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SpotCheck | Caviahue, Argentina

Pleasant, fairly flat ski resort in a spectacular setting

by Lea Hartl 09/16/2017
The Caviahue ski resort in the province of Neuquén, which is rather unknown even within Argentina, offers a selection of impressively flat pistes nestled in a volcanic lunar landscape. The Caviahue volcano is interesting as a smoking ski tour destination, while the surrounding terrain mainly offers sled-access potential.

No matter which direction you approach Caviahue from, the road winds its way through dusty, sometimes more, sometimes less hilly steppe landscape, passing equally dusty little towns every hundred kilometers or so. The ascent into the Cordillera begins almost imperceptibly, at least if you don't miss the turn-off. After the eternally beautiful weather of the steppe, clouds and drizzle spilling down from the mountains into the lowlands are a welcome change. At some point, the drizzle turns into individual snowflakes. A few bends further on, our half-asleep road trip comes to an abrupt end: the narrow access valley leads into the high plateau of Caviahue and we are greeted by horizontal heavy snowfall. The course of the road under snow drifts can only be recognized with a little imagination. Shadowy aracarias emerge from the fog. We have arrived.

Caviahue, the village, is idyllically situated on the lakeshore. There are hotels in all price ranges and a few hostels and pubs, but not much else. The neighboring and better-known thermal spa with Hotelkompex Copahue can only be reached by skido in winter. Caviahue, the ski resort, is located just above the village, about one kilometer away. The staff at the tourist information office give us a friendly welcome:

"Are you here to ski? Freeriding? Ski touring? Fine, great! Only: it has just snowed so much and the mountain is so flat... Well, welcome to Caviahue!"

We are also advised to park on the main road and not try to drive into the village in our small rental car. According to the tourism association, Caviahue is the only ski resort in Argentina where there is snow right into the village. There are no visible attempts to remove this snow from the roads, so we follow the recommendation of the friendly gentleman from the tourist information office and park on the main road. The locals drive large trucks and/or skidos.

After bad experiences in Bariloche, we enquire at the accommodation whether we can leave our skis in the car or whether we should expect someone to break into the car. "No problem! We're a long way from Buenos Aires and Bariloche".

Keys to the hostel? Not necessary either. Why lock the front door? Then nobody can get in.

The village was founded in the late 1980s, the ski resort in 1996. An entrepreneur from Andorra shipped discarded lifts to Argentina, where old is not old but always somehow repairable. Most of the lifts still work, only a few drag lifts seem to have been abandoned. Ski instructors were imported from Andorra along with the lifts and there is still a lively exchange between the winters of the two hemispheres. (Irritating side effect for tourists to Argentina: you've finally got used to Argentinian Spanish and suddenly everyone is speaking Spanish with a strong Catalan accent...)

The lower two chairlifts are mainly used to cover distance. Beginners' slopes wind their way through a forest of old araucarias - worth seeing for that reason alone. The upper lifts also cover a lot of ground, but also the odd vertical meter or two. The smoking volcano towers above it all.

We catch a pretty perfect, sunny powder day. While in the larger resorts the chaos would already start on the snow-covered access road, here you ski with chains on all sides and make it to the parking lot without any problems. You are then greeted by friendly, relaxed staff and get on the lift without queuing. Together with a handful of locals, we track the few somewhat steeper sections and enjoy the view and the complete lack of stress.

In the early afternoon, we set off from the lift towards the volcano. A flat walk followed by a good 800 meters of moderate ascent brings us to an impressive smoking hole on a pre-summit. Due to the late hour, we save the main summit, which is still around 150 vertical meters and a few meters away. Looking around, it becomes clear that a skido would be an advantage. Numerous skido tracks lead to various areas of terrain that offer more skiing than the area, but would be very difficult to reach on foot.

Back at the accommodation, we chat with the hostel owner and some new arrivals from Neuquén about the successful day. Everyone agrees: how nice that Caviahue is so far away from the city, all the people and all the stress. It's a bit flat, but what does that matter? And then there are the skidos.


The scenery is extremely rewarding. The volcano is not uninteresting as a touring destination and with a bit of luck you can make a few powder turns through the Araucaria forest. Very pleasant atmosphere in the ski resort. For longer stays, it would be advisable to make friends with someone who has a skido.

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This article has been automatically translated by DeepL with subsequent editing. If you notice any spelling or grammatical errors or if the translation has lost its meaning, please write an e-mail to the editors.

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