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Snow Going: If You Just Have to Ski...

By Carolyn Spencer Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 12, 1998; Page E09

While the Northern Hemisphere copes with its annual heat wave, the air conditioning is purely au naturel in the Southern Hemisphere--which means that at ski resorts in New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Chile, the powder's thick, the temperature's frosty and many lifts are running.

Of course, there are closer, easier and cheaper ways to beat the heat, but few will earn you as many frequent-flier miles.

Package tours, which include air fare from Los Angeles, for trips to New Zealand and Australia range from $1,600 to $2,500; to Chile and Argentina, with departure from Miami, prices are $1,900 to $4,600, per person. Add round-trip air from Washington.

The possibilities: New Zealand

The Season: Mid-May to late October

Where to Go: On the south island, Cardrona Alpine Resort, between Queenstown (the Aspen of New Zealand) and Wanaka, consists of three mostly intermediate areas; an expert's exception is Arcadia, the middle basin, the site of the New Zealand Extreme Skiing Championships. Thirty miles from Wanaka is Treble Cone, with the South Island's steepest vertical drop (2,165 feet). Mount Hutt, 1 1/2 hours from Queenstown, has the longest season; skiable snow usually lasts until early November. On the north island, Mount Ruapehu is an active volcano (there've been no eruptions since last July); it's the biggest ski area in New Zealand.

Information: New Zealand Tourism Board, 1-800-388-5494, or


The Season: Early June to mid-October

Where to Go: Prime ski territory is centered on the Australian Alps National Parks on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. In New South Wales, major resorts include Thredbo, which has the country's longest run (3 1/2 miles) and Perisher Blue; it's the Southern Hemisphere's largest, with 50 lifts that can carry about 47,000 people an hour. Both are located just over 300 miles from Sydney. In Victoria, ski resorts are a 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-hour drive from Melbourne; notable are Mount Buller, where athletes train, and Mount Hotham, famed for great powder and off-the-map runs.

Information: "Aussie help line,'' 805-775-2000, or


The Season: Late June to late September

Where to Go: Bariloche's Cerro Catedral, a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires, is not the only ski destination in Argentina's southern Andes, but it offers incredible variety--restaurants, heli-skiing, rafting, mountaineering, nightlife and, oh yes, skiing. Serious skiers prefer Valle de Las Lenas, outside of Mendoza in central Argentina (90 minutes by air from Buenos Aires), which is more rugged--and less touristed. Most lodgings there are ski-in, ski-out, located within a couple hundred yards of a lift.

Information: Argentina Government Tourist Information, 212-603-0443, or


The Season: Early July through September

Where to Go: Expert skiers head to Portillo, a remote, self-contained resort 90 miles from Santiago, where 70 percent of trails are geared to advanced skiers, 20 percent to expert skiers and the rest--well, you do the math. A "serious skier" destination, Portillo, a 2 1/2-hour drive from Santiago, offers few social distractions. People stay at the on-site hotel or adjacent lodges. Valle Nevado, a slicker, pricier Chilean resort, is geared to the more casual skier, though its 22,000 acres and 25 runs are designed for all skill levels. Resort facilities include five-star hotels and live entertainment.

Information: Chilean Embassy, 202-785-1746, or

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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