When I arrived in the Chilean Andes last July, the excitement had almost built to bursting point. The Andes mountains soar into the dark blue sky with an incredible energy. The rock and ice intertwine in vast spires and peaks which leave you feeling humbled and inspired. As the snow starts to fall, it blankets these peaks, leaving a canvas of white which is deep, light and dry.
I had arrived in Chile to work for Chilean Heliski, at their new location, Puma Lodge, just 3 hours from Santiago.
Chilean Heliski was founded by Mark Jones, a career ski guide, who discovered the vast, untouched region while flying in a friendʼs plane from Santiago southwards.
He returned with supplies and gear to spend 6 weeks living alone in snowcaves, exploring the area. Two years later he had secured backing from some of Chileʼs wealthiest families to build a premier heliski lodge, accessing 3,000 sq km of private Andean wilderness.
Puma Lodgeʼs design mimics the cosy comfort of American cabins and spacious Swiss chalets, with a local Chilean twist.
The lobby opens into an airy bar and lounge area with 2 roaring fireplaces and high wood-beamed ceilings. There is a full SPA and gym with two permanent masseuses ready to rub any aches and pains away. The outdoor jacuzzis are heated by woodburners, giving a welcome rustic feel amongst the luxury.
Chilean Heliski has been operating within the area for 3 years. I was impressed to see that each guest is not only given transceiver, shovel and probe, but the latest top-of-the-range avalanche airbag system. Before any skiing can be done, there is a comprehensive safety session to ensure everyone knows the drill if the worst comes to pass. Each guide is UIAGM qualified and like anyone who loves what they do for a living, itʼs a blast spending time with them.
Heliskiing here feels so ridiculously privileged. Rising up away from the lodge, you soon glimpse the vast winter wilderness laying in wait for you. The valleys, peaks and glaciers dwarf the chopper as it carries you to the top of your next serious run down.
Various peaks nearby are well over 5,000m and the average descent is roughly 1,000m vertical (the longest descent discovered so far is over 13km long and 2,500m vertical).
I feel very lucky to have spent time in such a magnificent place doing something I love. The journey was worth it. Cheesy it may be, but this quote sums it up: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments and places that take our breath away".
Text: Rupert Shanks from Noi Hotels