Portillo Ski Resort, Chile

How It All Began

The pioneers of skiing in Chile were the engineers who constructed the vast Transandean Railway. Mostly Englishmen, they used skis both in their work and to explore the beautiful Andes mountains. Following the inauguration of the railroad in 1910, these pioneers were joined by recreational skiers who used the train as a ski lift between Caracoles and Juncal, part of the present day Portillo Ski Resort.

Development of the Portillo Ski Area

In the early 1930s, skiing enthusiasts dreamed of the possibility of developing the slopes around the beautiful area known as Portillo. They formed a company called Hoteles de Cordillera S.A. and began to draw up plans for a large hotel beside the legendary Lake of the Incas . Shares of stock were sold to investors and ski enthusiasts, and in 1942 construction of Hotel Portillo began.

All of the materials necessary for building the hotel had to be shipped to Portillo via the international train. Work was complicated by the wide-ranging effects of World War II, but the company and the Chilean government eventually completed the project. In July of 1949 the Portillo Ski Resort was inaugurated under the supervision of the government hotel company HONSA.

In 1961, the Portillo ski area was sold to private investors. The principal stockholder was Robert W. Purcell, a New York investment executive who initiated a development plan for the ski area which included new ski lifts and construction to increase the hotel capacity to 500 beds. The hotel was refurbished and a heated swimming pool and sauna facilities were added. These improvements enabled Portillo to bid successfully on hosting the World Alpine Ski Championship in 1966, an international event which marked the beginning of modern skiing in South America. European and North American skiers discovered that great skiing could be enjoyed during the summer months--and that South America had well-developed facilities and exemplary skiing.

By 1968, the international road between Chile and Argentina was finished, allowing easy access to Portillo via automobile.

World Alpine Ski Championships

In 1966, the Portillo ski area had the honor to be selected as the host for the World Alpine Ski Championships, the first major world ski event ever held in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of the famous skiers of that time participated, including the incomparableJean Claude Killy, winner of three gold medals in the Olympic Games of Grenoble in 1968, Karl Schranz from Austria, Billy Kidd from the United States, and Guy Perillat from France.

The winners of the events were:


  • Downhill - Erica Schinegger (Some 15 years later Schinegger, who underwent a sex change shortly after the world championships, renounced her medal and it was given to the number two racer, Marielle Goitschel, France.)
  • Giant Slalom - Marielle Goitschel (France)
  • Special Slalom - Annie Famose (France)
  • Combined - Marielle Goitschel (France)


  • Downhill - Jean Claude Killy (France)
  • Giant Slalom - Guy Perillat (France)
  • Special Slalom - Carlo Senoner (Italy)
  • Combined - Jean Claude Killy (France) (France with its exceptional skiers, took a total of 17 of the 24 medals issued at these world championships.)

Kilometro Lanzado

Three downhill speed trials have been held in Portillo and a new world record has been set on each occasion:

    Dick Dorworth and C.B. Vaughn (USA)
    171.428 Kph

    Steve McKinney (USA)
    200.222 Kph

    Michael Prufer (Monaco)
    217.68 Kph

Ski Schools In Portillo

The first ski schools in this part of the world were organized by ski clubs. In 1931, the Government Tourism Department brought to Chile the first foreign instructor, Gunter Oltze von Lobenthal to be director of Ski Club Chile's ski school.

In 1946, the famous French ski champion, Emile Allais, came to Chile. The influence of this great skier on the evolution of skiing here was crucial. A superb instructor and organizer, he participated in the initial development of the Portillo and La Parva ski areas and became the first director of the Ski School at Portillo, holding the position until 1954.

Other prominent skiers and teachers have followed Emile Allais as directors of the Portillo school.

  • Stein Erickson (1955 -1957) - Silver and Gold medal winner in the Olympic Games of Oslo in 1952.

  • Peter Estin (1958 - 1959)

  • Othmnar Schneider (1960 - 1970) - Silver and Gold medal winner in the Olympic Games of Oslo in 1952.

  • Sigi Grottendorfer (1970 - 1981)

  • Pepi Stiegler (1982 - 1983) - Silver medal in the Olympic games of Squaw Valley; Gold and Bronze medal in the Olympic Games of Insbruck in 1968.

  • Hartmut Helmstreit (1983 - 1987)
  • Jimmy Ackerson (1988 - 1994)
  • Michael Rogan (1995 - Present)

Visit Portillo, Chile and experience what a truly unique and discriminating ski adventure can be. Ski the legend!

For reservations and information contact your local travel agent or:

General Offices
Renato Sanchez 4270, Las Condes
Santiago, Chile
Tel: (56-2) 2630606

Copyright (c) 1996 interKnowledge Corp. All rights reserved.