5 Southern Hemisphere ski destinations to keep you sane this summer

Southern Hemisphere ski destinations summer feature
Retired U.S. Ski Team racer and World Cup veteran turned big-mountain skier Daron Rahlves says, “The world-class ski terrain in Portillo (Chile) is better than anywhere.” Photo: Courtesy of Ski Portillo/Jesse James Hoffman

Summer has long been synonymous with vacation. But for skiers, summertime is often little more than heartache dressed in a sweaty tank top. If endless winter is more your style, here are five Southern Hemisphere ski destinations guaranteed to do wonders for your mental health during the hottest months of the year.

Las Leñas, Mendoza, Argentina

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Las Leñas is located high in the Argentinian Andes — 11,253 feet high — and its season spans from June to October. With a 3,937-foot vertical drop and an astonishing 17,500 skiable acres — much of it off-piste — Las Leñas is one of South America’s largest ski resorts. The Marte lift provides access to an expansive array of “extreme” steeps, bowls and chutes, and backcountry opportunities are titanic for those who prefer to travel under their own steam.

Dubbed “Argentina’s Napa Valley” by The New York Times, the Mendoza region is also renowned for its malbecs and brilliant culinary scene.

Wanaka/Queenstown, Otago, New Zealand

With four world-class ski resorts in daytrip range of these small cities (separated by just 43 miles and a few fierce switchbacks) this region of Otago, New Zealand — in the heart of the Southern Alps — is quite literally a skier’s paradise from June through September.

Treble Cone, just northwest of Wanaka, offers breathtaking views, 1,359 acres of diverse terrain, and the second greatest vertical drop in the country (2,297 feet). It’s the largest resort in the region. A Flexi Pass will get you access to both “TC” and Cardrona Alpine Resort, home of the Audi quattro Winter Games, which boasts 852 skiable acres and “the most extensive park and pipe facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.”

The Remarkables and Coronet Peak are the two closest resorts to Queenstown, New Zealand’s lively and picturesque adventure hub. You can access both with a Queenstown Superpass or mypass, which is also valid at Mt. Hutt in Canterbury. Between The Remarkables and Coronet Peak, you have more than 1,200 acres at your disposal, just a half-hour’s drive from downtown. When you’re not on the slopes, you can skydive, bungee jump, go whitewater rafting or enjoy some spectacular locally-brewed beer.

Portillo, Valparaíso Region, Chile

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Ski Portillo, located in the Andes northeast of Santiago, Chile, is where Olympians from the U.S., Canada, Austria and more go to train during the summer.

“Ski Portillo has beckoned skiers and adventurers from all over the globe to venture below the equator in search of South American skiing and riding since 1949,” writes resort spokesperson Greg Fitzsimmons. “Ski Portillo’s atmosphere is one of its timeless and alluring attributes. Encircled by famous lines and breathtaking off-piste terrain, Ski Portillo boasts something for all abilities and levels; however, its steeps are world renowned.”

With a maximum elevation of 10,860 feet and a 2,500-foot vertical drop, the entire resort is well above tree line and the snow quality is comparable to that of the Rockies. Fourteen lifts provide access to 1,235 acres of cruisey groomers and challenging chutes; helicopters allow experts to ski untouched backcountry powder.

It’s best to go between July and October.

Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia

Falls Creek sits between Mount Bogong and Mount Feathertop (the two highest peaks in Victoria) in the Australian Alps. Topping out at 6,066 feet in elevation, “Falls” has 92 runs spread across 1,111 acres of skiable terrain (83 percent of which is rated as intermediate and advanced) and a vertical drop of 1,247 feet.

The state’s largest resort also operates the most extensive snowmaking system on the continent and holds fast to strict environmental policies. But what really makes Falls Creek a standout is the vibe: It’s consistently described as family friendly and “chill,” with noteworthy food and après in the village.

As the training ground for the Aussie national cross-country ski team, Falls Creek also offers more than 40 miles of cross-country trails.

The resort is open from June 11 to October 2, 2016, but we suggest going in late August, which is at the tail-end of peak season and when the base is historically the deepest.

Valle Nevado, Santiago, Chile

If you’re pining for the French Alps in August, head to Valle Nevado, just outside of Santiago, Chile. Valle Nevado resort feels Euro because it was built by some French folks in the late ’80s. The resort says that its 2,200 acres of terrain (the majority of which is rated as advanced and expert) see 310 sunny days each year. At a max altitude of 12,041 feet, you’re going to need your SPF 50.

Valle Nevado says, “Our terrain has it all: bumps, jumps, powder, groomed tracks and backcountry” — you can even hop on a helicopter right at the resort for a taste of the wild Andes. Valle Nevado joins La Parva and El Colorado resorts to form the Tres Valles (Three Valleys) of the Andes. OnTheSnow calls it “one of Chile’s best developed resorts,” with plenty of dining and lodging options from July through October.

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