Being from England, I’m used to bad weather in the summer… but to be standing on top of a mountain in a snowstorm in mid-August is a surreal experience!

Even a few days in to my week-long ski trip to Bariloche in Argentina, it still felt confusing to be donning layers of thermals and heading out into the mountains while my friends and family back in the UK were stoking up BBQs and lounging around in the sun.

The skiing

Bewilderment aside, skiing in Argentina is a truly wonderful experience. The Patagonian landscape is breathtaking; jagged snow-capped mountains, mercurial glacial lakes that change color with the weather, and miles and miles of uninterrupted terrain.

The Cerro Catedral ski area is big; in fact, it’s the biggest in South America. It also has INCREDIBLE views of Lake Nahuel Huapi. If you get lucky with a clear day you’ll see it, but even when the weather’s bad, occasionally the clouds let up and you’ll catch a glimpse of the lake like a mirage on the horizon. The slopes are not as manicured as those you’re likely to find skiing somewhere such as France – it’s more wild and unkempt – but I liked it! My favorites were the run down from the top of Nubes chairlift and Panoramico. See some of the scenery in my video here:

The weather

Be warned that the weather forecast at the top of the mountains is constantly changing. You might go into one of the refugios (cabins) on the mountain when the sun is shining, and when you leave 30 minutes later you won’t be able to see a thing for the roaring wind and heavy snowfall. For the first couple of days in Cerro Catedral it was hard to see anything more than 50cm ahead of me.

On the second day, as the weather closed in, we accidentally caught a lift right back up to the top of the mountain. The scene going down the slope was apocalyptic – freezing gusts of wind, people being blown over and a sheet of ice to ski down. Luckily the sun did finally come out the remainder of the week, and thanks to the heavy snowfall almost every evening, there was amazing fresh powder.

Preparing to ski

I can’t emphasize enough that you should hire your kit from the shops nearest to the lifts! They’re efficient, have a much better range of kit and aren’t that much more expensive. Do not get taken in by the ‘parking attendants’ who are actually touts for some of the worst shops. We made this mistake and paid for everything in advance so couldn’t change company. At the end of each day we had to return kit and, without fail, the next morning when we went to collect it, they had inevitably given away the skis, the boots or the helmets to different customers. I then had to go through the rigmarole of fitting it all again from scratch. Have a look around before deciding which company to choose and head towards the lifts – they seem far more professional and have a much broader selection!

Staying in Fabula Lake House

We stayed at Fabula Lake House, which is run by Walter, an ex-Italian pro-snowboarder turned chef turned hotelier, and his family. You need a car as it’s a bit further out of town, but the secluded location make it worth the effort. The house was designed by Walter’s wife, Myriam, and combines an idiosyncratic wooden frame with huge windows looking onto Lake Nahuel Huapi. Walter goes out every day in his boat (he doesn’t have a car) to buy fresh ingredients for hearty home-cooked meals, such as roasted beef or local trout, that are seasoned to perfection. It’s a magical place to stay and the family are great hosts. Sit by the roaring log fire, chat with other guests and gaze out over the lake. On a clear night, away from the light pollution of big cities, you can see the stars vibrant in the sky.

A day trip

After waiting several days for the sun to come out, when it finally did, the wind came with it. On one morning it was particularly fierce – a friendly local warned me that pretty much all of the chairlifts had been closed due to wind speeds of up to 85km/hour! So instead, we did a road trip to Villa La Angostoura, an upmarket ski town about an hour and a half from Bariloche. Driving through the national park, on one side you have the the lake with the snowy Andes behind, on the other almost desert-like scenery that extends further than the eye can see. In the town there are lots of independent shops and eateries, and a few miles further on there’s Puerto Manzano, where you can take a boat tour or hire a pedalo.

The town

The closest town to Cerro Catedral is Bariloche, which sits on the lake and has views of the mountains. As you walk through the streets you’ll notice the smell of chocolate fills the air – there’s a myriad of shops peddling the most exquisite sweet treats. I’ve already expounded my love of Rapa Nui, but the store in Bariloche is a chocaholics heaven. Warm up here with a hot chocolate after a long days skiing. Or sample one their enormous waffles with dulce de leche (an extremely sweet caramel like substance that Argentines go crazy for – they’ve literally got supermarket aisles dedicated to it). The town also has a great selection of cervecerias where you can sample home-brewed beers. When we went to Manush, it seemed a bit strange that they had a rope pulled across to stop you from entering without speaking to a staff member first, as if we were going into some swanky club. But when we left I understood – there was a queue of about 20 people waiting to get in! If you go early you won’t have to wait and you can enjoy their happy hour.

Have you ever skied in South America? What’s your favorite destination?