The History of Amity Tours

Cristian Alejandro Amity Tours

The History of Amity Tours

By Cristian Levy, CEO & Founder

During all these years, many clients, guests, friends and colleagues have asked me the same question: “How did Amity begin?

The answer is a long story and I will share it with you in this blog.

The story goes way back to 1948. My grandfather, Hector Levy, was an adventurer and his greatest passion was exploring the mountains of Chile’s central valleys. Together, with a group of friends and the Grez Family, they organized trips to the mountains near Santiago.

Only people with a deep love for the mountain could go on these journeys, as they were not easy nor comfortable. They used adapted livestock trucks to get to the foothills of the Andes. From there, they continued by mule-back and finally hiked or skinned up the last snow-capped section until they arrived at the mountain refuge. One of these refuges was the famous Refugio Gaston Saavedra.

 

the andes mountain
Hector Levy (first on the left) and his family visiting the mountains circa 1948.

 

My grandfather was a travelling salesman. He traveled across the country in his Citroën 2CV, selling shoes made by his family’s shoe factory. In his free time, he would venture to the mountains or go on bike rides with his relatives.

 

Hector Levy and Brothers
Hector Levy (first on the left) and his brothers-in-law circa 1950.

1954

At a young age, my father Alejandro started to come on these trips to the mountains. For a little kid, the trip was even harder, but getting dizzy with the winding road was not a reason to miss out on the adventure. He became close friends with the Grez family, skiing all over the mountain in La Parva, El Colorado and Farellones.

 

Alejandro Levy Amity Tours
Alejandro Levy posing with his ski gear circa 1956.

 

1960

My father joined the Boy Scouts at the Jewish Center in Santiago. His exceptional athletic skills made him stand out among the other kids. Thus, he was offered to go to Israel and join a sports program, but his family objected to his going.

1968

At the age of 18, my father was a very talented football (soccer) player, playing during his childhood at school and on the streets with neighborhood kids. In his last year of high school, he was awarded goal scorer of the inter-school football tournament.

 

Alejandro Levy Amity
Alejandro Levy (on the right) at school circa 1968.

1970-75

My father studied engineering at the Universidad Tecnica de Santiago, where he met Paty, my mom. Here he once again stood out for his athleticism. While he was playing football on the university team, he was recruited to play on Chile’s National Football team (amateur division). For 5 years, he traveled in Chile and Argentina playing for the Chilean Football team and played at the qualifiers for the Olympic Games.

 

Chilean Football Team
Alejandro (first on the front left) at the Stadium circa 1974.

 

Football Player Alejandro Levy
Alejandro in football jersey at the Stadium circa 1974.

 

1978

This is the year I was born. My father’s love for the mountain continued as he volunteered as a skiing instructor at El Colorado Ski Resort. As soon as I could walk, he took me skiing in the mountains and taught me to love and respect Nature.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in ski gear, Farellones circa 1983.

 

1982

My father Alejandro continued with his sports activities, joining the bicycle club of CDUC. Then in 1983, he biked from Santiago to Mendoza with the club, riding and climbing the Andes mountains from Chile to Argentina.

 

Cyclist Alejandro Levy
Alejandro in bicycle jersey crossing the Andes (Portillo Hotel, circa 1983)

 

1986

I followed in my father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and grew into a highly active boy, joining the swimming team at CDUC. This club became my second home during my childhood.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in CDUC uniform boarding a plane for a swimming tournament (Iquique, circa 1988)

 

1990

My father continued teaching skiing at El Colorado Ski Resort, mostly to friends and colleagues. On the weekends, I joined him as much as I could.

This year, my grandfather Hector planted the seed of entrepreneurship within me by lending me twenty dollars for a little business. He didn’t tell me what to do, only that I had to return the money. Then, with that money I went to buy candy and started selling it at school. Within a week, I sold all the candy and returned the loan to my grandfather. I remember feeling so proud of paying back my grandfather, and so I continued with the side business until my commercial activity was banned at school.

This same year, I joined the Boy Scouts movement, where I remained actively involved for a decade. In this group. I learnt the values of friendship and teamwork, and my love for the nature deepened.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian in ski gear (El Colorado, circa 1990)

 

1995

I graduated from high school and almost immediately searched for a seasonal job at a local retail store (wrapping Christmas presents), so I could generate my own income and be more financially independent. My parents encouraged me to do that just as much as my grandfather did. With the money I made, I went on my first self-supported trip to Pucon. I took my brother, Jano, with me.

Later, my Boy Scouts friends joined us as they became aware of my travel plans. At the time, I never imagined that Pucon would become my home and the headquarters of my adventure travel company.

1997

I enrolled at the SEK University in Santiago to study Tourism Planning. I didn’t totally understand the exact reasons for my decision to study tourism, but felt that this had been part of my whole life. Actually, since I was a young boy, I had always wanted to be a doctor, but it was clear that life had chosen a different path for me.

 

Cristian Levy Amity
Cristian and friends exploring the Andes mountains (Cerro Provincia, circa 1998)

 

1998

My father Alejandro moved by himself to southern Chile for a job as an engineer at a mattress plant. There, my father discovered and fell in love with the landscapes of the Lake and Volcano District.

Meanwhile, the rest of the family stayed in Santiago. My mom’s love and support was key during this year. Reinforcing her teachings about how to be kind, self-sufficient and responsible.

 

The Levy Father and Sons
Alejandro with his children discovering their new home in La Araucania. Kutralkura Geopark, Quinquen.

 

In the summer of 1998, my grandfather once again encouraged me to continue gaining experience in the business world and lent me 300 dollars. With this money, I opened a beachfront kiosk called La Ruka (the house) in Guanaqueros, in Northern Chile. That summer, our kiosk was awarded the sales point with the highest ice-cream sales in the region. At the end of the summer season, I paid back the loan to my grandfather and with the profits and my mom’s help, traveled to Rapa Nui, Easter Island.

 

La Ruka Salespoint
Cristian and his brother Jano in the La Ruka kiosk. (Summer of 1998)

 

1999

My father finally felt settled in Temuco, and my mom and brothers went to live with him in southern Chile. I stayed in Santiago to finish college. This was a very hard decision for my family, but it turned out to be a great change of lifestyle.

The summer of 1999 I applied for an internship at the regional Tourism Board, SERNATUR Araucania, and just like my father did, fell in love with the nature and people of the region. I fondly remember my first visit to Conguillio National Park, where I was completely amazed by the Araucaria forest.

 

Alejandro and Cristian Levy
Alejandro and Cristian during his internship. (Summer of 1999)

 

2001

I graduated from University with honors and my Tourism Planning degree. Shortly thereafter, my classmate, German Pino, and I started to work as junior tourism consultants at EuroChile Foundation (German later joined Amity as partner in 2011).

This foundation specializes in promoting and consolidating economic, commercial and technological links between public and private institutions from Chile and the European Union. Tourism is one of their main pillars. Our mission there was to create and develop Chile’s first inbound ecotourism operator.

 

Cristian Levy Eurochile
Cristián working for Ecoaustral (Chile’s first ecotourism operator, circa 2003)

 

2002

The Asian economic crisis hit Chile hard and my father lost his job at the mattress plant. Despite many attempts to find a job in his field, he couldn’t find one. My mother became the family’s primary breadwinner, working as a financial advisor at a local bank in Temuco.

I couldn’t stop worrying about my father’s situation, so I mentioned this to my boss and friend Gerd Walther. He suggested we start a tour company with my father in southern Chile, but I didn’t take him seriously. However, I told my father about my boss’s idea and he only smiled quietly.

 

History Amity Tours
My boss and dear friend Gerd Walther (RIP)

 

2003

While working at EuroChile developing the inbound ecotourism operator, we received a particular request by email: a family of four from Brazil wanted a 12-day trip to Chile with skiing lessons included. They didn’t want to visit the classic ski resorts in central Chile. Instead, they wanted to explore the small and less known ski centers located around the southern volcanoes. I immediately told my boss about this request and he didn’t hesitate to put me in charge of the request and organize the whole trip. He told me to ask my father to work as a ski instructor during the tour and run it on behalf of the company.

The month of July arrived, and my father and I went to greet the Esteves Abreu Family from Rio de Janeiro. We delivered a 2-week guided skiing trip visiting the southern volcanoes: Llaima, Lonquimay and Villarrica. The tour ended up being a total success, with Eder, Mônica, Beatriz and Eduardo learning how to ski and promising that they will return the next year for more skiing lessons. This family became Alejandro’s first client, repeating their skiing trip to Chile for the next 10 consecutive years. To this date, the Levy and Abreu families remain great friends and continue seeing each other.

 

History Amity Tours
The Esteves Abreu family with their private guide and instructor Alejandro.

 

It was after this first trip that Alejandro realized that he could do what he loved most and earn a living at the same time. Here, my father made an important decision, selling the family’s house in Santiago and partnering with me to create our family-owned tour company in August of 2003.

By then, I was working in Santiago on a project with a travel book writer from the USA named Pete Nelson, with the goal of writing a new edition of a Chile travel guide. Pete was a senior marketing expert who had worked for important world-wide hotel chains such as Hilton and Intercontinental. It was here that I saw an opportunity to validate a list of potential names for our tour company.

But Pete didn’t pay attention to that list and instead gave me a great piece of advice: “if you want people to find you first pick a name that starts with the letter A, and make sure anyone can easily pronounce that name no matter which country they are from”. So, I took out my pocket Spanish/English dictionary and found the word “amity”, which means friendship, friendly, concord, good vibrations. And with this meaning as a central value, we began our tour company.

 

History Amity Tours
My father Alejandro, my brother Jano, and me with our first van and logo (September 2003)

 

Finally, as an established tour company, in September 2003 we received the first group of foreign travelers. The group consisted of seven guests from the UK coming with Phil Smith, an international all-mountain skiing instructor and director of the skiing company Snoworks.

Snoworks is one of the UK’s leading providers of all-mountain ski courses to destinations around the world. This group of British skiers represented Amity’s first business account, and remains one of the Levy family’s favorite and dear clients.

 

Ski Chile Amity Snoworks
Our first B2B group with Snoworks (Pucon, September 2003)

 

Ski Chile Amity Snoworks
My father Alejandro with Phil Smith

 

If you liked this story, please share it! Maybe someday my father will tell it to you in person as you go on a chairlift with him or while hiking on the trails of our beloved country, Chile.

Lonquimay Volcano Chile
Alejandro and Cristian summiting Lonquimay Volcano.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confirmed Departure Chile Bike and Wine in Colchagua Wine Valley 6 days Tour October and December 2014

Colchagua Valley is one of the most up raising wine valleys worldwide and the most develop valley focused towards tourism industry in Chile. Amity Tours Bike and Wine tour will take you to ride the Apalta Area, the area towards Peralillo, Lolol, Pichilemu and Bucalemu villages on the Pacific coast. On some days, we’ll cycle towards different wineries, touring on them, doing wine tastings and being able to ride inside wineries. Our tour is very exclusive, so we invite you to contact us for private departures and cycle the Colchagua Wine Valley.

Confirmed Departure: Bike and Wine in Colchagua Wine Valley 6 days tour, October and December 2014

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Summer Adventure Backcountry Skiing in Chile, September 2014

Experience the adventure of skiing on 7 active volcanoes, reaching its live craters and skiing or snowboarding off-piste.

If someone say to you that you would be standing on the top of a live Volcano looking down into the center of the earth with bubbling lava one minute, and then skiing off piste in perfect snow the next, you’d think they are crazy. Yet we offer you to experience exactly that. You might be familiar with Valle Nevado and Portillo the main Chilean ski destinations but we want to persuade you that there is a totally different side to skiing in Chile.

Corralco, Araucarias, Pucon, Huilo Huilo, Antillanca and Osorno are ski areas very few skiers have ever heard about. You are probably used to The 3 Valleys with hundreds of ski lifts stretching in every direction, but here you are going to be travelling half way around the world to ski in resorts with only one or two ski lifts! You probably think we have to be joking, but we are not.

What’s the point heading half way across the world to ski in somewhere exactly the same as your own back door. This will be a totally different type of ski experience. The scenery spectacular, the hospitality overwhelming, the skiing totally different and the opportunity to ski from the top of live volcanoes!

We are offering the ultimate Chilean skiing experience, designed for skiers from limited or no off piste experience to off piste experts. The lure of the volcanoes is overwhelming with our ultimate volcano itinerary. Climb and ski off the top of 7 Volcanoes in 12 days!

So here are ‘The 7 Volcanoes’: Lonquimay, Llaima, Villarrica, Mocho, Choshuenco, Casablanca and Osorno. If you think one volcano is the same as another, think again. Everyone is different. Different shapes, different scenery, different summits and different history.

Check out pictures from our latest ski tour! Chile Backcountry Skiing Tour.

Some of the highlights of our Backcountry Skiing in Chile’s Southern Volcanoes Tour.

• Accommodation at Mountain lodges and cabins.
• Professional mountain guide with you at all times.
• Private chef cooking for the group every day.
• Explore the backcountry of Chile’s Southern Volcanoes.
• Ski off 7 active volcanoes.
• Enjoy local hot springs.

Dates:
31TH AUG to 11TH SEP 2014 and 15TH SEP to 26TH SEP 2014.

Difficulty: Advanced (up to 7 hours of physical activity per day). You are an all mountain skier, but you don’t need to be an Olympic skier. You can ski “reds” and “blacks” whatever the conditions and at a good pace. Bumps and off-piste – not bad. You want to get to that “I can ski anything on the mountain” mode to become the best “All-Mountain Skier”. Our mountain guides and ski instructors will take you to that level. You will enjoy the backcountry in its full expression. Don’t worry if you are unsure of your exact level. A rough guess is good enough. We sort it all out in the resort on the first evening when you arrive.

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Summer Skiing in Chile, July and August 2014

Experience the adventure of skiing on active volcanoes, reaching its live craters on a snowmobile and skiing or snowboarding off-piste. Truly a once in a lifetime experience!!

Chile is a bit of a hidden gem when it comes to skiing, with many slopes that are envied round the world. The many volcanoes which make up the long and skinny country of Chile actually offer some top of the range skiing locations, whether it’s Lonquimay, Villarrica or Mocho volcanoes there are many summits to conquer and even more snow to spray.

Chile’s Lake & Volcano District is the place to go when it comes to excellent Summer Skiing. The powdery snow, vintage slopes, natural hot springs and incredible settings with lakes and volcanoes make this an excellent country for skiing.

Amidst the hillsides of the Lonquimay Volcano, the Corralco Mountain Resort sits and it is widely regarded as one of the most picturesque places to enjoy a spot of skiing while embracing the fact you are skiing on one of the most captivating volcanoes in the Araucania region – the resort is suitable for all levels of skier and snowboarder.

Skiing the Southern Volcanoes it’s a great cultural adventure for intermediate to advanced skiers, taking your skiing to the next level, exploring the best ski resorts and finishing your day at natural hot springs. All the great skiing is paired with the best Chilean wine and local gastronomy.

Check out pictures from our latest ski tour! Chile Skiing Tour.

Some of the highlights of our Chile 8 Days Bike Tour.

• Accommodation at Luxury lodges, always in superior rooms.
• Professional mountain guide with you at all times.
• Explore the backcountry assisted by powerful snowmobiles.
• Ski off 3 active volcanoes.
• Enjoy and relax at great SPAs every night.

Dates:
26TH JUL to 02ND AUG 2014
02ND AUG to 09TH AUG 2014
09TH AUG to 16TH AUG 2014
16TH AUG to 23TH AUG 2014
23RD AUG to 30TH AUG 2014

Difficulty: Intermediate (up to 5 hours of physical activity per day). You are an adventurous intermediate skier. You can ski “reds” at a good pace whatever the conditions and “easy blacks”. Difficult “blacks”, bumps or going off-piste, hmm, definitely need some work!
In this skiing tour you can opt to go off-piste or stay on-piste. You will enjoy the backcountry but with the peace of mind that you are within a patrolled ski resort. Don’t worry if you are unsure of your exact level. A rough guess is good enough. We sort it all out in the resort on the first evening when you arrive.

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Chile and Argentina Ski Season 2012

Without a doubt, the 2012 ski season in The Lake and Volcano District has begun!  All ski centers are open and after a couple of snow storms, there´s powder everywhere! Not only there´s snow, for the last couple of days, the sun has been shining and skiers from all over the world are walking down the streets of Pucon.

For the next 12 weeks, we will be skiing in some of Chile´s and Agentina´s best Ski Centers, staying at the best hotels and lodges and most importantly eating the best food and wine Chile has to offer.

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