It’s incredibly easy to avoid trees when skiing in the mountains outside of Santiago, because there aren’t any. As someone who grew up zig-zagging through snowy pine trees on the east coast of the US and has since graduated to bigger mountains with even more trees in the Sierras, a completely bare ski slope just looks … wrong.

Ski resorts have trees. Sometimes they’re sparse and sometimes they’re covered in snow and sometimes they’re actually hidden rocks, but the point is, they exist. Of course, open spaces also exist. I’m not saying that you always have to navigate through the trees, just that you have the option if you want to. Exhibit A: a collection of photos from Lake Tahoe, Whistler, and Mont Tremblant, with my primary point being the ubiquitous evergreens on North American ski slopes.

El Colorado ski resort outside of Santiago is not that at all. The most prominent features are the ski lifts and the wooden fences they use to demarcate the different ski runs, and the main impression you’re left with is the stark baldness of the mountain. It’s not bad, per se, it’s just different. I’ve been assured that the ski resorts in the south of Chile do have trees, but inland of Santiago it’s the high desert and trees just aren’t really a thing.

Note the striking lack of greenery for miles (or more accurately, kilometers) around

Going skiing from where I live in La Serena is particularly inconvenient because you either need to drive 6 hours south to Santiago, or fly there and rent a car, and then drive an additional 2 hours up to the ski resort outside the city. For this particular trip, I went with some work colleagues who own an apartment in Santiago, so we drove down to the city on Friday afternoon in order to be able to wake up early on Saturday and drive up to the ski resort for the day. Unfortunately, half the population had the same idea and we got caught in a huge traffic jam on the way up and didn’t actually start skiing until noon. That was also our only day on the mountain, so in total during the 48 hour trip, we spent a whopping 20 hours in the car and only 4 hours sliding down the slopes. Not a great ratio.

To be fair, the snow was amazing. It snowed on Friday night and on Saturday morning we were rewarded with fresh fluffy powder and some first tracks even though we got there super late. I’m also not sure I would have actually enjoyed skiing any longer, because my legs were already thoroughly toasted from four straight hours of powder runs. Crossfit is fun and all but I am not in ski shape.

The trip was absolutely worth it for the experience this one time but I probably won’t go skiing here in Chile again, especially now that I’ll be living in Lake Tahoe this (northern) winter and will be able to take full advantage of ski season there. Super stoked to send it!

More trees