October 2018

The passion of Latin Americans is well documented, be it for football, wine, travel or just passion for life. This was clear on arrival in Buenos Aires, with the ever-present tango somewhere in the background! Once we managed to get over this particular passion and the sheer size of Argentina, we were hugely excited to travel to northern Patagonia. But what to expect? Previously I only really knew of Patagonia as a brand name for outdoor clothing or the famous toothfish.

Our first surprise: the amazing view from the hotel. Looking out over the lake at San Carlos de Bariloche, the sight of the snow-capped Andes mountains was truly breathtaking and seemed to go on for ever. The purpose of our visit was to ski. As a self-confessed ski nut, skiing in the Andes during the northern summer soon became an addiction; the place made you say out loud and everyday “I am so lucky to be here”. This is where we witnessed the single most spectacular sunrise we have ever seen; I would not have believed it, had I not seen it for myself.

San Carlos de Bariloche is effectively base camp for Cerro Catedral, the largest ski area in Argentina, just a 25-minute drive up to the snow resort. Bariloche is a quaint little town which survives on tourism summer and winter. It’s famous for snow, chocolate, beer, microbreweries and the inevitable meat-based Parilla restaurants. The thing is, we were there and kept busy, so did not explore. Heading south, Bariloche sits at the start of the Seven Lakes drive, which we were told was spectacular. To the north, on the only direct driveable road to the Chile border, is Villa Angustura, a picturesque little town. It’s also by a lake and well worth a visit.

The Parilla restaurants are great. Our favourite was Alto de Fuego, which offers simple but value-for-money fare, if not downright cheap menus. If you are a true meat lover, this is most certainly for you. 450-gram lomo (fillet steak) cooked on a wood fired grill at 420 pesos ($21 AUD) is a steal; bife de chorizo (sirloin steak), a startling 600 gram at 450 pesos ($22.50), is just incredible. Add to this an excellent selection of Argentinian wines, a friendly team and outstanding service and you have it all!

Food, of course, is the fuel for the skiing. Cerro Catedral is a well-serviced resort with an extensive range of pistes, mountain cafes and restaurants. At the top of the resort, you will be left breathless by views to the north, east, south or west. On a good day, you can see the largest volcano just 90 km away, sitting half in Chile and half in Argentina. If you plan to come here, you should probably avoid school holiday periods. At other times, it might only be really busy when national ski teams are in pre-season training. The ski area in 2017 was epic, with plenty of snow. 2018 was much drier; the runs were reasonable for the 7 weeks we skied, but not particularly memorable until the middle of September, when more snow came. Unfortunately, it did affect the lower slopes and runs back down to the resort village were impossible. But this was no real problem, as a 6-seater chair lift or 4-seater gondola got you down effectively.

Having experienced only 1% of Patagonia, we will be back to sightsee and ski in Argentina.

Buenos Aires airport is officially named as Ministro Pistarini International Airport but is also known as Ezeiza International Airport, serving the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires.

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Henrik Iversen is a passionate skier & dynamic senior hospitality leader with over 30 years of experience in international luxury hotels that includes a career as Executive Chef with Hyatt Hotels & General Manager for Rosewood Hotels.

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