Ski and Wine Tour
A group of 14 participants left Washington DC Dulles Airport on a very hot afternoon with skis, boots and heavy coats for a trip to the Andes mountain in Chile, South America. Tour guide Paola (our tour guide for all tours) meet us at the airport and guided us during the bus ride to Valle Nevado resort. The usual 2 hour trip took about 4 hours because higher up the mountain new snow on the road and chains were required. The road (on lane in places) to Valle Nevado was beautiful, a road with 60 (signs indicating the number) 180 switchback curves, not counting the 90 degrees curves. Along the road was cactuses and mimosa trees in bloom, some almond trees also in bloom, further up was nothing but rocks.
The resort at Valle Nevado is located at approximately 10,000 feet. Hotel Puerta Del Sol was a very comfortable hotel and right on the slopes. Included was breakfast in the hotel restaurant every morning, also included was dinner which we could have at any of the 5 restaurants in the resort, some specialized in French, Italian and Chilean food.
A few World Cup Alpine ski teams were at the resort practicing(American, Swedish, Austrian and Norwegian, as well as the Canadian para-olympic ski team). Overnight temperature of 12 degrees made the snow so hard and icy, that most of us started skiing mid morning when the snow got softer, plenty of snow and runs for everyone to have a good day skiing. Late afternoon it became spring skiing, temperatures in the 40 degree range. The tour guide Paola picked us up after 6 days on the mountain and we headed to Santiago for a city tour, including a lunch at the Mercado Central de Santiago. Late afternoon we checked in to the Hotel Plaza San Francisco, big comfortable rooms. I had arranged to have the ski club group dinner this evening at the hotel restaurant. The dinner was very appreciated by the group, an excellent dinner. Earlier in the evening, most everyone did feel the 4.8 earthquake with the epic center about 2 hours north of Santiago.
Next day a tour of Valparaiso, a UNESCO heritage port city on the coast of the Pacific. About an hour and half drive from Santiago. The drive was pretty with woods of Mimosa (bright yellow) threes in full bloom as well as Almond (white/pink) trees in bloom. Valparaiso is like a “bowl” harbor at the bottom, neighborhoods built on 42 hills around the harbor, the houses are all painted in a different pastel color. Tour continued along the coast to Vina Del Mar, a modern affluent city with a sandy beach that stretched for miles. We had a great lunch at a restaurant looking out over the Pacific, seeing seals playing in the surf.
The following day we toured the Casablanca Valley and two wine yards. The first was a Chilean / American owned wine yard called Kingston. The back ground and history of the wine yard and the presentation of different wines produced there I found very nice and interesting.
My first experience of “vertical” wine tasting, one glass in each hand, tasting alternatively. We were offered cheese and chocolate / truffle to taste with the wines. The second wine yard was a short drive away, called Bodegas RE. First we had a tour of the wine yard, the fields, the cellar and shown the different kinds of barrels holding the wine during production and aging, etc. We stayed in the wine cellar for an outstanding lunch which included the presentation of the wine and tastings to go with the 4 course lunch. Excellent. Last day of our trip was to be spent on your own in Santiago, after check out. Most of the group went to a place called Los Dominicos, a permanent market selling all sorts of high quality handcrafted goods.
Everyone made it back to the hotel in time for transportation to the airport and back home. Conclusion, good weather, good snow, good wine and a very good group of participants, it was a great trip.
Anneli Sexton Trip Leader