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Cerro Catedral, Bariloche

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Text and Photos © 1992, 1996 Chris I. Lizza. All Rights Reserved.
Chris' South America Ski Guide can be purchased at amazon.com

A view of Nahuel Huapi lake from Cerro Catedral
Slopes from Cerro Catedral

Ski Area Facts and Figures:

2,050m (6,725ft)
1,050m (3,445ft)
Vertical Drop:
1,000m (3,280ft)
Early June to Early October
1 Aerial Tramway, 1 6-person Chair, 1 Quad Chair, 8 Double
Chairs, 2 T-Bars, 17 Surface Lifts
15% Beginner, 60% Intermediate, 20% Advanced, 5% Expert
Tickets, 1998:
new computerized "Chip Pass"
with variable pricing.


The management at Bariloche's ski area likes to call Catedral "South America's most important ski area." It is certainly the biggest with some 67km (42 miles) of trails accessed by 27 major lifts with a capacity of nearly 20,000 skiers/hour. Gran Catedral incorporates the competing lift operators of Lado Bueno and Robles and includes the cable car company, the independent Lynch chairlift, and the three rival ski schools of Robles Catedral, Ski Total, and Catedral. The mountain was finally integrated with one lift ticket in 1986

The reason Catedral is so popular is not the quality of the snow. In fact, it is possible to ski to the base only about 30% of the season as the hill faces east and the elevations are very low. A strong effort is made to keep at least a portion of the mountain. open so that skiing is available somewhere on the mountain from June through October. Skiers are attracted to Catedral because over half of the runs are rated intermediate, and the days become warm well before most skiers approach the upper slopes.

New in '98

There has been some restructuring at Catedral, and significant improvements have been realized. The lift companies and ski schools have combined to form Alta Patagonia and a new, covered, six-passenger, high-speed chairlift, the "Superbubble," has been installed in the area under the tram. A new quad then runs from the top of the Superbubble at El Barrilete to the summit of Punta Nevada, thus providing bottom-to-top access in an astounding 15 minutes. Such added lift capacity was a condition to their acquisition of a new 30-year lease from the provincial government which owns the land on Catedral, and other slope and base improvements are under way. A new snowmaking system has been expanding each season to help get the upper slopes going in the early season and to keep a trail to the base open all winter long. They have also invested in a new computerized ticketing system whereby instead of buying a daily lift ticket, you get a bar-encoded pass and swipe it each time you ride a lift and pay only what you use. The village at the base has also been expanded and improved.

The town of Bariloche has undergone a significant transformation since I wrote the book. The students who throng to Bariloche on graduation trips have taken over. Many restaurants and shops and most hotels in Bariloche now cater exclussively to the student market. As this trend continues, the focus of tourism will shift from urban Bariloche to the newly refurbished Llao-Llao hotel and other quiter lakeside inns.


Gran Catedral is located on the northern end of a range which extends from Lake Mascardi in the south to Lake Nahuel Huapi. The majority of the runs face east, and all other slope aspects are stripped clean by the prevailing westerlies of the region. The normal snowline seems to have ascended to the 1,200m (3,940ft) level in recent years, accurately implying that skiing to the base is becoming a rarer privilege. In a five-month season, expect to have good skiing to the bottom of the mountain for one to two months. The snow is typically heavy and soft, and unseasonably warm temperatures or rain often destroy a good mid-season snowpack. Average annual snowfall is 0.4m (16in) at the base, 2m (6.5ft) at the Piedra del Condor, and 5m (16ft) at La Hoya.

Skiing Tips

Three summit areas at Catedral define the ski area. The southernmost is the Piedra del Condor located at the top of Lado Bueno's three Condor chairlifts at 1,785m (5,855ft). In the center is the Punta Nevada whose 2,090m (6,855ft) summit is not quite reached with a lift. On the north side of the ski area, Punta Princesa is at the end of the Robles chain of chairlifts. This area receives the most snow and is well protected for good intermediate skiing all season long. The lifts are color coded, and from the base the red Robles line is on the left, the yellow Lado Bueno lifts are on the right, and the Cable Carríl and the green Lynch chair are in the center. The tram is the oldest lift on the mountain but the cars were replaced recently. Its utility is limited to the first ascent because the location of the bottom station on a hill above and behind the base of the ski area makes the access impractical to returning skiers. The new Superbubble six-pack now provides skiers with a quick, comfortable, and no-waiting route to the upper slopes from the base village.

Beginner skiers have several lifts at the base of Robles set aside for their use. If these are crowded, try the Plaza poma at the top of the Plaza chairlift. Intermediates have a great variety of runs to choose from and can freely ride any lift on the mountain without concern. One of the best intermediate runs is alongside the Condor III chairlift at the top of Lado Bueno. Advanced skiers will thrill to the high-speed cruising offered by Catedral's upper slopes. For increased steepness, try the runs around the Lado Bueno's Condor II chair and Largo T-Bar. Expert skiers will want to hike or traverse into the beautiful chutes and bowls of Punta Nevada. Most people ascend on a traverse from the Nubes poma, but an easy 15-minute hike from either this lift or the La Hoya poma accesses the area.

Adventure Skiing

Adventurers will find ample space at Catedral if they are lucky enough to be there when there is good snow to the bottom. Try the Segundo Lomo and Palmera runs north of the Piedra del Condor. These areas are the obvious snowfields widely visible during the drive to the ski area. They offer the continent's best tree skiing, and there are several long roads at the bottom which lead back to the ski area. Wet afternoon snow and thick bushes near the bottom present some difficulties but should not deter expert skiers. The only other possibility is in the Pico Norte. This area is skiable only after considerable hiking, but the new Luipe poma has made it easier to return to the ski area. There is little avalanche danger on the mountain due to high winds that strip the most dangerous slopes.

Nordic Skiing

Due to lack of snow, plans to develop cross-country skiing at the area have been put aside. The site would be perfect, as it somewhat resembles the flat meadows of Squaw Valley, but the snowline continues to ascend Catedral each season. With an elevation between 1,000 and 1,200m (3,280-3,935ft), it is impossible to schedule events and races in the area. In exceptional snow years however, expect to find better skiing and more skiers here than at Cerro Otto. Check with the Club Andino Bariloche for rentals, lessons, and information.

Information and Reservations:
In Buenos Aires:
Paraguay 783, P9, B
Tel: (01) 312-2420
At Catedral:
Tel: (0944) 60 119
Fax: 60 008

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