To Argentines, LAS LEÑAS means chic: this is where the Porteño jet set come to show off their winter fashions, to get photographed for society magazines and to have a good time. Skiing and snowboarding are only part of the fun – as in all exclusive winter resorts, the après-ski is just as important as the snow conditions. More seriously, many ski champions from the northern hemisphere head down here during the June to October season, when there’s not a lot of snow in the US or Europe; the Argentine, Brazilian and South American skiing championships are all held here in August, while other events include snow-polo matches, snow-rugby, snow-volleyball and fashion shows. But even though Las Leñas is a playground for the rich and famous, it’s possible to visit without breaking the bank; you could stay in the least expensive accommodation, or overnight elsewhere nearby, such as in Los Molles or Malargüe. Las Leñas is also trying to branch out into summertime adventure travel, such as mountain-biking, rafting and horseriding, making the most of its splendid upland setting and pleasant daytime temperatures. Note that the resort is completely closed down, however, from March to May and October to the end of December.
The road to Las Leñas heads due west from the Mendoza to Malargüe section of the RN-40, 28km south of the crossroads settlement of El Sosneado. It climbs past the ramshackle spa resort of Los Molles, and the peculiar Pozo de las Animas, a set of two huge well-like depressions that make for a diverting photo stop (scheduled bus services don’t stop, and they can’t be seen from the road). Caused by underground water erosion, each is several hundred metres in diameter, with a pool of turquoise water in the bottom. The sand-like cliffs surrounding each lake have been corrugated and castellated by the elements, like some medieval fortress, and the ridge dividing the two looks in danger of collapse at any minute. The resort lies 50km from the RN-40, a total of nearly 200km southwest of San Rafael. If you are booked at the resort, look to get a transfer from Malargüe airport (once weekly charter flight from Buenos Aires, June to mid-Sept, US$500 return), Mendoza or San Rafael; or during the ski season you can take the daily buses run by Iselín and CATA from Mendoza, a seven-hour journey (US$20 one way), or the daily public bus or agency transfers from Malargüe. Otherwise you need your own transport.Read More