The desert set the bar pretty high for the rest of the vacation, but we followed up with a great ski trip. After a two flight back to Santiago, we drove up to the lovely Chilean ski resort, Valle Nevado. As the crow flies, the resort is only about 40 miles away from the capital city, but the road is a bit of an adventure. It twists and turns its way up into the Andes with 60 switchbacks (which are helpfully numbered). The road itself is also tiny so that often times our car had to stop to give oncoming traffic the room required to make a wide turn. We had a loquacious driver, which Michele naturally enjoyed, and then had the distinct pleasure of trying to rent ski equipment for the kids, which is always a joy, but we managed to get through it all and arrived at the resort in one piece.
Valle Nevado is nestled right in the foothills of the Andes mountains. Amazingly the resort’s base is at 10,000 ft above sea level. For comparison, the base of Vail is 8.2k and Squaw’s base is at 6.2k with a peak is just above 9k ft. The skiable peaks at Valle Nevado are at about 14k feet and the nearby mountains rise to 17k plus, making for some dramatic scenery.
The resort is a collection of hotels along with a small village comprised of a couple of restaurants and shops. The entire set up was incredibly convenient. Our hotel was right on the mountain and had its own ski and boot room to gear up every morning. Our room was a bit cozy and Michele particularly enjoyed sharing one bathroom with the kids. The restaurants were really excellent including French, Italian and Chilean cuisine, along with the standard ski town fare. The nice places were actually quite swanky and as part of our package, we had a buffet lunch every day that featured a full Chilean barbecue. I must admit that I became pretty fond of the ida of a nice glass of wine being served with lunch. Much more relaxing than horking down a burger with 10,000 other folks at one of the mid mountain lodges in the states.
Perhaps the most important thing for us was that kids really learned to ski on this vacation. We had taken them skiing previously, but having them ski every day for 6 days enabled them to really turn the corner. Kate went from screaming in terror when facing a steep hill to zooming down the same hill without stopping. Jake really threw himself into learning to ski and was able to rocket down the slopes, though perhaps his control was lacking. Kate was more methodical in her approach, slower but more controlled. A great metaphor for kids in general and how different they can be.
The kids took a lesson each morning and we were lucky to have a great teacher in Claudia. We would meet up afterwards for lunch and then they’d return to the slopes together with Michele and me for some afternoon skiing. Skiing with my kids is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. I am very much looking forward to many years of it. After ski was really terrific as the best place was part of our hotel, so we spent quite a bit of time in the bar/lounge playing truco and enjoying some apres ski drinks.
After a few days on the mountain and some less than stellar conditions, we decided to decamp for the capital city of Santiago and the comfort of two separate hotel rooms. Santiago is dramatically different from Buenos Aires. Much more orderly and calm. It’s kind of like a larger version of Portland; mellow and proudly so. Highlights included a nice local meal at Confiteria Torres where I got to try the famous Chilean corn pie, Patio Bellavista which is a central shopping, restaurant and tourist area, the funicular to the hills above the city and strolling through the boho district nearby, enjoying the street art and book shops. It was a great end to a wonderful vacation.
With our big vacation behind us, we are now focused on the second half of the school year. Michele and I put on a little play for Kate to get her excited about getting back to school which seems to have been successful. Jake’s protestations are more muted and infrequent. When we returned to BA we made it a point to visit some of our favorite places which was both fun and comforting. All and all we are happy and energized to back in our adopted home.