18 Jun 2012
When Lucy first enters Narnia in C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, she finds herself in the midst of a winter that has lasted 100 years. Trees are heavy with snow and massive drifts slope elegantly upwards.
Such is the landscape that one will, in all likelihood, encounter upon arrival in the winter months to Valle Las Trancas and the nearby ski center. This area, which also features three volcanoes, is located about an hour's drive towards the mountains (east) from the city of Chillán, in the BioBío Region.
Downhill skiing and snowboarding at a world-class resort
For those whose idea of experiencing nature is in coming into direct contact with her, there are many options. Heading up to the ski and winter sports center is an obvious one. Just a 15-minute drive from the valley in your own car, or with one of several transportation services, the center offers groomed slopes as well as some of the country's best off piste options for the more adventuresome, expert skier. What makes the experience particularly beautiful, is that it is one of the only ski areas in Chile where snow falls below the tree line.
Snowshoes, dogsleds, or a snow-paintball battle royale
For snowshoers, knowledgeable guides are available to familiarize one with the area's flora and fauna, such as gorgeous area woodpeckers – black with a bright , entirely red head. One favorite route is the trek through Shangri-la, a neighboring valley that provides views of the glacier of the same name. Snowshoe treks often culminate with arrival to Shangri-la Refuge.
Several other activities are also available, though perhaps less common. One is a game of paintball amongst friends in the snow. Another is the Zorb Ball - a giant, transparent hamster ball for humans – a novel way to traverse the white expanses. Dogsleds offer unique, unforgettable sensations and sounds while treading upon the snow in age-old fashion. Finally, snowmobiles allow easy access to privileged views and quicker entrance into primordial forests. A variety of clubs and activities are also available for children.
Rest and relaxation
Not so much a sport as a post-sport necessity, is the opportunity to unwind at one of the area's excellent hot springs or spas.
Several cabin and hotel options are available and are serviced with the hospitality that so characterizes southern Chile, already apparent at this latitude. Many rooms offer wood-burning fireplaces or stoves. Combine this with a hot cup of coffee, tea or hot cocoa and a book one hasn't had the time to read, and the path has been forged to cozy enjoyment of the area.
Either for a weekend break from the city or a more indulging Chilean winter vacation, Chillán certainly is a place worth escaping to.
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