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Summer Skiing? Go South

Looking to escape the heat and humidity of the summer? Just head south. This may sound counterintuitive, but if you’re living in the northern hemisphere during summer, once you cross the equator, you’ll be in the dead of a South American winter. When we think of South America, we often think of gorgeous beaches, the Amazon, and maybe even Patagonia. However, there is an entire of region of snow-capped mountains with amazing skiing spanning the length of the Andes. With powdery, dry snow, these mountains are the perfect destination for professional and novice skiers alike who are looking to hit the slopes in the middle of summer.

Whether it’s your first time thinking about a ski trip in South America, or if you’re a Chilean-slope regular, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best ski spots below the equator.

1. Las Leñas, Argentina

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Just by sheer size alone, Las Leñas is the clear winner. With 40,000 acres of perfect white snow (that’s almost 36,200 acres more than North America’s largest resort), Las Leñas is hard to beat. While it’s extremely difficult to reach the resort, requiring connecting flights from Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina, the trip is definitely worth it. With limited crowds throughout the expansive ski resort, a summer at Las Leñas will be one you won’t soon forget.

2. Ski Arpa, Chile

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Just two hours from Santiago, Ski Arpa, is one of the most accessible on this list. In addition, it is renowned for its impeccable backcountry and pristine slopes. Near the foot of the Aconcagua mountain – the tallest mountain outside of Asia – Ski Arpa is a Chilean adventure that is hard to beat.

3. Portillo, Chile

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Set well above the tree line, Portillo is surrounded by rocky mountain faces dusted by an always fresh coat of snow. Just a 2.5 hour drive from Santiago, Portillo has unbeatable accommodations, most guests staying for a week or more. If it’s your first time skiing in the region, or if you’re traveling with a family, Portillo definitely has the slopes and amenities to keep everyone happy.

4. Cerro Catedral, Argentina

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Cerro Catedral is definitely the place to be, drawing thousands of tourists each season. As the largest ski area in South America, Cerro Catedral is located on the northern edge of Patagonia. Once you come off the slopes, head to the town of Bariloche and dance the night away like a true Argentinean.

5. The Three Valleys, Chile

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The Three Valleys (El Colorado, La Parva and Valle Nevado) are a short 45 minute drive from the center of Santiago. An easy day trip from the capital city, The Three Valleys are a popular destination for expats living in Chile. Also an obvious plus, the Three Valleys consistently record some of the highest rates of snowfall in the world.

6. Nevados de Chillan, Chile

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Surrounded by a number of hot springs, Nevados de Chillan is the clear choice for anyone looking to relax after a long day on the slopes. Also, Nevados de Chillan is often referred to as the little Las Leñas because of its incredible snow and backcountry terrain.

7. Puma Lodge, Chile

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Definitely the most exclusive and luxurious ski resort on the list. Puma Lodge only offers heli-skiing and boasts pristine slopes free of crowds and the many tourists you may find at a number of other ski resorts. An additional selling point is that Puma Lodge is the only 5-star heli-ski resort in the southern hemisphere.

8. Pucón, Chile

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Transforming from a summer party-goer’s paradise in the summer to an incredible ski resort in the Chilean winter, Pucón has it all. With incredible 360 degree views of the Andes from the top of many of the ski areas, Pucón’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s not just a mountain. Pucón is an active volcano!

9. Cerro Castor, Argentina

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At the southern tip of Patagonia and basically touching Antartica, Cerro Castor is Argentina’s newest ski resort. Cerro Castor is considerably smaller than most of the resorts on this list with just 600 acres of terrain. However, the new slopes will not disappoint with new lodges and modern grooming equipment.

10. Cerro Mirador, Chile

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Nestled within the Magellan National Reserve, Cerro Mirador is the southernmost ski location in South America. As one of the only six ski centers in the world with a view to the ocean, Cerro Mirador gets its name from the incredible views that attract throngs of skiers every year.

9 Top Spanish-Speaking Travel Destinations

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Spanish-speaking travel destinations vary from the extreme to the exquisite, the famous to the infamous. Perhaps you want to scale a mountain or maybe you desire the star treatment at a luxury resort. Maybe you want to spot celebrities on the Riviera, or perhaps you just want some time away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Think about what you love in your vacations and then check out these 9 top Spanish-speaking destinations suited to match your travel personality.

Check out the spot for your travel personality:

  • The Archaeologist
  • The Fine Arts Lover
  • The Cosmopolitan
  • The Celebrity Gawker
  • The Recluse
  • The Outdoorsman
  • The Rum Connoisseur
  • The Deep Sea Adventurer
  • The Party Animal

The Archaeologist: Chichen Itza, Mexico

You were the kid that anxiously awaited the ancient civilization section in social studies class. You still love to find “treasures” in nature even if it means finding some ear phones on the grass at your local park. You can pretend all you want but wouldn’t it be far more scientific if you were to actually discover something at the ruins of an ancient civilization? You can! In Chichen Itza, Mexico, you can explore Mayan civilization grounds like the Cenote Sagrado, a large sink hold that measures 198 feet in diameter. “Archaeologists” just like you have found jade, gold rings, necklaces and (gasp) even ancient human bones-the remains of young girls sacrificed to the Mayan rain god Chaac! If you can, you should schedule your trip during the next Spring Equinox. At the Pyramid of Kukulcan, or El Castillo, a natural phenomenon occurs where the sunlight creates a shadow image of a serpent descending down the pyramid’s stairs! Ooo..how eerie!

The Fine Arts Lover: Madrid, Spain

Pouring over your college art history books and hanging reprints of Diego Velaquez may pacify your desire to see the original but sometimes, you just have to go see it for yourself. Just a hop, skip and an airplane-fueled-jump away is Madrid, Spain in all its fine-arts glory. The Golden Triangle of Art refers to the three great art museums of this city: Museo del Prado, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Museo Reina Sofia. Walk the sprawling space of the grand Museo del Prado and see Diego Velaquez’s Las Meninas and Francisoco de Goya’s La Maja Vestida. Then over at Museo Thyssen Bornemisza, walk through eight centuries of European paintings, including Renaissance and Baroque paintings by Titian, Sebastiano del Piombo, Caravaggio, Rubens, Van Dyck, Murillo, Rembrandt, and Frans Hals. Finally at the Museo Reina Sofia, one can discover art exclusively by Spanish artists including two of 20th century’s greatest artists: Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso. Good thing these museos all have stores! Buy all the reprints you can carry on the airplane!

The Cosmopolitan: Buenos Aires, Argentina

You are the child of the World and you like to soak in every aspect of a culture. Welcome to Buenos Aires, Argentina–a city so unique, you’ll want to move here. Buenos Aires is known for steak, the tango, and the shopping so go ahead, dive right in! The steaks are grilled in the traditional Argentinian manner that propelled it to world-wide popularity. The steak is grilled on a parilla, an Argentinian traditional barbecue and coal grill. As famous as the steaks, but perhaps a bit more lean, is the tango. Tourists and locals alike congregate in tango clubs to dance the night away. Every hotel offer tango lessons and have a tango ballroom so do not fret about not finding a venue – not that you would. The shopping in Buenos Aires is among the best in the best in world. Buenos Aires boasts very fashionable streets paved in cobblestone that is a great departure from indoor malls associated with shopping in the US. Also, the great exchange rate does not hurt either!

The Celebrity Gawker: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

You check Perez and The Superficial compulsively. You have no clue what is happening in the world right now but you do know where Angelina and her brood are right this moment. Your TiVO is filled with E! celeb-reality shows and you can’t wait until you can binge on them the moment you leave work. If these statements apply to you, you are destined for Cabo San Lucas where celebrities vacation (its proximity to L.A. is unheard of!) and where you can gawk at them IN PERSON! The beaches are exclusive, pristine and so sunny that you will need to bring those Nicole Richie sunglasses that block out half your face (plus, sun and flashbulbs will destroy your retina and you need your retinas to see Jake and Reese on their vacay!). Other than gawking at the genetically gifted celebrities, you can book yourself in world class spas, swim laps in an infinity pool, and dine at five star restaurants. Book that hotel or private villa in advanced, pack your bags and remember some binoculars…you are going to CABO!

The Recluse: Placencia, Belize

Although Belize is not technically a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish is a dominant language in Placencia, Belize. Placencia is a true tropical getaway destination. The sixteen miles of pristine beaches, the various areas to snorkel around the barrier reef and the relatively low tourist traffic makes one feel like they are alone on a beautiful island…with all modern amenities and great cuisine, of course! The coral reef that surrounds the island is a great place to snorkel, even if you have never been before. There are a slew of different snorkeling spots to fit any experience level. Fishing and sailing is another great aspect of Placencia. The calm, warm waters lend itself to some big fish and if you are lucky enough to catch one, a personal chef will cook your catch according to your instructions! The various keys around the island make the Placencia even more beautiful. Divers often dive off these keys into the marine abyss.

The Outdoorsman: Puebla, Mexico

If nature is your best friend, then Puebla will become your family. Indulge yourself by visiting the many national parks including the Izta-Popo National Park, La Malinche National Park, and the Valle de Tehuacan Biosphere Reserve (which is the largest reserve in the world). You can go hiking, biking, and see animals in their natural habitat! For those of you aspiring to be a outdoorsman, don’t worry: Guided tours are available too. Back in the town, you can roam around the market and find town artisans selling handmade crafts, Talavera pottery, el arbol de la vida (the tree of life) figurines, and one-of-a-kind onyx and marble sculptures.

The Rum Connoisseur: Ponce, Puerto Rico

If you are the type of person that can smell Rum when thinking about the Caribbeans while sitting at your desk at work in December, then you must travel to Ponce, Puerto Rico. Wait, you haven’t heard of it? Ponce is less touristy than San Juan but if you think this city is inferior in quality, then you thought wrong. This is the home of the Serralles family and their historic distillery which produces Don Q authentic Puerto Rican Rum (Bacardi and Captain Morgans are not distilled in Puerto Rico). You can take a tour of their former mansion, soak in the Serralles family story, and drink Don Q all around the city (evidently, this is the only Rum Ponce carries). Remember, when you’re lounging on the beach sipping on some Don Q, do not put it down. The many different types of exotic birds that fly around the pristine beaches are known to snatch things from patrons!

The Deep Sea Adventurer: Isla del Cano, Costa Rica

For those who like diving, beware…you may never want to leave Isla del Cano! Isla del Cano (Cano Island) is rated as one of the best diving locations in the world by Skin Diver magazine. Are you a diver-wannabe? It’s okay because Isla del Cano has dives to fit any skill level. Located off the southwest coast of Costa Rica, Isla del Cano’s coral formation ranges from 15 feet all the way to 80 feet “walls.” Marine animals that are prevalent in this area are sharks (ranging in size from six to ten feet), sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, morays, and huge snapper and grouper fish! This life aquatic is untouched due to its status as a Biological Reserve so all dives are regulated (only five dive locations are open to the public at a time under federal regulations!). You will probably want to pick up a commemorative shell while you are near the ocean floor but sadly, it is against the Costa Rican law to remove any marine object from the ocean, dead or alive, so remember that before you get caught for being a shell smuggler!

The Party Animal: Barcelona, Spain

After a day of strolling around historic Barcelona, looking at Gaudi architecture and feigning happiness in touristy pictures, all you want to do is go out. You’re in luck because Barcelona is one of the greatest nightlife cities in all of Europe. The nightlife doesn’t start until after 12AM so make sure to start your night at the myriad of bars and cafes before hitting the clubs. Keep away from the touristy Barri Gòtic & Las Ramblas and head over to The Village People or Barrio Alto neighborhood. If you partied too hard the other night and just want to listen to music and lounge, there are so many places for you to go! The music club scene is eclectic in this city, offering daily shows in all music styles including jazz, blues, classical and, of course, flamenco.

Learn Spanish at Any Age!

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You may have heard the traditional “wisdom” that children learn second languages more easily and more quickly than adults, and that it’s therefore best to learn a new language before puberty. This idea, the Critical Period Hypothesis, started becoming popular in the early 20th century, and posits that fundamental differences in brain development make it easier to attain native fluency as a child. Its twin, the Frozen Brain Hypothesis, suggests that it’s nearly impossible to attain this same fluency as an adult. If you buy into the Critical Period and Frozen Brain hypotheses, and you’re an adult learner, you may feel as though the odds are already stacked against you. Fortunately, additional research in the fields of linguistics and learning theory paints a picture of a more complex model for language learning.

Various studies have shown that the Critical Period Hypothesis provides a very narrow view of language learning. While there’s merit to the idea learning Spanish might become more difficult as you age, evidence suggests that this change takes shape as a gradual decline rather than as a sharp drop-off. Since many new skills might become gradually more difficult to learn, this shouldn’t shake your confidence or resolve to learn, especially since environmental differences such as education and socioeconomic status are just as likely to impact your learning curve. Moreover, young children acquire language in environments and through methods that differ fundamentally from those of adult learners. When controlling for these environmental differences, adults are able to adapt to the grammatical and structural limitations of a new language just as quickly, if not more quickly, than children. Finally, rigorous case studies have identified that some adults do achieve native-like proficiency in a second language, even when taking accents into account. In short, a nuanced approach toward language acquisition recognizes age as one of many factors that may potentially influence a learner’s success, rather than exalting early learning as the end-all, be-all of foreign language studies.

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For adult learners, this means you can keep your chin up! There’s no reason you can’t become proficient or conversational as an adult. Your learning methods as an adult are different than they were when you were a child: children learning languages are in a constant state of immersion and must simultaneously learn a new language and create an understanding of what language is. That may give you more control over your own personal learning process, since understanding what language is and how (on a high level) it functions, gives you a better framework to understand Spanish. Fluencia was designed for adult learners, taking advantage of the English you already know and leveraging your existing knowledge to help provide feedback as to not just how but why you make a mistake on a question. This feedback is especially important for adults, as it helps you retain information better and allows you to apply the structural patterns you learn.

So what’s the right time to learn Spanish? Right now! In fact, the only wrong time to start learning is later!

7 Effortless Ways to Practice Your Spanish

“If you don’t use it, you lose it.” Or maybe you just want to improve your Spanish without reading a grammar book or practicing conjugations. Or maybe you do both of those and just want to practice even more! Whatever the case, here are seven things you can do to practice your Spanish without having to think about it.

1. Watch movies in Spanish

It could be a Hispanic film, or it could be a Disney classic. Pick a movie you’ve seen before so that you can focus more on the Spanish and less on the plot.

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2. Pick a telenovela and follow that emotional rollercoaster ’till the end

Just add it to your Netflix addiction.

3. Change your phone settings and social media accounts to Spanish

You have to check out the “me gusta” button. You just have to.

4. Cook Hispanic dishes

And follow the recipes in Spanish! Plus, there are endless cooking tutorials (in Spanish) on YouTube!

5. Order your meal in Spanish

If cooking isn’t your thing, you can always go out to get Hispanic food and order your food in Spanish. Challenge mode: if the waiter speaks Spanish, engage him/her in a conversation!

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6. Listen to Spanish music

Salsa, merengue, bachata, reggaeton, etc. Feel free to dance along. Spotify or Pandora are great sources for music, and there’s always the radio.

7. Make a new friend!

Use an online site to find a native Spanish speaker looking to practice his/her English and write letters, Skype, or simply message them!

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