This part is in progress…
Best time to go:
Ski resorts are usually open form mid June to the beginning of October, depending on the snow conditions. Best time to go is mid July and August as there is the most snow and the coldest temperatures.
At the end of August there is usually a storm called “Santa Rosa” with heavy snow falls. So touring afterwards still offers a very good snow pack but warmer temperatures in the afternoon.
For touring around Cerro Castillo and El Chaltén we recommend to go around mid August to beginning of October as days start to get longer and temperatures more likable. Locals also say that the weather in this period is a bit more stable.
For the northern part of the trip around the ski areas it is very well possible to make transfers by plane or comfortable and well equipped buses (good food, wifi, real beds…) and then take shuttles to the ski resort or take a taxi ride every once in a while to approach a mission.
Around the Volcanos and down south it is in our view inevitable to rent a car as mountains are not very accessible. Local offices are much cheaper then the big international companies (up to double price) and offer great deals. You should get lots of quotes and compare the included services (insurance, permission to leave the country, unlimited kilometers…). 4×4 is not really necessary if you have snow chains but high clearance is a big advantage if you consider making Ruta 40 or the Carretera Austral.
Our choice was a Ford Eco Sport that easily offers enough space for three skiers.
Price for gas is much cheaper in Argentina than Chile and even subsidized in Patagonia (El Bolson and further South).
Be cautious as Argentina often has fuel shortages and gas stations regularly run out of gas or ration fuel to 20l per filling.
Around the popular and more touristy places it should not be of any problem to find a bed in a cheap hostel/hospedaje or a more fancy hotel. Cabins are a good and cheap option if you stay longer and are various persons. Just ask around or read your travel guide of choice.
Coyhaique: Patagonia Hostel. Very decent and comfortable hostel, German owned, former mountaineer and traveller. www.patagonia-hostel.com
El Chaltén: At the time we were there, the only open hostel during winter was Rancho Grande. We stayed in a rather shabby but extremely comfy and economical trailer with lukewarm trickle shower and weak heating behind the Restaurant “Como Vaca”.
It is rather hard to locally get maps, so you should try to get these in advance in Buenos Aires or Santiago (Club Andino de Bariloche usually offers the local maps). Try to contact a store in BsAs (eg. http://www.campingcenter.com.ar or http://www.nakaoutdoors.com.ar) for availability. We often used photos taken form the internet or shot on a previous tour for planing as they are more reliable as maps.
There is an open source GPS map with superb street data for Argentina and basic for Chile. A lot of popular trekking routs and refugios are included in the map set as well. http://www.proyectomapear.com.ar
Maps for Cerro Castillo and Coyhaique: Ask for “Poncho”, the director of the local guides association at http://www.escueladeguias.cl
Frédéric Lena’s book was of some help for general info and inspiration: Chile – Argentina, Handbook of Ski Mountaineering in the Andes.
Standard ski touring equipment, glacier equipment, winter camping gear with warm sleeping bags, radio if available (required at Lanin, rent in Junin de los Andes) and of use in the National Pakrs in case of emergency as there are repeaters to the NP offices.
Butane Gas for MSR/Jetboil/etc. is not always available.
Good chocolate and stuff like Mars bars are not available in Argentina (Lindt chocolate costs in BsAs around 10$). Bring it form Chile or the rest of the world. El Chaltén is very expensive and poorly supplied for Argentinian standards, buy your supplies in advance eg. in El Calafate.
It is very hard to impossible to find replacement material for your equipment. So bring for example: extra skin attachments & glue, screws for boots, patches, extra pole, etc.
If you have laying around some old gear (everything from skis, over skins, crampons to an old fleece) bring it along and give/sell it to the locals. They will appreciate it very much!!!
Ski resorts and some Volcanos: Snow-Forecast and NOAA
Coyhaique: Meteo Chile and NOAA
El Chaltén: NOAA with coordinates of Fitz Roy