The world’s highest ski resort was once in Bolivia. Now, it’s a ghost town with abandoned buildings and a gloomy past.

The world’s highest ski resort was once in Bolivia. Now, it’s a ghost town with abandoned buildings and a gloomy past.

For decades, Bolivia held a record-shattering title: It was home to the world’s highest ski resort.

An arrow points to the abandoned Chacaltaya ski resort.


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The Chacaltaya ski resort opened in the 1930s, according to Atlas Obscura. 

In its prime, Chacaltaya earned Bolivia numerous titles. It was the country’s only ski resort, as well as the world’s highest ski resort and restaurant, according to Atlas Obscura.  

Built on the Chacaltaya glacier, the resort sat 17,519 feet above sea level, which was higher than the North Base Camp at Mount Everest, Atlas Obscura reported. 

The resort’s restaurant was also the highest restaurant in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Travelers from Bolivia and around the world would vacation at the Chacaltaya resort.

A sign on a building of the Chacaltaya ski resort indicating the mountain's height.

A sign on a building of the Chacaltaya ski resort indicating the mountain’s height.


AIZAR RALDES/AFP/Getty Images



According to Atlas Obscura, Chacaltaya attracted middle- and upper-class residents of La Paz, which is a major city an hour and a half from the resort.

In the 20th century, the resort was open almost year-round with plenty of snow for skiers to enjoy. 

But by 2009, the glacier had disappeared, and with that, so did the tourists.

Protesters hold signs that read in Spanish "Climate Change," "Action Now!," and "Remember Copenhagen" as they demonstrate on Glacier Chacaltaya in the Andes mountains in 2009.

Protesters hold signs that read in Spanish “Climate Change,” “Action Now!,” and “Remember Copenhagen” as they demonstrate on the Chacaltaya glacier in the Andes in 2009.

Juan Karita/AP Photo


In the 1990s, scientists began studying the Chacaltaya glacier. In 2005, they predicted the glacier would survive one more decade into 2015, according to the BBC.

But their prediction was sadly optimistic. In 2009, the glacier — which was an estimated 18,000 years old — was gone, the BBC reported. 

Skiers stopped trekking to the mountain, and the resort and its lift shut down. 

Now, the ski resort has turned into a ghost town that shows the impacts of the climate crisis.

before and after images of the Chacaltaya mountain showcasing the melted snow

Before-and-after images of the Chacaltaya mountain.

David Mercado/Reuters/The Solitary Wanderer


Today, Chacaltaya is a ghost town

According to Atlas Obscura, two brothers, Adolfo and Samuel Mendoza, still look after the resort, although it’s largely abandoned. They continue to operate the refugio, or shelter, where occasional visitors can grab a hot meal, which means the once-bustling resort still has its title as the world’s highest restaurant, according to Atlas Obscura.

Today, only a handful of adventurous tourists still visit the abandoned ski resort, according to Atlas Obscura.

Snow can still be spotted in the heart of winter, but for the majority of the year, the Chacaltaya mountain is brown and dry.

Aleah Taboclaon, a travel blogger, visited the abandoned buildings in 2015. Today, she still remembers the sadness she felt climbing up the mountain.

A view of the former ski lift on the Chacaltaya mountain.

A view of the former ski lift on the Chacaltaya mountain.


Georg Ismar/picture alliance/Getty Images



Aleah Taboclaon spent two and a half months in Bolivia in 2015. During that time, she took a day trip to Chacaltaya ski resort from La Paz.

The traveler, who runs the blog The Solitary Wanderer, said that for about $15, she joined a tour group that drove her about an hour and a half to the mountain, Taboclaon wrote in a blog post.

The trip is often paired with Valle de la Luna or Valley of the Moon, which is an area of unusual rock formations outside of La Paz, she told Insider. 

With its high elevation, the Chacaltaya mountain offers one of the best views in the country, Taboclaon told Insider.

She said her tour guide spoke about the resort’s downfall due to the melted glacier.

“So much in our world is changing,” Taboclaon said. “All the glory of the ski resort is now gone and will never return.”

When visitors arrive, they start at the base of the mountain, where the abandoned ski resort still stands.

A tourist climbs up the Chacaltaya mountain.

A tourist climbs up the Chacaltaya mountain.


AIZAR RALDES/AFP via Getty Images



Taboclaon told Insider that during her 2015 visit, her tour bus dropped her off at the base of the mountain, where the abandoned ski resort stands today.

Taboclaon said visitors could step inside the resort. The only thing left inside is a toilet, she said.

She said there was an “abandoned ambiance.”

When Taboclaon visited the ghost town, it was September, and although it was warm in La Paz, the mountain’s high altitudes made her cold, she said. She added that there were some patches of snow but not nearly enough to ski. 

 

From the base of the mountain, travelers can hike to different peaks to get one of the best views in Bolivia.

tourists climb up from the abandoned ski resort in bolivia

Hikers climb up the Chacaltaya mountain.


Matthew Williams-Ellis/Universal Images Group/Getty Images



Taboclaon said the high altitudes drastically affected her hiking abilities, so she made it to the shorter summit, which was still hundreds of feet above sea level.

Other tourists made it to the top, where they could see views of the nearby cities of La Paz and El Alto, and the Huayna Potosi mountain, Taboclaon said.

 

Along the journey to the top of the mountain, travelers may encounter abandoned weather equipment left by scientists.

An abandoned glass pyramid weather station on the Chacaltaya mountain.

An abandoned weather station on the Chacaltaya mountain.


flocu/Getty Images



As Taboclaon climbed up the mountain, she said she ran into a few pieces of equipment scientists had left behind.

Taboclaon said she saw one device that created an eerie whistling sound when a gust of wind blew.

There’s also a glass pyramid that was once used to track weather on the mountain in the resort’s heyday, according to the High Altitude Pathology Institute.

Taboclaon said she had expected to have a lighthearted, adventurous day trip, but it turned melancholy as she learned of the ski resort’s sad past.

Snowy mountains outside of La Paz, Bolivia

Aleah Taboclaon said she spent much of the trip reflecting on the ski resort’s sad past.


The Solitary Wanderer



Taboclaon said she expected a fun day. But after learning about the resort’s past, she felt reflective and sentimental. She added that seeing the abandoned destination made the climate crisis feel very real to her.

“A lot of Bolivians took pride in the ski resort since it was the world’s highest ski resort,” she said. “The helplessness that they couldn’t do anything about it was really sad.”

All that remains are shells of the building, warning the world of the realities of the climate crisis.

A mural of a skier painted on a building of the Chacaltaya ski resort.

A mural of a skier painted on a building of the Chacaltaya ski resort.

Georg Ismar/picture alliance/Getty Images


While the trip wasn’t as happy as Taboclaon had expected, she said it was an incredible experience.

It’s a spot that she recommends to anyone visiting Bolivia.

“It’s a destination for someone who isn’t averse to reflecting on our world and seeing it in person,” Taboclaon said. 

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