down. The whole sky turns red, the snow on the surrounding peaks turns pink and then purple, and then the lights of Santiago start to twinkle down in the blackness of the valley. With the right level of inebriation, this can seem like a life-changingly awe inspiring view. Stay for a couple too many, however, and you will find that the dark combines with your your alcohol-impaired balance to leave you almost totally unable to move your board, laughing at yourself and your friends as you roll around on the piste like fools, looking for all the world like a beginners lesson on laughing gas. Never try this route to get a girl home from the pub on your back - it just isn't possible.
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