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Thread: Ski Chile 2015

  1. #1
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    Ski Chile 2015

    Hi all,
    Once again I have time to burn and a desire to share it. For 2015, I am heading off a lot of questions by posting some general data on skiing in Chile. This will go from the very general to the more specific over the next few days. For concentrated general information for travelers to Chile, such as weather patterns, ski area data, DIY options, lodging, backcountry destinations, and volcanoes, this TGR thread is the place to go http://bit.ly/Chileskiguide There you will find info contained is this thread, and more, but without the interruptions of current weather/conditions, trip reports, snide comments etc.

    To get the dull stuff over with, here are some Chile stats for your perusal:

    Population – 17.6m
    Area – 752 km2 (think Texas stretched out, with 23 persons per km2)
    GDP (PPP)- $277b (45% of exports from copper)
    GDP (PPP) per person - $21,942
    Literacy – 98%, Life expectancy – 80 years
    Population below poverty line – 14%
    Internet users – 66% of the population
    Cellular phones – 1.3 per capita
    Leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, and low perception of corruption.

    More interestingly, data on the fantastic geography of Chile:

    4,300 km long, average width of 150 km.
    Latitude runs from 56° in the south to 18° in the north.
    Coastline is 6,400 km, borders run 5,950 km along the continental divide (avg. altitude 4,000 m).
    Hundreds of volcanoes dot the country, with about 110 active. 55 are over 5,000m.
    Around 6,000 islands, mainly in the fjord lands.
    Rainfall varies from near zero in the north to 5 meters in the southern ice fields.
    Last edited by Casey E; 08-25-2016 at 09:21 AM.

  2. #2
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    If you were to rip Chile off of South America, flip it, and dump it off the west coast of North America, this is what you would get:



    So Santiago is about the latitude of Los Angeles CA, and the ski areas are concentrated between there and about San Francisco.

  3. #3
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    I am not going to deal with the very minor ski areas in Chile here, such as those in the far south (El Fraile or Cerro Mirador), or others in the central zone (like Huilo Huilo or Chapa Verde).

    Here you have google earth with the southern ski areas indicated on it:


  4. #4
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    It isn't easy to present numbers here, however you can get an idea of what the ski areas offer in Chile (2014 prices converted to USD at 610) if you click on this:



    T is triple Chair, and Q is Quad. There is only one high speed chairlift in Chile, the Andes Express at Valle Nevado. Many runs are only accessed by surface lifts, including platters, t-bars, and va et vient (Portillo).

    And these are the ski area links in the same order (north to south):

    http://www.skiportillo.com/
    http://www.skiarpa.com/
    http://www.vallenevado.com/
    http://www.elcolorado.cl/
    http://www.laparva.cl/
    http://www.nevadosdechillan.com/
    http://www.skiantuco.cl/
    http://www.corralco.com/
    http://www.skiaraucarias.cl/
    http://www.skipucon.cl/
    http://www.antillanca.cl/
    http://www.volcanosorno.com

    In general, don't expect good info on snow conditions on these websites. Usually the most reliable are Portillo, Valle Nevado, and Corralco. Also, if you get lucky, you can find special pricing somewhere on these pages (credit card, Telco promos, "2x1" days, etc.).
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-05-2015 at 03:37 PM.

  5. #5
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    When do the lifts start running?

  6. #6
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    No way of knowing when the ski areas will open. "Usually" they are open by mid-June, but good years could mean the end of May (these days only El Colorado could be prepared for an early opening), or mid-July for a really bad year. I have skied knee deep in May, but that was an exception. The southern ski areas tend to open later (late June or early July), often not for a lack of snow. There is more snowmaking every year in the central zone, but in no way does it create good skiing conditions, it mostly just helps access on the lower runs on bad years.

    The latest predictions for precipitation in Chile look favorable for snow, but after last years rabid run-up with the supposed El Niño effect and subsequent big letdown, it is evident that predicting is finicky business. So far this year, the drought continues in Central-South Chile, with the south having the worst drought in decades (60-70% deficit, lots of forest fires). That said, the general consensus is that the warmer equatorial and southeastern ocean could "couple" with the atmosphere and produce higher precipitation for north central Chile. It didn't "couple" last year, thus there was little effect. Coupling produces changes in the winds which weaken the southern high pressure system and facilitate the flow of low pressure systems through southern Peru and Chile. Southern Chile often does not get that much more precipitation with El Niño, it already rains a lot in normal years.

    My next post will include some infographs I have gleaned on line.
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-13-2015 at 04:52 PM.

  7. #7
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    Awesome info, thanks for posting and look forward to more!

  8. #8
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    Columbia U said earlier this month(http://iri.columbia.edu/our-expertis...nso-iri_update) :

    "The probabilities derived from the models on the IRI/CPC plume describe, on average, weak El Niño conditions for the Apr-Jun and May-Jul seasons, with strengthening El Niño conditions suggested through northern autumn season, reaching moderate strength. However, model spread is still noteworthy, reflecting the presence of the northern spring ENSO predictability barrier. A caution regarding this latest set of model-based ENSO plume predictions, is that factors such as known specific model biases and recent changes that the models may have missed will be taken into account in the next official outlook to be generated and issued in early March by CPC and IRI, which will include some human judgement in combination with the model guidance."

    Below is what the Pacific ocean anomalies look like, plus a precipitation prediction map from the local weather service, which contradicts another they published (click to see):





    The Chilean weather service seems optimistic in their last report (last chart), but April was not rainy. As the season progresses I will update the predictions.

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    Last edited by Casey E; 05-05-2015 at 03:37 PM.

  9. #9
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    Good news, the snow has started to fall and there is more in the forecast:



    Zero isotherm is still high, but that is normal for this time of year.

  10. #10
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    And now for some more general info for travellers adventuring on their own. Bone up on yer español boys, or you´ll miss out on the action!

    Weather forecast sources I use include the Chilean Meteorological Service, which has weather forecasts by region/city, mountain zones and mountain passes into Argentina, and other good info such El Niño analysis (spanish): http://www.meteochile.gob.cl/inicio.php

    For the mountains and ski areas: http://www.snow-forecast.com/resorts/La-Parva/6day/mid
    or: http://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Cerro-Provincia

    For comparative forecasts of several websites, and longer range forecasts (up to 14 days), scroll down to "Pronósticos meteorológicos comparados" and choose your region of interest, here (check dates/times, as this is only updated once a day I think): http://chicureo.com/Directorio/clima.shtml

    Many good treks are outlined here (spanish): http://www.wikiexplora.com/index.php/Trekking_Chile
    or: http://www.senderodechile.cl/buscador-senderos/
    or: http://es.wikiloc.com/rutas/senderismo/chile

    For peaks to do, and a growing selections of treks, check here (some have been translated, this is a great tool for planning peaks): http://www.andeshandbook.org/buscarcerro/Chile

    For hot springs, see a lengthy list here: http://www.termas.cl/
    and download a KMZ file of GPS locations here: http://www.wikiexplora.com/images/b/...rmas_Chile.kmz

    Campsites can be found here: http://www.campingchile.cl/campings-por-region/
    or: http://decamping.cl/campings-region-de-la-araucania
    The further off the main roads you are, the more likely you will be able to find places to pull over and camp, but always ask first if there is a house or people in the vicinity. People are generally very friendly, but exercise extreme caution with fires, there have been tragic forest fires in Chile the last few years, in part related to the prolonged drought.

    Cabins and small motels can be found here: http://www.cabanasdechile.com/en, winter is low season!

    Good Hostels (not a complete listing): http://www.backpackerschile.com/index.php/en/

    Boutique Hotels in Santiago: http://www.800.cl/?id=1093&c=7089&r=...ue+de+Santiago

    Did I miss anything?
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-05-2015 at 03:36 PM.

  11. #11
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    For those planning on driving in Chile, and those interested in National Parks and whatnot, some noteworthy data follows.

    Chile's road infrastructure is like a fishbone, where the Ruta 5 Pan American Highway is the backbone following the central valley south, and the ribs are roads branching out to the mountains and sea. Look at a long range weather forecast and plan your route with flexibility..

    Good road maps can be downloaded here: http://www.mapas.mop.cl/CARTAS%20CAMINERAS.htm
    and here: http://issuu.com/feliperojasg./docs/...989091/5849490

    The National Parks and Reserves often have campgrounds, which are economical and beautiful. You can check to see if they have a campground here (check "servicios"): http://www.conaf.cl/parques-nacionales/. Often there is a phone number or email to check with the park guys on road or camping conditions before going. Seriously consider going to the national parks and reserves in the lake district with established campgrounds. Do visit PN Conguillio and environs, near Temuco. These parks are all wonderful places with generally rustic but nice facilities, and will not be crowded in off season (also might be closed, so check first). Roads are often unpaved, sometimes not good in heavy rainfall, but we have done some really bad roads in a small sedan and survived. CONAF runs the parks, with some concessions to third parties (such as Conguillio, ). We now go in a 4x4 and have no problems getting around. Winter is more difficult for driving at altitude, and it is very rainy in the south.

    If the weather looks good you can consider taking ferries through the fiords and driving south to Chaiten (http://www.taustral.cl/ for the continental side, and http://www.navieraustral.cl/?page_id=35 for Chiloe connections). On the way you can visit several wonderful hot springs, the PN Hornopiren, Parque Pumalin, and walk up the devastation to the Chaiten volcano, which still steams. You can also go to the coast on the northwest of Chiloe, and see penguins.
    Going north from Pto Montt, there are a few circuits into the mountains which you can drive and avoid part of the main, boring divided highway.

    One is to drive from Puerto Varas east to Lago Todos Los Santos and Volcan Osorno (Vicente Perez Rosales National Park), then go north on the east side of Llanquihue to Lago Rupanco, and Lago Puyehue at Entre Lagos. From there go east again, to Antillanca and the Puyehue National Park. Then drive out to Osorno. The recent eruption of the Calbuco Volcano has complicated things with ashfall on the Puerto Varas - Ensenada road. More on that later.

    Another loop is going from Los Lagos northeast through Panguipulli to Puerto Fuy and Huilo Huilo, then back out to Lago Calafquen and on to Villarrica/Pucon. A nice side trip is from Coñaripe northeast to the PN Villarrica, some wonderful hot springs, and trekking/touring between the Villarrica and Quetrupillán volcanos.

    You can also do a circuit starting just south of Temuco, going east to Cunco then through PN Conguillio between Melipeuco, and Malacahuello, or further in to Lago Icalma, across the meseta to Lago Galletue, and coming out through Lonquimay, Malalcahuello and Victoria. Volcan Lonquimay can be walked or skied up, as can many others in the south. More on this later too. This whole area can have sections closed from too much snow in the winter, so go informed first. The Carabineros (police) are pretty good to ask before setting out.

    Lots to chew on.
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-05-2015 at 03:35 PM.

  12. #12
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    I missed adding that a good variety of multi-use rental vehicles can be had at:

    http://wickedcampers.cl/v3/
    or http://wickedsouthamerica.com/v3/ (same thing in English)

  13. #13
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    Many in TGR would be interested in doing a bit of ski/splitboard touring while in Chile. So to make it easier here are some providers which include backcountry tours in their repertoire:

    http://chilebackcountry.com/
    http://www.chile-powder-adventures.com/
    http://www.powderquest.com/
    http://www.whiteworldfreeride.com/ (now have a tour out of Coyhaique, "Patagonia")
    http://www.kladventure.com/ski-tours...ring-programs/
    http://www.andescross.com/south-amer...-ski-andes.php

    There are lots of other tour providers, but many do not really do touring, just perhaps inbounds powder hunting:

    http://casatours.com/
    http://www.powderhounds.com/SouthAmerica/Chile.aspx
    http://www.sassglobaltravel.com/
    http://www.southamericaskitrips.com/

    For those going it on their own, the BIG ADVANTAGE of DIY with little prior bookings, is that you can truly "follow the snow". Snow conditions in general for the last 15 years or so have generally been mediocre to poor in the central zone, except for 2002 and 2005. So if your trip is really about the skiing, keep an eye on conditions in the different resorts, and on the weather forecasts, rent a car, and follow the snow. The principal ski areas of Chile cover about 10 degrees of latitude, so there can be fresh powder on one strip of that, and old snow and rocks on another. A good vehicle rental option is http://wickedsouthamerica.com/v3/

    For touring, you first have to get to the snowline, which is not easy outside of the ski resorts. The epic descents you might see on TGR or elsewhere are normally made after a very long approach. Thus you generally start out at a ski area base.

    One option in the central zone is to go to Lo Valdés, at the end of the Cajon del Maipo, and tour from there, where lots of 5,000m to 6,000m peaks are located, going up the Valle de Las Arenas or the Volcán San Jose.

    The backcountry out of La Parva or Valle Nevado features a couple of bowls with skiing from 3,800-4,000m. You could also tour up and down Santa Teresa, the wonderful ridge south of El Colorado which ends on the road to Valle Nevado. This however gets skied from El Colorado and is technically illegal. Anyone thinking of skiing Santa Teresa or other places near the road, should read this report: http://www.powder.com/stories/cops-i...kH2GT6LJU1w.97 Far from the road, like Cerro La Parva, there are no cops....

    From Portillo, you can go through Chilean customs, then ski up to the Cristo Redentor on the border of Argentina (3,800m) and ski back down.

    The Ski Arpa cat operation offers a touring option, you get one ride up and tour from there. This is located west of Portillo, with views of the Aconcagua.

    More will be coming on volcano skiing in the south later.
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-28-2015 at 10:29 AM.

  14. #14
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    A couple more useful links for backcountry adventurers:

    For Chile topos, go to www.igm.cl, venta productos, cartografía, escala 1:50.000 and search on the map for the ski area you want.

    Don´t expect to get good backcountry gear rentals in Chile, but here is a company that is trying: http://www.rgchile.com/index.php?op=grilla-arriendos

    A guide book with a variety of peaks and routes for Chile and Argentina is:
    http://www.amazon.com/Chile-Argentin.../dp/2952980012

  15. #15
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    Farellones and the adjacent ski areas of the "3 Valleys" concentrate about half of the ski lifts in Chile, 35 of which you will actually ski. Each ski area covers a large swath, between about 2,400m and 3,600m, of the ridge which rises up from the Mapocho valley floor at 1,200m and ends in El Plomo (5,400m). These 3 areas converge on the higher runs where there is no room left for new lifts. There is actually a fence between the top of the Andes Express in Valle Nevado and Los Pioneros lift in El Colorado, to prevent skiers from going into the others terrain. They do not encourage skiing between them and don´t publish prices for "interconnected" passes, however they do exist and are expensive.

    The ski areas are 40-50 km up from the start of the road in eastern Santiago (Lo Barnechea). This is a photo of the southern part of the ridge, as seen from the Manquehue mountain in Santiago, looking east:



    40+switchbacks wind up the 2,000m vertical meters to the ski areas. They are a usually a mess during and just after a big storm. Here are the first third of the switchbacks, and a longboarder enjoying the summer ride down:



    Once up there, the lifts are spread around like this:



    Valle Nevado is between and behind La Parva and El Colorado in the first photo. It has the highest base of the three, at 2,860m, with the hotel slightly higher. There are now lots of apartment buildings, some of which are for rent. It mostly faces east and south, with Tres Puntas, the highest lift reaching 3,700m, facing west. You don´t get the nice sunset views of the other ski areas. There are 2 chairlifts you would actually ski, and the rest are platters. It has access to the high back bowls of the Cerro La Parva.

    La Parva has the highest vertical, at 921m, and you can get it all in one good run if you wish. The skiable area is almost 5km wide at 3,100m, faces mostly west and southwest, and has the best access to higher bowls and extreme terrain, including Cerro La Parva. There is no real hotel, just private apartments/houses (some to rent), but it does have 4 chairlifts which serve totally different terrain. The rest are platters.

    El Colorado has shorter runs but a wide range of exposures around the "Cono" and back into the Olympic Valley, including some great south and southeast ones. It actually starts in the town of Farellones (2,400m) when there is enough snow (usually), but you have to ride about 3km of lifts to get up past El Colorado town to the Cono where the skiing really is. They have 2 chairlifts you would actually ski, and the rest are t-bars. Access to the Santa Teresa extreme skiing area is technically illegal, but it is still done, and ends in the road to Valle Nevado. Anyone thinking of skiing Santa Teresa or other places near the road, should read this report: http://www.powder.com/stories/cops-i...kH2GT6LJU1w.97 Far from the road, like Cerro La Parva, there are no cops.... Farellones has the best economical lodging of the area by far, with quite a few old "refugios" to rent and small hotels/hostels. Colorado is more upscale with apartment buildings and lodges.

    For lodging, search www.airbnb.com, or www.booking.com for a wide range of options. For transfers to the 3 Valleys:

    http://www.transferalanieve.com/port...e_Nevado.shtml
    http://www.skitotal.cl/transporte.html
    http://www.skiahorro.cl/transporte.html
    http://www.toursbylocals.com/guide4032
    http://www.gochile.cl/guia-chile/tra...e-ski-en-chile
    http://www.skivan.cl/lugaresdesalida/

    Lift tickets range from $50 in low season to $70 in high, with Valle Nevado being slightly more expensive.
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-28-2015 at 10:30 AM.

  16. #16
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    This is badass. Thanks for posting this gold mine of info.

    How is touring from the ski areas? I know Portillo is reputed to have lots of bootpack-able touring options. Do the others? Chillan?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by meter-man View Post
    This is badass. Thanks for posting this gold mine of info.

    How is touring from the ski areas? I know Portillo is reputed to have lots of bootpack-able touring options. Do the others? Chillan?
    As mentioned above, there are some options out of the central zone ski areas, mainly La Parva and Valle Nevado. I will put up some photos from the Cerro La Parva to El Plomo ridge as soon as I can.

    The southern destinations also have options, which I will detail more sometime soon. All are on volcanos, and probably Chillan has the most expansive terrain as it is a chain of volcanos.

  18. #18
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    Ski Chile 2015

    I spent a week lapping Santa Theresa with van support and a guide with some buddies. Illegality (of which I was unaware) was not enforced. We ducked the rope 4-5x per day for a week in full view of the lift and no one said a word. By the end of the week, the entire ridge was tracked out...with nothing but our tracks. The locals stayed on the groomers the whole time. We went in September and despite being two weeks from the most recent storm and 40 degrees out with full sun, had boot top cold winter snow on every run (ridge is all north facing shade). Highly recommended.

    Vallee Nevado I found pretty take. La Parva had two legit zones. One is a very scenic couloir called la cheminea (it's my avatar on tgr if you can get any info from the shitty pic) and another was an unnamed ridge with a few rather exposed chutes on the way there.

    Also cheap wine and practice your Spanish.

    Awesome trip you should all go
    No gnar was harmed in the writing of this post...

  19. #19
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    Is the last week of July too early for Chilan backcountry?

  20. #20
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    Wow Casey, this is awesome. So much good info in one place.

    Geno - nope!

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geno View Post
    Is the last week of July too early for Chilan backcountry?
    No, you should be able to ski backcountry in Chile from early-mid July, sometimes (like last year), even in June.

  22. #22
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    Casey E, this is a great service you have provided. I skied Chile in 2010 and you have inspired me to come back. Would I be able to find lodging near Nevados de Chillan as late as a week before arriving in late August?

  23. #23
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    Continuing with the 3 Valleys, the area north and east of La Parva/Valle Nevado is the continuation of the extensive southwest shoulder of the El Plomo massif. The wind often strips bare most of the flat and northern exposures of the higher reaches of this ridge, which rolls along 6 km between 3,800m and 4,300m through the "Cancha Carrera" to the cliffed edge of the huge El Plomo bowl. It then sprouts the La Leonera peak and El Plomo. Here is the view of La Parva town from an aircraft after an early snowfall, all the way up to El Plomo at 5,400m, 13km away.



    Cancha Carrera ("race track" in English) is a large mostly flat area which is a good base camp for the walk up north to La Leonera (5,000m) about 3 km away. See http://www.andeshandbook.org/montani...rro/24/Leonera

    La Hoya, in the El Plomo bowl at about 4,200m, is where many people camp before attempting El Plomo (5,400m). The normal route to El Plomo goes from the upper runs of La Parva or Valle Nevado, around the south base of the ridge, to "Piedra Numerada" (a flat meadow), then north to La Hoya. For the route, see http://www.andeshandbook.org/montani...Clasica_Normal. This has been climbed in the winter, and skied (sort of). The view from the top takes in 300 km of the Central Andes, including the Aconcagua (6,960m).

    The bowls along the south side of the ridge have some good, although short, runs. The best chutes are off the Cerro La Parva. Ski touring the top of the ridge is generally only possible following the edge of the ridge on the south side. Many bootpack up to the ridge, others tour up. Avalanches are not common, but not unknown either. There is no avalanche control or snowpack information. The area is known as a "zona de puna", or altitude sickness zone.

    Some photos from the area, including a couple old ones from La Chimenea at the furthest west edge, are included in the following link. The gallery starts with general views, and ends with some spring/summer trekking photos and hardy high altitude flowers.

    http://bit.ly/CerroLaParva

    I should mention that The Andes Handbook website has around 150 peaks, just in the area around Santiago ("Region Metropolitana"). http://www.andeshandbook.org/buscarc...0Metropolitana

    Most of these are 3,000-5,000m, but get up to 6,500m (Tupungato Volcano). Many have been skied, generally in multi-day expeditions. Hardcore winter expeditions are still know as "Randonee" ascents in Chile. For example, the Volcan San Jose (5,800m) was first skied in 1984, in 4 days (Gaston Oyarzun et al).
    Last edited by Casey E; 05-14-2015 at 07:05 PM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Goniff View Post
    Casey E, this is a great service you have provided. I skied Chile in 2010 and you have inspired me to come back. Would I be able to find lodging near Nevados de Chillan as late as a week before arriving in late August?
    There should be no problem finding some kind of lodging in Las Trancas, there are now many places to stay there. Check out Chil-in http://www.chil-in.com/eng/index%20eng.htm or http://onai.cl/.

  25. #25
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    Good news, the El Niño forecast has been upgraded to "Weak to Moderate", with a higher chance of occurring, in particular starting in August in Chile. Both the Australian and Chilean weather services are more optimistic. The Chilean service predicts above average rainfall for May June July as well, and snow forecast is now predicting dumps in southern Chile.

    Click on these photos (wierd how the photo function works now):




    The central zone continues to be bone dry, and temperatures were +3°C higher than normal in April. The drought also continues throughout the south central zone.

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