Spotlight on: Las Lenas
Las Lenas is arguably Argentina's top ski destination and is renowned across the world for its incredible off piste terrain.
The Marte Chair at the top of the mountain offers some of the best lift-served off piste of anywhere in the world, but be warned that the lift is prone to closure – by anything from high winds and avalanche danger to the mysterious “A-Factor”, which is the local’s term for seemingly no reason at all! Despite its hardcore reputation the resort has a wide variety of slopes for all standards, although be sure to take a set of low-light lenses as the resort lacks tree runs for those white-out days.
The purpose built resort has a real buzz about it, particularly on a powder day and during the Argentine and Brazilian holidays in July. With a relatively long trip from Buenos Aires (14 hours by bus or a charter flight) or Mendoza (6 hours by bus) it means many people stay for extended periods of time and most of them are up for a party. As a result the resort hosts some pretty legendary nightlife, often not kicking off until 2am and running until as late as 6am. Try to catch first lifts, but don’t worry if you’d rather lie in as the lifts run later than at many resorts and don’t close until 5pm.
Las Lenas has some of the best lift-served off piste terrain in the Southern Hemisphere.Image: Ski South America
The great backcountry attracts some of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders
The resort’s facilities and accommodation lie right on the slopes. Image: Ski South America
Las Lenas also offers a good variety of wide open groomed intermediate slopes
Ski AreaAltitude: 2240-3240m
Slopes: 1403 acres (plus almost limitless backcountry terrain)
If you’re a beginner do not be put off by the resort’s hardcore reputation. An excellent kid’s and learner area can be found below the Venus I and Venus II lifts, with wide and low angle slopes backed up by a comprehensive snowmaking system. For those looking to progress, the wide blues off the Minerva II and Caris quad chairs provide the perfect place to test your skills. South America’s only night skiing is even available on the Minerva II lift if you fancy extending your ski day past 5pm (especially if you had a slow start in the morning after a long night…).
For intermediates there is a good selection of blues and reds, including the opportunity to ski over 1000 vertical metres via the Apolo, Jupiter and Neptuno pistes off the Marte Chair. Another area worth heading towards is at the far end of the resort and the Vulcano chair, with its excellent and snowsure reds. Hiring one of the 200 instructors from the excellent English-speaking ski school, will only further your progression and may help you find some of the resort’s hidden gems.
Despite catering for all levels, it is the world-class advanced and expert terrain that attracts most international visitors. With almost 6.5m of snowfall a year the chances of fresh tracks are high, especially if you are in resort during low season. Most of the best terrain is accessed by the Marte Chair, but if this is closed then some great off piste can be found off the top of the Caris or Vulcano chairs.
However if the Marte is open then your options are almost limitless, especially if you hire a local guide. Some of the most famous lines run directly from the top of the Marte and return back to the resort’s lift system – Eduardo’s, Paradiso and Billboard. Others such as Cerro Collar, Necklace Bowl and Valle Hermoso require a hike in or a hike out – so taking your skins or a splitboard will massively increase the amount of terrain you can access. Again always take local advice, speak to the ski patrol or hire a guide before tackling these routes.
A decent park served by the Minerva I lift will keep all but the top freestylers happy. It has a good range of rails and other jibs as well as a number of jumps for all but the biggest tricks. If you are looking for those bigger jumps then head off piste and hit one of the numerous natural features or build a kicker in some of the resort’s famous backcountry.
Where to stay and what to do?The purpose built resort of Las Lenas sits above the treeline and although its location is stunning, the resort itself won’t win many prizes for its looks. However, the buildings are very convenient and all of the amenities you could need are within a quick walk of your accommodation and the lifts.
There are eight hotels to choose from, ranging from the 5* Hotel Piscis to the Hostel Lenas, providing a great range of accommodation. Several hotels have exclusive spas and excellent facilities – particularly the Piscis which boasts both an indoor and outdoor pool. For those looking for a self-catered holiday, there is wide range of apartments to rent in resort as well as a well-stocked (albeit expensive) supermarket.
Las Lenas is famous for its nightlife, which often begins with a drink on one the sun terraces in town, such as outside the Innsbruck Hotel at the base of the slopes. Dinner options are then varied, with excellent Argentinian and international cuisine offered in most of the hotel restaurants.
As Las Lenas sits in the famous wine-producing region of Mendoza, the wines on offer are not only excellent but also good value – look out in particular for malbec reds. Be warned that dinner is served late in Argentina and starting to eat at 10pm is not uncommon, so don’t turn up at 7pm expecting dinner as you would in North America or the Alps! As a result the nightlife doesn’t kick off until at least midnight and then runs right through until the sun comes up. In town there is a great selection of bars, clubs and even a small casino to keep you going right through the night, but do make sure that you’re awake for first tracks the following morning!
This year’s annual Snow Fashion show has been set for the 26th June 2016. The show attracts models and designers from all over the world and is one of the most glamorous and exclusive events of the Las Lenas calendar.