Las Lenas first opened in 1983 and is named for a desert plant. That’s right, one of the world’s great ski resorts is named for a shrub. The shrub in question is adesmia pinifolia, called coli mamul or “yellow wood” by the Mapuche people.
Las Lenas is probably the most well known ski resort in all of South America. For years it has attracted the best of the best, who flock to Las Lenas to train and vacation during the Northern Hemisphere summer months. It is steep, very steep. The large amount of extreme, lift-accessible terrain mostly accessed by the famous Marte chairlift, makes it a playground for international daredevils, pro skiers/snowboarders and powder hounds. A lot of filming and photography is done in Las Lenas as well. If you are lucky you could be standing in the lift line next to some of the best skiers, snowboarders, photographers and filmmakers in the world. Many parts of the out of bounds are not recommended for anyone but experts.
However, there are also a lot of intermediate and beginner runs that are very wide that help for all abilities and a great place to sharpen your skills during the North American summer to be ready for the winter. It is important to mention though that the intermediate terrain is not as varied or normally as well groomed as at Aspen/Vail, Whistler, etc….There are however 2-3 decent steep blue runs off of Marte and Vulcano chairs that are not too hard but hard enough to be a challenge for intermediate.
There are also NO TREES in Las Lenas and you cannot ski most of the resort (definitely not the top and Marte) while it is snowing and are quite often during storms stuck to skiing the 2 poma lifts at the base that are often 45 minute line ups for a 2 minute run. THAT IS RIGHT NO SKIING ANYTHING ABOVE THE BEGGINER RUNS AT THE BASE WHILE IT IS SNOWING, TOO WINDY, STORMY, AND CAN’T SEE. SOMETIMES IT CAN SNOW FOR 2-3 DAYS. HOWEVER, SOME DAYS IF NOT TOO WINDY YOU CAN ACTUALLY SKI OFF OF VULCANO AND CARIS CHAIRS BUT WITH TOUGH VISIBILITY. These 3 Poma lifts are great though for children and beginnersas it prepares them for taking a chair for the first time. The beginner and intermediate runs are extremely wide making learning more relaxing and fun. You can even take intermediate blue runs down all the way from the top of the Marte chair.
Las Lenas is a self-contained Andean village resort, and hosts many different restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, and even a casino. Buses run throughout the village, making it easy to get around no matter where you’re staying, you can walk everywhere. The nightlife is pretty good and starts later, so take an afternoon siesta. People normally go to Lazo Pool for a game of pool or fooseball with the locals and then to Las Rosas for a quick drink and then off to UFO Point or Urban club for full on Nghtclub scene that starts at 2AM and goes until 6:30 AM. In 2008 UFO and Urban Club charge 50 Pesos per person for cover to get in that you must pay in cash and in Pesos and includes 1 drink. Thank god there is skiing until 5PM allowing you to wake up a little later in the morning than usual and not feel so bad about getting a late start skiing.
The ski school and all the hotels have great programs for kids to make a family vacation an enjoyable one. Two of the best family activities are to go watch a family movie in the Aries hotel or to watch the ski and snowboard school do the torch descent while enjoying complimentary wine or hot chocolate on Friday nights as a farewell sendoff. HOWEVER, it is important to note that Las Lenas does not really offer that many non skiing activities or excursions and you are very isolated 2 hours away from the nearest city of San Rafael.
There are events like the day of the mountains and the Models Snow Fashion show in August.
Las Lenas, which was specifically created for skiing and snowboarding has modern ski lifts and the transport capacity of the lift system is 9200 skiers per hour. This way, during the high season, delays are avoided when the resort is full. You can enjoy eight hours skiing (from 9AM to 5PM) and spend an exciting ski day skiing until sunset. In order to distribute the skiers evenly there are three lifts that go from the base (Venus 1 and 2 and Vesta) connected in turn to other ski lifts with a capacity that surpasses 2000 skiers per hour.
If you consider the lowest point that it is possible to ski (ski lift Urano), the ski area is of 1230 meters with slopes that go from 12% to 50% of declination. 5 Kms of easy trails allow the beginner to develop quickly (Venus 1 and 2, Eros 1 and 2, Vesta and Minerva). Almost 15 Kms guarantee the intermediate skier a continuous improvement, especially by an uninterrupted descent of 7 Km (Apolo, Neptuno 1 and Venus 1) or of trails like Urano 2 + 3.
The advanced skiers can enjoy 20 Kms of difficult trails of various characteristics: Júpiter, Caris, and Vulcano. However it is important to note that the chairlifts in Las Lenas can be quite slow and are definitely a bit older that chairlifts in North America or Europe. It takes about 40 minutes to get from the base to the top of the Marte Chairlift.
For the experts there are 24 Kms of possible runs mostly off of the Marte chairlift (Marte Bowl, Mercurio, Paraiso, Eduardo’s, Frankie’s, Sin Nombre and El Collar are some of the more popular expert options) and there is the possibility of discovering the magnificent out of bounds skiing of 3800 hectares. This out of bounds skiing is legendary and has unlimited potential.
The runs are extremely long and some of the views are some of the most spectacular in the world. It is a good idea to ski with a snack and water as due to these long runs it is not uncommon to not stop for lunch. All advanced and expert skiers have lunch at Santa Fe across from the Marte chair due to its convenient location and great food. Not many Argentines ski out of bounds in Las Lenas, so after a big snowfall there is often fresh snow for days.
Be sure to bring your own transceiver, shovel, probe and helmet as there are not rentals available. The ski school does rent out great helmets and now transceivers, but they are usually reserved for people taking lessons or going on the snowcat extreme expeditions.
The gigantic ski resort of Las Lenas is aptly described in one simple statement – on a clear day, you can ski forever. This means that Las Lenas has more lift-serviced ski terrain than any other ski area in the Western Hemisphere. More than Jackson Hole, more than Whistler/Blackcomb. Combine Vail and Snowbird, remove all the lifts that parallel each other, and you have a fair representation of Las Leñas.
Las Lenas is easily our favourite ski resort in South America and we truly believe it has the most reliable snow in South America and the best advanced/expert terrain of any ski resort IN THE WORLD.
However, it is important to mention that some things that are also not so great happen sometimes in Las Lenas and it is not the most organized ski resort in the world. The #1 issue with Las Lenas is how often the high alpine chairlift Marte is open.
There are often long lift lines at the lower mountain chairs and pomas when the high alpine chairlifts such as Marte and Vulcano are not open. The high alpine chair Marte being closed quite a bit, the Marte chair can also not be open for the whole week you are there, sometimes even a whole 2 weeks! While this does not happen all the time, it can happen.
It happened in August 2005 and July 2006. While it snows in Las Lenas (sometimes for 3-4 days) and it is very windy (and it can be very windy here) you are stuck to only skiing Eros I + II pomas and the Vesta chair. There can often be long lift lines when these are the only chairs open.
*HOWEVER, it is important to mention that in the 2007 season the Marte chair was open quite a bit and the resort worked very hard at keeping it open as much as possible.*
Sometimes when it has snowed a lot, avalanche risk is high, and it is windy, Vulcano might not be open right away and only Caris chairlit (that accesses the skier’s left part of the lower mountain and off piste section Cenidor) is open to access some interesting basic off piste. These times are known as Cenidor sessions and while better than sitting inside and you will get powder, after 1 day Cenidor sessions lose their appeal unless it snows again as a big steep experience.
However when Vulcano and Marte chiars are closed this is the best runs to ski for the advanced skier or snowboarder.
Some examples of other issues is taking a long time to get the resort ready after snowfalls, and Las Lenas not being anywhere near as organized as North American resorts, power going out once a month are examples.
2 Examples of things that can be very frustrating is that when Marte is ready to open, you need to wait an hour as they have to groom around it and in 2005 when there was so much snow it took forever to clear the poma lift above Marte to get to the backside, and you had to hike 15 minutes to get up there.
Marte accesses 80% of the advanced/expert terrain and the Vulcano chair accesses some interesting terrain to skier’s left of the chair and in the traverse above it out of bounds after a snowfall. However, more than 2 days of this traverse and out of bounds area is all most advanced riders can ski it without being bored.
The backcountry and touring possibilities in Las Lenas are endless and you can go for days. Please be sure to check weather forecasts and know where you are going before you leave. A lot of people have gotten lost while gone touring and some clients almost died in 2006 who got lost and did not know what they were doing, where they were going and were not properly equipped. AS WELL RESPECT IF YOU DO NOT KNOW IF A CHUTE OR COULOIR HAS AN EXIT OR NOT. One popular chute off of Marte called Sin Salida is one common mistake that the public skis, it means “without exit” so please do not ski this! You will be forced to hike out a steep run or do a mandatory air over a possible 40 foot cliff.
If you are going to be in Las Lenas more than 2 weeks and skiing out of bounds and aggressive, we recommend bringing 2 of everything as any type of gear is very expensive to buy in Las Lenas or they might not even have it. When exploring out of bounds skis, boards and poles have been known to occasionally meet surprise rock so it is a good idea to bring extra.