Las Lenas is located on the western edge of Argentina, near the border with Chile, in the Andes Mountain Range. It is around 200km from Santiago in Chile as the crow flies, but as the roads are not direct, Mendoza in Argentina is the closest major town by road at a 4.5 hour drive. Las Lenas is really quite remote and feels it when you are there.
Along with Cerro Catedral, Las Lenas is one of the two biggest ski resorts in Argentina. The resort is particularly known for its Marte area back country which is one of the biggest back country areas in the world.
The season usually opens in mid-June on "Flags day" and finishes in mid-October although Les Lenas can close earlier sometimes due to a lack of snow.
There is an overnight bus that comes in from Buenos Aires. However, the better way is to catch a flight to Mendoza (420km / 260 miles), Malargue (77 km / 47 miles) or San Rafael (200 km / 124 miles) and take a transfer bus from one of those towns.
Travelling by bus in Argentina is different than in other countries. Service often includes full dinner, wine, breakfast, hosts and hostesses and WiFi
From Buenos Aires
Additionally, there are regular bus services from the Main Bus Terminal (Estación Terminal de Omnibus Retiro), located at AV. Ramos Mejía 1680 down town Buenos Aires www.tebasa.com.ar
CATA International Bus Company, runs directly from the bus station in Mendoza to Las Leñas. It leaves every day at 2:30am, arriving at Las Leñas just before 8am, and for the return trip to Mendoza, departs Las Leñas at 5:30 pm.
From San Rafael
Iselin Bus Company departs every day in the morning from San Rafael Bus Terminal, with a travel time to Las Leñas of approx. 3 ½ hours.
Argentina has working holiday visas for a number of countries to allow you to work in the country over a winter season, including for Australians and New Zealanders. See Argentina - Guide to Working at a Ski Resort for information on getting a working holiday visa to Argentina.
If you are not working, you can get a tourist to stay for up to 90 days. See Argentina - Guide to Working at a Ski Resort for further information on this visa and how to obtain one.
Las Lenas is still very underdeveloped compared to the big North American and European resorts. The town at the base of the hill is mostly hotels with a couple of shops and a few bars. The chairlifts are pretty rickety and recall years gone by.
Don't expect the same level of service as at North American or European resorts. Often, chairs are closed for seemingly no good reason, things don't necessarily open on time and occasionally the power will go out. After a season of this, you start to get used to things running the 'Argentinean way'.
Most of the hotels and other amenities are a small walk down the road from the base of the chairs. Be aware that the road up to the hill is often not well maintained and can get icy and dangerous on rough nights.
The nightlife is relatively small at Las Lenas compared to other resorts such as Cerro Catedral. In typical Argentine fashion, dinner is late (10pm or so) and bars don't get going until at least midnight. Apres-ski drinks is not really a thing at Las Lenas.
Some of the places to go include:
La Pyramide contains all the shopping in the village and is where you can find the supermarket. There are a few restaurants up on the hill. La Cima, Sante Fe and Elurra are all good.
Pretty even at Las Lenas, with the resort a bit of a magnet for people from Buenos Aires.
The crowds are generally smaller at Las Lenas given that it is away from major town centres and has less to offer in terms of nightlife and other activities than more popular resorts such as Cerro Catedral. However, there can still be quite long lift lines at the base lifts, particularly on July 9 (Independence Day) and San Martin Memorial Day (August 17).
Las Lenas is one of the most expensive resorts in the Andes, and this includes the shops and bars in town. It is more expensive than Cerro Catedral and caters to richer clientele from Buenos Aires and Americans who are willing to pay more to access the famous back country.
Las Lenas Trail Map
Las Lenas is rugged and wild with little of the modern infrastructure associated with resorts in Europe and North America. The on-piste areas are quite small, with only 29 runs, and the terrain for beginners is not great as the resort is still very much in development. There is a little bit at the base for intermediates but you will get the most out of Las Lenas if you are an advanced rider. The grooming system is not yet quite as good as in North America and Europe.
However, if you include all the back country and off-piste terrain accessible by the chairlifts, then this resort is truly massive and the biggest resorts in South America. The resort claims 17,500 hectares (43,243 acres) of ski-able terrain which is ridiculous when you consider that North America's largest resort, Whistler, only claims around 8,000 acres of ski-able terrain. However, most of this terrain is back country terrain accessible from the top of the Marte chair. There doesn't seem to be any distinct resort boundary as such.
Marte Area Back Country
From the top of the Marte Chair you get to the highest point on the mountain. From that point, you can trek left, right or head straight down and the possibilities are pretty massive. If you stay in Las Lenas for a longer period or a whole season, this is basically the only chair you will ride. There is more back country here than a single person could ever do in a season. This area is pretty much unpatrolled so remember to carry avalanche gear.
At the top of the Marte Chair, there is also a snow cat that will take you over to the Cerro El Collar chutes. This is where the South American extreme skiing championships were formerly held and includes some wicked terrain.
Unfortunately, they close the Marte Chair if it's too windy, snowy or foggy. And seeing as many of the resort staff work seemingly work on mañana time, the chair can stay closed for long periods, meaning you will be stuck on the front side - at which point it's often better to just head in for the day.
The snow, or lack of it, is one of the major downsides to Las Lenas, and it can be very hit or miss some seasons. The resort is located in a valley, with a micro climate meaning that there often is not much moisture in the air, hence there can sometimes be a dearth of snow. Average snowfall is 6 metres but the seasonal variation can be quite large, meaning that there is a bit of luck involved.
Unfortunately, if you come for just a week you may not get to experience the best of Las Lenas so people there for a season will get to experience the best of the mountain.
Compared to Cerro Catedral, the mountain is much higher (2,240 m / 7,350 feet at the base and 3,430 m / 11,253 ft at the summit).
At the Minerva chair is the biggest terrain park in South America at 1,500 metres in length.
Virtually all the jobs go to locals, and to get a job is almost impossible without knowing someone at the mountain. However, the ski and snowboard schools may offer you a job if you are suitably qualified and speak Spanish. You should apply before March, ideally.
Some of the hotels may also offer you employment if you speak Spanish and you could request this when submitting your CV. A few of the hotels in town include:
Although Las Lenas is one of the more expensive resorts, it would still be possible to just come to Las Lenas for an extended period, buy a season pass and ride every day for a couple of months. Many foreigners end up doing this because it is so difficult to find work and pay is very low.
The amount you have to work to make a living makes it quite a good option to just work a bit harder back home to save up some money and then head over.
Apart from the hotels in town, there are a few apartments in the village. They can be rented for the season. A list of apartments which are open for seasonal renting is available at www.alquilereslaslenas.com
There may also be apartments available here at www.laslenasski.com
It is really difficult to find a place before turning up. More common is to start your inquiries once you are in town. Cirrus apartments are cheap, decent and close to the chairs.
Around $2000 a month is reasonable for an apartment shared between 3 to 5 people.
The closest town is Malargüe around 80km away and it is not practical to live there.