Chacaltaya glacier, La Paz, Bolivia - World’s highest ski resort
Chacaltaya (Aymara for “cold road”) is a mountain in the Cordillera Real, one of the mountain ranges of the Cordillera Oriental, itself a range of the Bolivian Andes. Its elevation is 5,421 meters (17,785 ft). Chacaltaya’s glacier - which was as old as 18,000 years – had in 1940 an area of 0.22 km2 (0.085 sq mi), reduced to 0.01 km2 (0.0039 sq mi) in 2007 and was completely gone by 2009 Half of the meltdown was done before 1980 (measured in volume). The final meltdown after 1980, due to missing precipitation and the warm phase of El Niňo, resulted in its final disappearance in 2009. The glacier was one of the highest glaciers in South America, located about 30 kilometers (19 mi) from La Paz, near Huayna Potosí mountain.
The glacier on Chacaltaya served as Bolivia’s only ski resort. It was the world’s highest lift-served ski area, the northernmost ski area in South America as well as the world’s second most equatorial after Maoke, Indonesia. The rope tow, the very first in South America, was built in 1939 using an automobile engine; it was notoriously fast and difficult, housed in the site’s original clapboard lodge and is now inoperable. The road to the base of the 200-meter (660 ft) drop is reached by a narrow road, also built in the 1930s. Traditionally, due to the extreme cold weather, the lift operated exclusively on weekends from November to March. This summer glacier skiing is no longer possible following the unexpectedly early melting of the glacier. As of 2009, skiing is restricted to a 600-foot (180 m) stretch that sometimes receives sufficient snowfall for a run during the winter. The mountain is also popular with amateur mountaineers, as the aforementioned road stops only 200-metre (660 ft) from the summit.