working and travelling in south america
Rosy Cave of the Club des Saisonniers travelled to South America with her boyfriend, Mitch Miller, in the summer of 1998.
They started off in El Colorado - Chile's biggest and most popular ski area with nearly twice the number of lifts as its nearest competitor, Cerro Catedral in Argentina:
Rosy was lucky and managed to get a job straightaway. 'It helped being Europeans - they give a business a good image.'
Image in El Colorado is important. Visitors are mostly day or weekend trippers from Santiago, which is only a short drive away. 'Weekend skiing is very busy,' Rosy told us. 'The compensation is that the resort is mainly apartment blocks and it's only at the weekends that it gets lively.'
As far as the skiing is concerned, the lift system is pretty old and doesn't connect very well, but when you can get away from the crowds, is a good area. Boarders in particular will find natural halfpipes from the volcanic remains.
There are plenty of options when you start travelling again. Rosy and Mitch went south to Chillan, near Puerto Montt. 'It caters mainly for North Americans so there are some big hotels, but you can find accommodation on a budget down in the valley.'
They also travelled to the remote area on the southern tip of Argentina. 'We skied at just 400m looking over the Tierra del Fuego. There was just one lift, but lots of runs and the whole area to ourselves. A lot of South America skiing's like that - just you and the mountain.'
Don't take your own skis with you. Unless you are going to the remote areas you can normally hire and getting them around on buses etc can be a pain.
Do take skins. A whole new world of untracked and empty mountain can be yours.
Don't bother with Portillo for work - it's restricted to Chileans only.
Don't expect fantastic staff accommodation - the good stuff is restricted to the guests. (Male and female accommodation is also segregated!)
Spanish is very useful although you can survive without it.
The South American Ski Guide (if you can find a copy) is an essential source of info, particularly on the lesser developed areas