Important Note: This post was written to clear up rumors and poor information found on the internet about the recent ski resort concession and name change from Termas de Chillan to Nevados de Chillan. If you are simply looking for info on the skiing, snowboarding, terrain, and hotel reservations, click here. To better understand what has happened from 2008 to present, keep reading.
Termas de Chillán Chile: Past and Present
For a long 30 years the resort once known as Termas de Chillán Ski Resort was run by a company named Sociedad Hotelera Somontur. A pioneer of the day, Termas de Chillán Chile was made up not only of natural hot springs as the name suggests, but also a fine ski resort, a top notch hotel, a renowned spa and a gourmet restaurant. The Gran Hotel Termas de Chillán was widely known across the country as being a high class establishment offering fine dining, spectacular views and service excellence. It was quite simply a place where the moneyed vacationed to be seen and to enjoy the luxuries offered by the resort.
From 1984 onwards Sociedad Hotelera Somontur (SHS) registered the brand name Termas de Chillán for the first time and linked it to various diversified products and services that they offered such as tourism, telecommunications, clothing, bottled water, and even the thermal mud that can be found on the bottom of the hot spring pools.
In 2007 the concession expired and by 2008 had been granted to new owners, Consorcio Chillán. However, the change of the concession was tainted with controversy which involved disputes about the rightful ownership of the actual land, use of the brand name Termas de Chillán, and the right to actually open, maintain and operate the ski lifts.
When Consorcio Chillán took over they were forced to change the name to Nevados de Chillán to be able to function, and they also went to court to revoke the rights of Termas de Chillán to use that brand name. The Gran Hotel Termas de Chillán does still exist and functioning, but it no longer has access to the hot springs indicated by the name, as those are on municipal land and are now part of the Nevados concession. It seems that the error lay with the original inscription of the 7000 hectares that make up the ski resort. These hectares were registered in the name of Termas de Chillán, but the brand name was not registered and linked to the land itself. One assumes that, in good faith, when the concession of the original owners ends, the brand name would also go with it, not just the handing over of the actual land. This turned out not to be the case.
Some say that SHS had a right to maintain the brand name that they had invested greatly in over the decades to create, promote and maintain. Whereas the counter argument details that the extremely low rent paid by SHS to the municipality was agreed and justified due to the investment that the company would put into building the brand. Today Consorcio Chillán has a much heftier municipal fee to pay out annually. This caused yet another point of controversy given that the new owners were unable to reap the return on investment indicated by their initial figures as they couldn’t use the ski lifts during their first few seasons. The bad press that resulted from this sticky situation led to comments online and in international guidebooks advising skiers not to use the resort. This damage was brutal and destructive.
Termas de Chillán or Nevados de Chillán?
However, with all the bad press and litigious issues over with now, the ski resort today functions under the name of Nevados de Chillán and is currently fully operational. Last ski season (2014) the ski resort ran all 11 lifts allowing the 32 runs to be available. In regard to other tourism infrastructure, Hotel Nevados is located in old growth forest and the newer Hotel Alto Nevados is closer to the beginners ski area. Both Chillan hotels are ski-in ski-out and include access to thermal pools, 3 spas, 6 dining centers and other non-ski related organized activities such as mountain biking, canopy and horse riding. Both hotels have bars and evening activities, but if you are looking for something more local that goes on late into the night then the nearby village of Las Trancas is the place to go!
Gran Hotel Termas de Chillán today
And what of Termas de Chillán and the Gran Hotel Chillán? The resort continues to function with a luxury hotel and spa offering 108 rooms over 7 floors, although there are mixed reviews of the service and experience compared to the past. The Spa has one indoor and one heated outdoor pool, and despite the fact that the casino closed a couple of years ago, the hotel still enjoys direct access to a small beginners run and their own Mountain Park. This park has activities for kids such as the snow garden, paintball in the snow and the Mountain Club offering workshops and group events for 6 to 12 year olds. The bonus here is that it is free for hotel guests. Also available are snowmobiles, Nordic skiing and beginner night skiing too. Do be aware that in order to access all the major slopes currently run by Nevados de Chillán, you will have to buy a full ticket separately.
Thermas de Chillán also has another hotel called Pirimahuida Lodge based in the fun filled après ski town of Las Trancas, just 7 km away. Pirimahuida has views of the volcano and local waterfalls, and is built in a traditional Alpine style. With just 26 rooms, the atmosphere is accentuated by the open fireplaces in the common areas and the outdoor pool and hot tubs.
The ski resort today
Having cleared up this confusion, regardless of where you choose to stay, the current ski resort is a must visit in our opinion. In fact, despite the rustic slower lifts, it’s one of our favorites as far as terrain and snow. Featuring 32 runs (one of which is the longest in South America), with a 700m vertical drop and a maximum elevation of 2500m the rustic style of the resort continues to excite and surprise. With a deep annual average snowfall of 10m the season is long and the terrain is awesome with backcountry touring access, cat ski options and off-piste activities making it really stand out from the rest. We like it so much, we have based two guided adventures here. Each a week long: Backcountry ski touring and a top ranked women’s ski clinic.
For freestylers, the snow park is not one of the best in the area, but the natural terrain offers a playground in its own right. For advanced and experts, the ungroomed off-piste options are endless with surprises at every turn. For adrenaline fuelled intermediates, there is the fantastic 13 km Tres Marias run which offers great powder to both sides when you reach the bottom, and for beginners the ski school is decent but can get very busy. Non-skiers have access to some fantastic options to while away time such as snowmobiling, dog sledding, snowshoeing and sightseeing to the crater of the volcano in a snow cat.
For more information on the lodging, resort statistics, tour options, weather forecasts and reservations, click here.