Letter Response to Inside Tracks Article on Southern Hemisphere Ski Travel
As in the Europe article earlier, some ski writers just don't get it that there is a reason for "high season", meaning February-early March in Northern Hemisphere and therefore August-early September in the South. It is a disservice to tell readers to incur the costs of a Southern Hemisphere trip in June-early July, when the odds are long against adequate coverage of most terrain. I made this point in my May/June 1998 article on New Zealand.
New Zealand: With average snowfall in the 250-inch range at best, and rugged wind-exposed terrain, skiers should wait for a 1 to 1.5 meter base to accumulate. Think of all those western Colorado areas that average 250 inches and rarely get their expert runs open before mid-January. New Zealand is much lower altitude and has less snowmaking, so the advice applies even more.
Australia: I've got a 30 year hydrology report from Spencer's Creek near Thredbo showing maximum base depths in August/September. In May/June 1998 I also warned destination skiers of Australia’s limited terrain and unreliable snow.
South America: This is a more interesting case. Portillo is about the latitude of San Diego, lower latitude than any North American ski area. The proximity to desert latitudes is a likely cause (along with El Nino / La Nina) of the observed high volatility in Andes snowfall. The Colorado-like altitude should greatly aid snow preservation. This combination of factors strongly argues for late season skiing. Chris Lizza in the South America Ski Guide explicitly recommends early September as the best time to ski most Chilean areas and Las Lenas. Areas like Chillan and Bariloche are lower altitude and farther south, so July and August might be best there.