Portillo is the oldest ski area in South America, and its history holds an important place in the legend of skiing. It is a history of adventurers and the Andes, and of dreams and accomplishments in the wonderful world of skiing.
IT BEGAN WITH THE RAILROADS
In 1887, the Chilean government contracted English engineers to study the feasibility of a railway through the Andes at Uspallata Pass, which could transport goods and passengers from Chile's Central Valley to the Argentine city of Mendoza, and eventually to Buenos Aires. The English engineers then contracted two Norwegian engineers, Elmar Rosenquist and Michel Hermundsen, to conduct winter studies of the proposed line. The Norwegians spent two winters in 1887 and 1888 traversing the region on skis. They were surely the first skiers to cross the slopes of the Portillo ski area.
Two years later, in 1889, the Chilean government hired 14 Norwegian skiers to transport mail between Chile and Argentina. We are told that the plan was not successful and was not repeated.
During the construction of the railroad, skiing was common among the engineers in charge, most of whom were Englishmen who used skis in their work - and no doubt for enjoyment. Following the inauguration of the international railroad in 1910, these pioneers were followed by recreational skiers who used the train to get to the top of the mountain at Caracoles so they could ski down to the Juncal crossing - an area that is now within the Portillo ski resort. Thus, the Transandean Railway became the first ski lift in Chile.
Hahnemkam Vintage poster / Kitsbuhel