Driving to Cerro Chacaltaya, the world's highest ski resort

Cerro Chacaltaya is a high mountain peak at an elevation of 5.260m (17,257ft) above the sea level, located in La Paz Department of Bolivia. It's one of the highest roads of the country.

Cerro Chacaltaya

What’s the world’s highest ski resort?

Set high in the heart of the Cordillera Real of the Bolivian Andes, Cerro Chacaltaya, also known as simply Chacaltaya, hosted the world's highest ski resort. When we think about where the highest ski resort on Earth lies, visions of Switzerland, Austria, France or Colorado fill our minds. Reality is strikingly different. From 1939 to 2009, Chacaltaya Snowy Ski Station held the title of the highest ski resort in the world. Furthermore, there was a restaurant and a chalet for tourists. Nowadays, however, due the climate changing, nothing can be found at Chacaltaya, but blurred memories and an abandoned building. Snow is gone, and so has the skiing. The ski station was abandoned in 2009. If you're heading to the northwestern ridge, you can check out the Mount Chacaltaya Laboratory, which began as a weather station and became a crucial location for gamma-ray research.

Can you drive to Cerro Chacaltaya?

The winding road to the eerily abandoned mountaintop resort is totally unpaved. A 4x4 vehicle is required. The road is pretty narrow and steep and a little bit scary sometimes, with dangerous drop offs. The road to the ruined ski station was built in the 1930’s.

How long is the road to Cerro Chacaltaya?

The road to the summit, known as Ruta Chacaltaya, is very steep, hitting a 14% of maximum gradient through some of the ramps. Starting at Ingenio, the ascent is 9.6 km (5.96 miles) long. Over this distance the elevation gain is 635 meters. The average gradient is 6.61%. It’s not a journey for the weak hearted ...... or a vehicle with poor steering or brakes. On reaching the end of the road at the resort, if you still have the energy when you make it to the ski station you can climb up on a path the 100m or so to the top of Cerro Chacaltaya. For the well acclimatized, this is a long, but not overly strenuous day trip on unloaded bikes. The views from the ski station are stunning – Huayna Potosi, Mururata and Illimani in the Cordillera Real, La Paz and El Alto to the south, and if you look hard enough a tiny bit of Lake Titicaca can be seen to the west.
Pic: alberto gonzalez