Sector Volcán Osorno
While it hasn’t erupted since the mid-19th century, the youthful Holocene crater of 2,652-meter Volcán Osorno has active fumaroles and is potentially dangerous.
Adventure travel operators in Puerto Octay and Puerto Varas offer one-day guided climbs of Osorno, ranging from US$160 for two persons (up and down in the same day) to US$300 per person. Starting around 4 a.m., it’s a challenging ascent, requiring either technical skills on snow and ice or guides with those technical skills, especially to cross crevasses. Conaf, which regulates climbing here, requires one guide for every three climbers on commercial trips; for independent climbers, it requires proof of experience and presentation of gear before issuing permits.
Recent improvements have made Volcán Osorno’s once-dilapidated ski area a viable recreational option in both summer and winter, though it’s not likely to draw big crowds away from more elaborate ski destinations such as Portillo and Valle Nevado. As it has no accommodations of its own (though a local ski club operates a simple nearby refugio), most skiers stay in either Puerto Varas or other lakeside communities.
Facilities include a pair of decent lifts that carry skiers nearly 500 meters above the base elevation of 1,200 meters. At the base, reached by a fully paved road just north of Ensenada, there is a small cafeteria and a larger restaurant, seating up to 150 patrons for lunch. Lift tickets are moderately priced, and rental gear is available; outside ski season, visitors can still take the lifts (US$10 pp) for access to the views and high country walks.
For more information on the ski area in both winter and summer, contact Centro de Ski & Montaña Volcán Osorno (San Francisco 333, 2nd floor, Puerto Varas, tel. 065/233445, www.volcanosorno.com). CTS Turismo (San Francisco 333, tel. 065/237330, Puerto Varas) provides round-trip transportation (US$30 pp, including a sandwich and drink).
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition