A few months into our round the world trip I was suffering serious shred withdrawals! We decided to hit the slopes in Chile and tick our second continent off on the snowboarding bucket list. All that was left to do was to decide on a resort. Naturally, we picked the one furthest away from civilisation.
Corralco is fairly new and in the years to come will probably turn in to a damm awesome resort. I’ll take it right now though, it’s cheerful, quiet and blissfully unaware of the hordes of skiers that will eventually head its way upon the development of 5* hotels. The nearby towns of Malalcahuello and Curacautin are traditional, unpaved villages reminiscent of the wild west. The local men dressed in their ponchos and chupalla hats adding to the effect.
Arriving at ‘Hostal y Cabanas el Coigue’ we were enamoured with the gravel driveway winding through the monkey puzzle trees dotted with secluded cabins. We were offered a room in the hostel or an entire cabaña for the same price. Another perk of visiting during September (a week we researched to avoid the school holidays and the Independence celebrations) is it’s mucho cheapo. Obviously we took a wooden cabaña and were not disappointed; exceptionally clean and spacious but with plenty of countryside charm.
As we’re travelling long term we didn’t have our own precious kit (oh Salomon Gypsy how I miss you!) to drag along to the slopes so were reliant on rentals. I knew it wouldn’t be great but I had severely underestimated the lack of quality, we checked out the kit at the actual resort as well as a few in town. After agreeing that ‘yes, it is all rubbish’ we went with the cheapest (by a long way). I’m not sure it has a name but you can’t miss this place, it’s a big white dome tent on the left side heading up the mountain and it weirdly has a climbing wall inside. After asking Gloria to adjust the bindings every which way possible then finding a pair of salopettes that kind of fitted we were ready to go, looking like we’d never boarded a day in our lives.
Other than the dates fitting in with our travel plans we picked September as it’s similar to spring conditions in Europe and there are also crazy discounts on midweek. Our first day was a write off as it snowed all day and the slopes were hidden in a cloud. But the next day (Tuesday) we were delighted to find it was 50% off list passes and the sun most definitely had his hat on!
The slopes were covered in a couple of inches of fresh pow and as soon as we got to grips with our heavy beginner boards we were floating off piste with goofy grins on our faces. At one point I pushed my plank of wood too far, stacked and did a few somersaults before landing upright, back on my feet with my tail sticking into the off piste black run like I was on a diving board, bouncing slightly. Laughing a little at my predicament I looked around for acknowledgment of my stupid fail. A lone boarder on the chair lift punched the air and shouted something which I obviously interpreted as “sick trick, you’re awesome”.
The runs are short and the chair lifts are slow but you are rewarded with stunning views of volcanos and empty runs. I’m not sure if it was because it was spring time but there were only a handful of skiers, it was the first boarder heavy resort I’ve seen. The other stand out attraction for me was that it is the happiest mountain I’ve ridden on; the lifties, restaurant staff and generally everyone out there was friendly, happy and polite! And needless to say there were no queues which was a delightful novelty for me. The lifty at the bottom chair made a big deal out of every single person getting on it, high fives and laughter throughout the entire day, I’m fairly certain he was drunk.
If you’re into back country then this place won’t disappoint, in fact it’s only really good for beginners or experts. Going from wide open greens and blues to crazy blacks and huge natural off piste half pipes with not much in between. We could spot some tracks off in the distance and it made me wish I was on touring skis, something that doesn’t happen often. I would imagine split boarding would be awesome but you would have to take your own. There is a short poma that takes you high up near the peak and provides spectacular views but is heavily affected by the wind. If you do make it up there you will have a funtastic descent down either a black run or off piste.
Now, as it’s Chile and they haven’t quite worked out tourism or marketing yet there isn’t that much information on what else to do but if you ask a local or check out a map you will see a plethora of thermal spas, hikes and beautiful waterfalls to check out. Personally, on the white out days I loved just chilling out in the forest cabana with the log fire blazing or walking through the rustic, traditional towns nearby. Opting to have lunch on on our lazy day we were incredulous when, just as we’d sat down to eat, there was a knock on the door. We opened it to find one of the hostel staff there, in the freezing cold snow carrying freshly baked bread for us. This is the kind of hospitality you can expect from the whole of Chile. Everywhere we stayed people went above and beyond.
It can be difficult to travel around Chile, especially if you take your own ski/snowboard kit (recommended). Hiring a car is one way to go but can get pricey, we had to go with a Suzuki Alto…..yeah. Hitch hiking is common and easy but again with kit it’s highly impractical. After meeting a few travellers we realised you can buy a pretty decent van and sell it afterwards. This is cheaper, less restrictive on time and means you can potentially sleep in it during the spring conditions. The added freedom means you can follow the snow, it’s something we’d like to do next time we come back, I can’t wait!