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Valle Nevado is conveniently located only 41 miles (66 km) from the Santiago International Airport. The drive up is scenic and the number of 180 degree switchbacks puts your Mario Cart training to use. The drive starts with the very typical airport highway exit through the outskirts of Santiago with a brief drive through the suburb of Farellones, followed by a drive through the countryside to a gentle ascent up the Andes to a weavey road of 54, 180 degree switchbacks (the first set is 39 turns followed later by a set of 15 turns), which zig-zag back and forth till you arrive at your destination, the Valle Nevado ski resort.
Camino A Farellones on the way from Santiago to Valle Nevado
The roads are paved and in good condition. Portions of the highway are covered in avalanche prone areas.
Camino A Farellones on the way to Valle Nevado - Avalanche sheltered road.
Curve warnings on Camino A Farellones on the way to Valle Nevado
The two lane twisty road on the way to Valle Nevado. It is barely wide enough for two vehicles, buses and trucks travel this route routinely but yet fools are constantly trying to pass even when conditions are clearly impossible.
The Gondola base parking at Valle Nevado. The hotels and condos are a short drive further up the hill.
The Valle Nevado welcome sign.
Tire chains may be a necessity which can not be determined until one approaches the resort at the higher elevations. Some, but not all rental car agencies will rent chains with the car as an option. Our 4x4 Suzuki from Chilean Rent a Car had a small daily fee of $5.00 USD for chains. GPS is also an option (same price). The vehicle rental fee included a toll tag which essential if you want to drive around Santiago and check out the city and certainly helpful on the drive to Valle Nevado. If you want to venture over the mountain range to Argentina, there will be more paper work and applications to fill out. Unfortunately the approval is not immediate and you will have to report back to the rental car company 24 hours after filling out the application. It also can not be done in advance.
Pro Tip: FM reception is limited to non-existent for most of the drive. Bring some tunes.
For those who forgot to rent chains or they were not available from your rental agency, there are multiple road-side options. Look for the roadside signs for "Cadenas Arriendo" which directly translates to chain rental.
Tire chain rental on Camino A Farellones on the way to Valle Nevado
The last tire chain rental on Camino A Farellones on the way to Valle Nevado
Valle Nevado Ski Resort
A very short driving distance from the Santiago International Airport but not a quick drive due to the twisty turning mountain road, most of it with only one lane for each direction.
Free parking for day visits is encouraged at the base of the gondola where there is a large parking lot with lots of space. Higher up the mountain road at the hotel area, parking becomes sparse and is generally reserved for hotel guests.