Knowing that Las Leñas is very expensive, I had never visited this prime ski resort, until I found out that I could visit it on a tour from Mendoza for less than thirty dollars… This is a place where you will find many American and European tourists during the high season, since they can afford to pay what Argentinians cannot…
Las Leñas is undoubtedly the largest ski complex in Mendoza, very probably in Argentina, and quite likely in all South America. It has over twenty tracks for skiing and snowboard, a number of ski lefts (even rope lift for snowboard, where it is interesting to see the youngsters hanging on to the rope while they go up the mountainside on their snowboards), and a unique combination of three ski tracks allows the skiers to come down 12 kilometers (seven miles and a half) at a time.
To have a look at the ski tracks click on this link. If you see a small map, click on it to enlarge it. If you see it larger than the screen of your computer, move up and down and from side to side to have the complete picture: http://www.liveargentina.com/Argentina/Tematicos/Esqui/MendozaSKImapa.htm
Although it is very expensive (hotel rooms cost over 270 dollars for a single room in July), before and after the prime ski season it has very interesting low season packages for a week, including the chairlift that here is very expensive. Check this page for more information: www.laslenas.com. Here is a list of seven different hotels, although all belong to the same complex: www.laslenas.com/Default.aspx?template=category_doble&Id=80 . The place has an impressive beauty, but you are not allowed on the chairlift unless if you go up with skis. Seniors (over 65 years of age in Argentina) can request a free pass at the Public Relations office; otherwise they will have to pay like any other human being.
Las Leñas, although small is very complete. It has a small shopping center, where you can buy crackers and other articles at affordable prices. There are cafeterias facing the snow. There are also ski schools for small children, teenagers, and adults. Everything is expensive here. A bottle of wine at the restaurant La Cima costs anything between twenty and far more than one hundred dollars. However, you can look for specials. When I was there a year ago I paid twenty pesos (7 dollars) for a plate of chicken and french fries and a Coca Cola. The price did not include any dessert, but there was nothing cheaper than that. Breakfast (of course, in front of the ski tracks) cost nearly six dollars for a cup of coffee with toast, preserves, and a glass of orange juice. There is a regular bus service from Mendoza to Las Leñas (I understood there were none, but check this page where Expreso Uspallata says that they have a service that runs on Friday night from Mendoza to Las Leñas, www.eusa.com.ar. I may add that Expreso Uspallata is a company with very nice comfortable buses, as far as I know they only feature semi-bed and bed services, but not the Suite Class (or premium bed service). I traveled on an organized tour of Andesmar (a comfortable semi-bed service, but with no meals on board, only self-service coffee) that leaves from the offices of Andesmar Turismo on Espejo street (NOT from the bus station) Friday nights at 11pm, arrives at Las Leñas at 6am, when it is still dark and you can see the lights of the village and their reflection on the snow); cafeterias open about 7am. The climate here is not as freezing cold as at Penitentes or Las Cuevas, and during the afternoon you can see people drinking coffee in the open air in front of the ski tracks. The tour departs from Las Leñas at 5pm and arrives back at Mendoza city slightly after midnight. On the way back they stop at a cafeteria for a snack, not included in the price of the tour. While the bus is at Las Leñas it remains open all day round to that you may go back for a rest at any time. Last year this tour was costing some 27 dollars, and it could be costing some 35 to 40 dollars now. There is also a regular bus service from the nearby city of Malargue (one hour and a half away) that runs twice in the day. Of course, there are also other tours that come from Mendoza city, but that leave about 3am in the morning, and stay less time at Las Leñas. I prefer to leave before midnight, since Mendoza is not a completely safe city, and also because leaving earlier I have more time for walking around.
To stay at a hotel in Las Leñas is out of the question for me, but the prices may be OK for you. As I already said, you cannot go onto the chairlift if you do not go up with skis, but do not worry. There are a few scenic roads from where you can take unforgettable photos. I went walking up to the La Cima restaurant, about half a mile away, and took photos from under the chairlift, and photos of people skiing in the mountain. So the eight hours the tour stops there are more than enough to walk around and enjoy the scenery. Last year the snow accumulation had been so important that they extended the ski season during the summer months. And this year it is snowing as never in Argentina. Where I live in Córdoba it snows at the most once in the year. Winter has not started yet, and we have had already three snowfalls.
International ski competitions take place at Las Leñas. I have seen people from all over the world over there, and that is probably why it is so expensive, and also the reason why prices drop to about half in August, and even further from September onwards. The one-week packages that are being offered just now are really very attractive, and include the ski-lift that is expensive. If you go in the summer, you have the additional attraction of large rainbow trout fishing at Valle Hermoso, only 15 miles away, and at low season rates. I have not checked the price of the local tours from Las Leñas (there are some), but assume that they will be more expensive than the tours that depart from Mendoza city or from San Rafael. I may add that the local bus service inside Las Leñas is completely free and you can use it to get around. However, distances are short, and you will enjoy far more taking photos if you walk around and select the nicest angles. You will see skiers passing just in front of you. I forgot to tell you that you can rent skis snowboards (prices are rather high, however so if you take your own skis, far better) and that you can also go up the mountain on a snow cat. Enjoy your stay at the most important ski center in Argentina.
I have been unable to post my own photos here (there may be some technical problem just now), so I am adding links so that you may see how beautiful this ski center is. In the first link you will find 77 of my own photos of Valle Grande, the Atuel Canyon and Las Leñas, all in southern Mendoza.
Here are some more photos of this beautiful area: www.argentinaturistica.com/informa/lenifotos.htm
Enjoy your stay in southern Mendoza.