Los Penitentes Ski Resort Argentina
Los Penitentes is a mid-sized ski resort that’s located just inside Argentina, only a snowball’s throw away from Portillo Chile
. The Penitentes ski resort is dwarfed by the towering Andean peaks that surround the area, including Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the western hemisphere.
The name Los Penitentes (the Penitents) is potentially derived from “nieves penitentes” which are thin blades of packed snow that can be as tall as a couple of metres. These snow formations are somewhat common to Andean areas above 4,000 metres. They supposedly look like penitent monks going to prayer whilst wearing their pointy hats (I think someone chewed on too many coca leaves or was suffering in the thin air when they came up with that one?!). Others say the name of the ski resort comes from the jagged spires of the rock walls of the imposing and rugged Cerro Penitentes.
Penitentes Ski and Snowboard Terrain
The ski area sits above the tree line and has lift-accessed terrain between elevations of 8,460 feet (2,579m) and 10,479 feet (3,190 metres). The ski resort offers 300 hectares of terrain and 25.5km of trails which are serviced by 10 slow lifts, many of which are drag lifts.
The base area has three little beginner runs (20% of the piste terrain). Most novices will be better served at Los Puquios, the family ski area just down the road. Intermediates get 30% of the runs, most of which are more or less groomed, whilst 50% of the trails are red for advanced riders.
The ski area also has lots of expert lines and little couloirs that can be reached via a traverse from the top ridge chair, and those with an AT set-up can tour to their heart’s content. Much of the terrain is very avalanche prone after storms, particularly from slides that start way above the ski area.
The snow at Penitentes has many similarities to that at Portillo
, so it can vary from dry powder to sun burnt snot or ice. However the Penitentes ski resort is about 100 metres lower than Portillo, so cover is sometimes lacking near the base, but they have a couple of snow cannons to complement Mother Nature’s work.
The Penitentes ski resort also has a small terrain park, but it has a reputation for not being well maintained.
Where is Los Penitentes?
Los Penitentes ski resort sits (almost literally!) on the trans-Andean international highway Ruta 7 between Santiago
in Chile and Mendoza in Argentina. Penitentes is 183km west of Mendoza and only 25km from the Chile border. Portillo Chile is only 30km (19 miles) to the west, whilst Los Puquios ski area is only 4.5km to the east.
There is regular bus transport to Penitentes from either Mendoza or Santiago. Be aware that the road over the Andes can be closed during and after a storm, and that the border crossing through Los Libertadores tunnel can be time consuming.
Los Penitentes Village
The base village can sleep about 2,000 guests in a range of accommodation including apartments, hotels, hosterias (guest houses) and very inexpensive hostels. Many of the Penitentes accommodations are ski-in ski-out or very close to it, and have their own restaurants and bars. The village also has a disco.
Whilst the vistas of the towering peaks are rather majestic, the village lacks a little atmosphere, largely because it is situated right on the highway where big trucks rumble past day and night.
Why Ski or Snowboard at Los Penitentes?
Los Penitentes is frequented by skiers and snowboarders from Mendoza and Buenos Aires. For international visitors, Penitentes may not be awesome as a multi-day destination resort. However it’s got some great challenging terrain that’s good to sample for a couple of days if you’re driving between Portillo and Las Lenas or other parts of Argentina. Or Penitentes is good for a day trip if you’re on a wine fiesta based in Mendoza.
There are no crowds at Los Penitentes and the lift tickets and accommodation are pretty cheap. The lifts are in no hurry at Penitentes and you’ll also get into the laid back attitude of mañana, manana.