Cerro Catedral: Ski South America’s Budget Tahoe

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Cerro Catedral in the vast winter play land of Argentina’s Lakes District is the country’s largest ski destination.

Catedral Alta Patagonia, as its officially named, is popular both for its extensive terrain spread across three mountains and its 19 kilometer (12 mi.) proximity to San Carlos de Bariloche, Patagonia’s second largest city.

The 1030 meter (3379 ft.) high resort boasts 120 kilometers (75 mi.) of terrain on 70 different slopes served by 39 lifts, one tram and four-person gondolas.

South America’s oldest ski resort debuted in 1938 and today features a full-service village at its base.

Making it even better is that nearby Bariloche is Argentina’s bona fide ‘ski town‘ full of breweries, world-class restaurants and chocolate shops.

New & Improved Ski Slopes

Though Catedral is South America’s most elderly resort it has undergone several multi-million dollar renovations.

A 2009 revamp doubled the lift capacity to 22,000 and added four kilometers of cross-country skiing trails, and a new terrain park.

The tubing trail and a toboggan run they added provides more activities for the non-skiers in the family.

Catedral’s modernization also included the purchase of snowmobiles and quadbikes for back-country tours and to reach the exclusive mountain restaurant, La Cueva.

A photo of Cerro Catedral in Bariloche from the peak, photo by Ryan Rambo
Cerro Catedral in Bariloche as seen from the peak. photo: Ryan Rambo

The upgrades brought Cerro Catedral newfound international attention.

In the same year Ski Rebel magazine dubbed Bariloche a ‘winter sports giant.’


The Toronto Star went so far as to call Cerro Catedral the world’s number two ski destination after Aspen, Colorado, (somewhat self-deprecatingly considering the resorts in Canada).

Due to the wet conditions and proximity to Lake Nahuel Huapí, Cathedral is actually best compared to, not to Aspen, but Lake Tahoe.

Although there is a lot of snowfall, the snow at the lakeside ski mecca is usually more like ‘California cement’ than light ‘champagne powder.’

The sometimes dense snow and a few older lifts are the resort’s biggest drawback for spoiled snow hounds accustomed to world class skiing.

But recent upgrades include many more snow-making machines for the base, which has helped the resort extend the ski season.

Cerro Catedral is a favored destination for pro skiers and snowboarders from the Northern hemisphere for its deep powder, extensive off-piste terrain and of course the opportunity to ski when it is summer in the northern hemisphere.

A fifth of Cerro Catedral are novice runs, while the bulk are easy intermediate with a few tricky spots.

The remaining 15% is advanced and expert terrain.

→ Find out about booking flights to Bariloche online

Ski-tacular Views and Rave Boarding Reviews

Day passes at Catedral cost about half the price of the most well-known resorts in the western U.S., Europe and Canada and the views of the Andes mountains are free!

Visitors are treated to incredible views of Nahuel Huapi and Gutiérrez Lake and Mount Tronador on the ski lifts. Grooming of the slopes is good and there is enough different terrain here to satisfied speed demons, freestylers and tree skiers and boarders alike.
Skiing is not as much of a middle class sport as it used to be in Argentina, although Bariloche locals can get reasonable season passes.

Just like in Aspen, there is local celebrity spotting on the slopes, Arab royalty fly in on private jets and there are tangibly-related VIP events such as snow-themed fashion shows with top designers and models.

Costs to Ski & Board

International travelers will find Cerro Catedral a bargain and the lower ticket prices are even further offset by the prices of Argentina’s succulent steaks and fine Malbec.

Be prepared for higher prices during the high season, but it’s not too bad a deal compared to Big White in Canada, Lake Tahoe in USA or Chamonix in the French Alps.

In 2023 with a strong dollar, rental equipment plus ski passes are going for between US$50-70 per day.

Lake Nahuel Huapi, bird's eye view from Cerro Catedral
Lake Nahuel Huapi is said to be inhabited by a mysterious sea creature nicknamed Nahuelito.

Beginners just using the bunny slopes will be glad to know that beginner tickets costs less.

To make things easy, prebook a package from an English-speaking local company that includes transport to and from downtown Bariloche, and your rental equipment set aside ahead of time in order to hit the slopes as fast a possible.

If going for a few days or a week, there are discounts for buying multi-day passes.

Skiers 70-years-old and up get the rock star treatment they deserve all season — tickets for seniors are free.

Single snowboarder. Book Transport, Rental & Ski Passes

Skip the lines: Transport, Rental Equipment + Ski Pass all in 1+

So all 70-year-young and up ski bums should put Cerro Catedral on their bucket lists.

Skiing in South America: When to Go

We’re in the southern hemisphere here at the end of the world, so don’t forget the seasons are reversed.

Bariloche qualifies as an excellent candidate for ski junkies, or even professionals from the northern climes looking to ski during their summer.

The ski season in Bariloche begins July and usually ends in September.

If this year’s snow season is as good as in 2022, the season might extend until October.

Bariloche’s snowfall is sometimes disappointing early in the season and the resort doesn’t make as much snow as it could at the base of the mountain.

If going during the high season of June-July there will be more lines. The best time to go to Bariloche to ski is later in the season, even August is ideal.

Cerro Catedral resort ski facts sheet
Bariloche’s Main Ski Resort Stats

What Areas to Ski or Board

Beginner skiers will be happy to find that lower cost tickets are available for just the bunny slopes.

The ‘snow baptism’ is offered in the in the Platform 1200 area.

This is where up-and-coming snow bunnies learn to snap in, take the T bar and get acquainted with the fine art of falling down.

Intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders know the drill: head to the top of the mountain early and stay up there all day.

Take the Quadruple ski lift to Punta Nevada, for an easy first run on Copper Mountain or Barrilete run, or through La Hoya to El Filo, where you’ll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Andes.

The backside of the resort’s La Laguna forest area boasts some of the best tree-skiing in Argentina for advanced skiers and boarders who can deftly swerve through trees. Watch out for tree wells!

Deep snow in the forest: La Laguna, Cerro Catedral
Cerro Catedral offers great options for tree skiing

Travelers should keep in mind that the school holidays during the July/early August high season mean that Bariloche and the slopes of Catedral are crowded with relatively inexperienced skiers at that time.

The annual ‘Fiesta Nacional de la Nieve‘ (National Snow Festival), with a parade, race-of-the-waiters and election of a ‘Snow Queen’ also takes place around the school vacation.

The ski resort’s previous laissez-faire attitude toward slope grooming has since improved, but it’s worth noting that there may still be some macho skiers (of any gender, woke Google algorithm!) who it may be best to give some leeway on the slopes.

But those who love ‘pow pow’ will be happy to know there are 98 days of snowfall a year here — the most of any ski resort in Argentina.

What to Bring for South American Skiing

If you are serious about skiing, or plan to ski a lot consider bringing your own equipment and ski wear to save time and money.

If you don’t wish to carry it basic equipment rental is available at a reasonable price, but everyone knows that breaking in boots can lead to blisters, so at least consider bringing your boots if possible.

Since imported items such as clothes and outdoor wear tend to be expensive in Argentina due to import taxes, so there are a few things to remember to pack:

• High quality mirrored UV-protected googles like these. Not only can it be really bright, it can also get hazy on Cerro Catedral, so it’s important to have google that provide good depth perception on the slopes.

• A good wind-proof ski or snowboard jacket with lots of pockets like these. It gets windy and wet in Bariloche so you will want a good wind-breaking, moisture-resistant jacket.

• Sunscreen — the snow reflects sun, so don’t forget you get double the sun. There is sunscreen available in Argentina but it can be expensive, greasy and gross — finding a decent one requires shopping around.


Pedestrians can hitch a ride on the Amanacay Cable Car starting at 10 a.m. every day during the season to dine at the Parador La Roca and enjoy the views offered by at the top of Cathedral.

Can you Move to Bariloche & Be a Ski Bum?

Those who have resident status can scoop up a ski pass before the 2023 season begins for around US$200. Without local residency papers, the seasons pass costs considerably more, but is still doable.

Most visitors can stay in Argentina a total of 6 months by simple renewing their tourist visa after three months.

This region of the Andes has some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and Bariloche is a winter wonderland that also offers an abundance of coffeeshops and co-working facilities.

Bariloche's Mitre's street after a snowfall
Bariloche’s Mitre’s street after a snowfall

If season-long good skiing conditions are your main pursuit you may be more satisfied with Portillo resort in Chile or Las Leñas in the Mendoza province.

It is a trade-off though — visitors will find Portillo far more expensive.

Las Leñas, further north in Mendoza is a resort, far from any cities, so the dining and services are isolated, meaning they’re expensive and there are fewer activities. Las Leñas views of the Andes also don’t include lakes.

And if you were really going to commit and move to South America to be a ski bum, Bariloche would probably be your best bet.

→ Read about the Andean Lakes crossing tour and book online

• Read about hotels in Bariloche or book hotels in Bariloche online.

Cerro Catedral
San Carlos de Bariloche
Río Negro Province
Tel: (02944) 420268

Summit: 7,152 ft. (2180m)
Base: 3,379 ft. (1130m)

•Open: Average of three months per year
•Season: Late June/Early July until Late September/Early October (depending on snow conditions)

Hours: 9.30 a.m. 5 p.m. (ski & snowboard) 10 a.m. — 4 p.m. (pedestrians).

• Childcare services offered
• Those 70+ ski free!
• Equipment rental available
• Heliski available

Getting there from central Bariloche:

• By car: Take Bustillo Avenue to kilometer 8, turn left to reach the parking area.
→ Read about driving in Argentina and renting a car

• By bus: a shuttle leaves for Cerro Cathedral every thirty minutes from the bus station and stops all along the main strip in downtown Bariloche and along Bustillo Avenue.

Buses are inexpensive, but you will need a special smart card to ride the bus called the Sube. Conveniently it’s the same card used to ride the subway in Buenos Aires.

If you don’t have one, ask your hotel to lend you one, and keep in mind you will probably need to put credit on it

-A reader recently contacted us to inform us that Bariloche shuttles are often full at peak times, so they had to wait an average of one hour and up to two hours for a bus. Your, erm, mileage may vary. By booking private transport or renting a car you can avoid the waits for public transportation.