We try to maintain the spirit of a mountain refuge where you can enjoy a special atmosphere of relaxation and harmony among skiers who meet again, share their experiences and return year after year.
Portillo is, above all, a place to enjoy skiing. Adventurers have come from all over the world for more than a century to put their skills to the test in these mountains. Everyone comes with the same spirit to enjoy the challenge and charm of this wonderful place.
The objective for which we work every day in Portillo is that each guest has an experience full of variety: in snow conditions, activities, accessibility and with new and old friends.
In 1887, the Chilean government began construction for a railway through the Andes, which could transport goods and passengers from Chile’s Central Valley to the Argentine city of Mendoza, and eventually to Buenos Aires. Amongst the engineers were two Norwegian engineers conducting winter studies of the proposed line. The Norwegians spent two winters in 1887 and 1888 traversing the region on skis and were surely the first skiers to cross the slopes of what would become the Portillo ski area. When the railway was inaugurated in 1910, recreational skiers would use it as uphill transportation. The Trans Andean railway was in effect the first ski lift in Chile.
During the late 1930s, ski enthusiasts and adventurers visited the area that is now Portillo, and focused their efforts on developing the slopes around Laguna del Inca (Lake of the Inca), an area known as “Portillo” or “Little Pass”. European ski instructors then arrived, and a small mountain hut, known as Hotel Portillo, was constructed. Adventure-seekers came from Europe and the United States to ski the Andes alongside Chileans. The Chilean government developed the current building which houses Hotel Portillo, a 125-room hotel, inaugurated in 1949. After facing the struggles of running a ski area, the Chilean Government decided to privatize the hotel and resort in 1961, one of the first state businesses in the history of Chile to be sold to the private sector.
In 1961, Portillo was bought by two Americans: Bob Purcell y Dick Aldrich. They both knew South America and had skied at Portillo. Impressed with the beauty or the area and the incredible ski conditions, they saw the potential that the Chilean Andes had and decided to invest in modern installations for Portillo. On June 15, 1961 the Ski Portillo ski resort was inaugurated under new ownership, in the presence of distinguished guests, both American and Chilean, opening the doors and slopes to guests.
During the first year of operation, the owners of Portillo decided they needed an important sports event to stand out internationally, so they requested to host the 1966 World Skiing Championship. After much negotiation, the races were granted to the Chilean Ski Federation and Ski Portillo. There was much to prepare for the event and work began quickly, with August 1965 as the deadline for a pre-championship race.
With the championship a year away, a typhoon hit Chile, delivering winds up to 125mph. The storm brought large amounts of snow, triggering avalanches that destroyed almost all of the recently installed ski lifts. Ski teams that had gathered for the pre-championship race were trapped in Portillo and once the weather improved, they departed, skiing to the nearest train station, 20 miles away. Bob Purcell assured FIS that he would rebuild the ski area and host the World Championship in 1966 as planned.
After enormous efforts to rebuild the hotel and the slopes in less than one year, Ski Portillo was ready to host the first ever World Ski Championship in South America. In August,1966, the FIS president, together withChilean president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, inaugurated the event. After behaving poorly the previous year, nature blessed the event with sunny days, cold weather, and perfect snow conditions. The championship was a success, and skiers from around the world realized the opportunity to ski, compete, and train beyond the Northern Hemisphere winter.
The first version of the speed trials was in 1956 in Portillo, where skiers wanted to test the maximum speed they could reach on skis. The highest mark at that time was 168 kph/ 105mph, a record which was broken at Portillo by Steve McKinney in 1978, when he became the first person to reach 200 kph/ 124 mph, establishing a new world record.
Low snowfall had affected ski resorts around the world during certain seasons. To help combat seasons with a lack of natural snow, iPortillo installed the first snowmaking machines in South America in 1994.. This became a vital tool in setting a strong foundation at the beginning of the season and ensuring good skiing conditions regardless of the weather.
In the late 1990’s Mike Rogan arrived at Portillo to direct the Ski School. With more than a decade chasing winters to teach skiing in the North and South Hemisphere, Mike brought a new perspective to Portillo. He introduced new equipment and a modern teaching and skiing technique to the instructor and guests. Today, Mike is the Operations Manager at the resort.
In 2019, Portillo celebrated 70 years of operation, seven decades of fun and passion for the mountains. Many of the team members still welcome guests every season and creating new lasting memories.