San Carlos de Bariloche - snowboarding in ArgentinaSan Carlos de Bariloche, Rio Negro, Argentina, and snowboarding
Trip notes from spending a week snowboarding in South America! I went with two other folks and ended up meeting some fun-loving Americans along the way. Record setting conditions according to the locals; 4/5 days were a 1-2 ft powder day. Excellent food. Wonderful hospitality. If you feel at home in a ski town and speak a little Spanish, you’ll fit in great here.
The snowboarding destination
The Catedral Alta Patagonia resort is a 20-30 minute drive from the town of San Carlos de Bariloche; 40 with morning rush-hour traffic. This is probably my favorite mix of big-mountain snowboarding, as the folks at Powderhounds attest:
Cerro Catedral has the largest lift accessed ski terrain in South America, approximately half of which is off-piste terrain. This mega ski resort has 1,150 metres (3,773 ft) of vertical drop.
Like other tall mountains, the weather can be a bit above freezing and sunny at the base area and damn cold at the top of Cerro Catedral. Plan in layers. The mountain is known for its wind; for half of the day while they had a wind closure on the lifts, we hiked to our lines. Ski patrol is surprisingly cool with you hiking to just about any in-bounds terrain on the mountain and even some questionable terrain. On the opposite extreme, the lifts will stop and you will get cursed at for having the lift bar up.
On a powder day, most everyone will stick to the groomed runs, and you can ski the same line 10 feet from the groomer every 30 minutes and make fresh tracks for most of the day. If you want to do a bit more work for absolutely breathtaking chutes, find them skiers left of the Nubes lift. Check out easy-access gorgeous trees between Miltares and Condor 2; no one goes in there.
Be sure to buy your tickets beforehand - https://skipasscatedral.com - let your credit card company know about the impending foreign purchases. Last I checked 5600ARS is 200USD for 4 days.
We thought about making it to Cerro Bayo one day, but trying to coordinate getting there and with so much terrain at Cerro Catedral, it just was not worth it.
On one ticket for 3200USD, United took me from Denver, to Chicago, to Sao Paulo, to Bariloche, in 20 hours. On the return from Bariloche, to Buenos Aires, to DFW, to Denver, in 18 hours. You can do it for closer to 2000USD if you spend a night in Mexico City and Buenos Aires like my friend did. As long as you book everything on one ticket, you do not need a visa to get into Brazil, since you stay in the international terminal and your bags are automatically transferred. Argentina has a visa-free agreement with the US.
Getting to and from the resort every day with gear was much easier hiring a private car for ~20USD including tip each way. You tell them when and where to pick you up with 30-45 minute lead time and you are good to go. We hired their bigger vans, for 4-6 folks with gear, to get to the airport with our new New York pals we met. The bus is ~1USD/person and even though our place is right on the bus corner, it was pretty packed during the rush hour commute.
No one uses SMS, they use WhatsApp and Google Translate.
Hit up Simone with Bariloche Remises via WhatsApp - +54 9 294 458-1169 - he is the current jefe of the operation. Leave him a good review in https://www.bariloche2000.com/.
Carry cash for remises (private car) and bus. The Banco Columbia ATM seemed to work best for us. Be sure your debit card has a chip and you know the PIN. Everywhere else was good for my Mastercard and Visa. However, there was an outage one day at one of the resort lodges and they only took Amex for a few hours.
Karina and her husband have a modern, gorgeous townhome 5 blocks SW of the civic center. She was so kind to pick us up at the airport, give us a quick driving tour of town, and orient us with maps and a bus pass.
Karina also suggested we check out Manush, just down the street. They have a great late-night vibe with fun local drinks and solid pub-grub.
Groceries and snacks
The biggest US-style grocery store close to our place was La Anonima. The smaller neighborhood grocery store is Todo. The local bakery La Casita de Mani has such wonderful cakes and sweetbreads. We made a meal one night from a local malbec and empanadas from La 10 Empanadas.
On mountain food is SOOOOO much better than American ski resort food. For 10USD you can get a big pile of hot lasagna, 3-5 home-made wood-fired empanadas, or a big grilled ham and cheese burger-ish thing with salad. Each lodge has a different vibe and food style depending on which family runs it. There was no need to pack lunch.
Breakfast each morning was cereal and lattes at our condo. Caffeine is really helpful to start the day with. Bariloche is at the Western border of the Argentina Timezone, so the sun does not rise until 8:45am; after finishing dinner most nights ~10:30/11pm … yeah.
Be forewarned, most places shut down 12-4pm. Good dinner establishments do not open until 8pm.
My favorite places for dinner:
- Alto El Fuego Parrilla - This is one of the highest rated new-Argentinian steak houses in town. Make a reservation a 3-5 days in advance. It has started the careers of a few other modern chefs in town. Huacho Restaurante is one such spin-out that is solid, but definately not as good as the original.
- Rastros - Chef Matías introduced each course and drink pairing (not just wine!) in our private room that seated our group of seven. 70USD/person for the 3 hour food and drink experience. Make a reservation 1-3 days in advance.
- Jauja is a business casual, family friendly, traditional Argentinian restaurant. Go there to get an understanding of what is considered classical cuisine for the area.
- El Boliche de Alberto is insanity. You line up at 7:30pm for 8pm door opening. They seat you around the central grill master station. Meat and wine flow the whole night.