History Portillo
Portillo is the oldest ski resort in the Andes


"The food is wonderful, of course; Portillo is famous for its food. But the smells of grilling chicken and peppery Aji Chileno sauce waft out of a low stone hut 10,300 feet up the side of an Andean alp. A condor with a wingspan bigger than an Austrian downhiller soars the cliffs overhead. At the next table, a couple of Brazilian models burble in Portuguese as they angle their chairs to the sun." Peter Shelton, American journalist. "They hired me, a green 26-year-old, as General Manager of the new organization. I think I was the only relatively young and adventure-minded person that they knew in the hotel business. I was a graduate of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration and had worked for 5 years for the Hilton Corporation. I was tired of big city hotels and big corporation life, so I jumped at the chance and moved my whole family to Chile. I soon discovered that nearly everything that I had learned about the hotel business at Cornell and with Hilton was not going to be much help at Portillo." Owner Henry Purcell recalls the challenge that awaited him at Portillo in the 1960s.
How the Stage was Set HISTORY IN BRIEF 1949: The hotel was inaugurated. 1966: The hotel organized a skiing world championship. HISTORY IN DETAIL 1800s: The place got its start in the late 1800s when Norwegian and English engineers scouted a rail route that would link Chile's fertile central valley with the Argentine city of Mendoza, and eventually Buenos Aires to the east. The Transandean Railway, which chugged past Laguna del Inca on its way to the frontier, thus became the first ski lift in Chile. Missing imagec.1930: Skiing enthusiasts focused their efforts on developing the slopes around Laguna del Inca (Lake of the Inca), an area known as ‘Portillo’ or ‘Little Pass’. 1930s: The first lift in the area was a tow lift similar, in a rudimentary fashion, to today's Poma lift. Adventure-seekers came from Europe and the United States to ski the Andes alongside Chileans. European ski instructors then arrived, and a small mountain hut for lodging was built, known as Hotel Portillo. The tiny Hotel Portillo grew and developed services. Early 1940s: A company by the name of Hoteles de Cordillera S.A sold stock to pay for the construction of Grand Hotel Portillo. However, the company failed and by the outbreak of World War II the hotel was still far from completion. 1945: After the war Chile’s Corporation for Development resumed the hotel project. 1949: Inauguration of the 125-room Grand Hotel Portillo. The government had managed to convert a small stone refuge into the original Grand Hotel Portillo and built two single chairlifts up the hill. The Portillo ski area was quickly born. The ski school, high-mountain school of the Chilean Army - and even guests - all pitched in to groom the slopes. 1950s: Alpine icons Emile Allais and Stein Eriksen were lured to the Portillo to run the ski school. 1962: Business was slow. The government had had enough and sold the resort to two Americans. One of these men was Bob Purcell, a passionate skier and longtime Latin America hand with the Rockefeller Foundation. Bob hired his 26-year-old nephew Henry Purcell away from the Hilton chain to run the fledgling enterprise 1960s: Henry quickly turned Grand Hotel Portillo into a great success. 1966: The hotel organized an Alpine World Championships. 1973: Fidel Castro visited. 2007: Over the years, the hotel’s capacity has been expanded to 400 guestrooms. There are 450 staff. Source: www.jsonline.com
From the World of Politics Fidel Castro The Kennedy family From the World of Sports Portillo has hosted many ski teams who come to train for world events, including the U.S., Canadian, Austrian, Italian, Japanese, Chilean, and German ski teams.
When the communist government of 1973 discussed the nationalization of Portillo, Fidel Castro paid a long, tense visit. Unimpressed, he told the hotel management that their mountains weren't up to much and that he could climb one after lunch if he so desired. ---------------------- The Kennedy children were chased by the Chilean border police on a sojourn at the hotel.

Henry Purcell started managing the hotel back in 1962. Now the owner, he recently handed the reins over to his son, Michael.

Managed by: Michael Purcell
123 Rooms
Octagon Lodge --------------- Inca Lodge --------------- Chalets at the Inka Lake Missing image
The crescent-shaped Hotel Portillo is located on the edge of the Lake of the Incas in the Andes. Missing image
Tio Bob's Restaurant, named after Bob Purcell, uncle of the current owner Henry Purcell. Bob took over the running of the hotel in the early sixties.
Come here to ski and to eat. The skiing is first-rate. Nestled in amongst the majestic peaks of the Andes, across from the haunting green Lake of the Incas, the Portillo offers skiiers a stunning backdrop. The food is equally inviting. Missing image
Aside from the world-class skiing, guests can do yoga or aerobics, swim in the outdoor heated pool or indulge themselves in jacuzzi or sauna. Massages are also available. Missing image
350 pax seated
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Our Select Member Hotel

Country: Chile
City: Portillo
Opening date: 1949

Note from the Host

General Manager Michael Purcell


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