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The first step for constructing models of tree growth and yield is site quality assessment. To estimate this attribute, several methodologies are available in which site index (SI) is a standard one. However, this approach, that uses height at a reference age of trees, can be simplified if age is replaced by another reference variable easier to measure. In this case, the diametric site index (DSI) represents the mean height of dominant trees at a reference mean diameter at breast height. The aim of this work was to develop DSI in pure and mixed Nothofagus alpina and N. obliqua forests, and compare these models with the classical proposals based on height-age variables, within the temperate forest of northwestern Patagonia from Argentina, South America. Data originated from temporary plots and stem analyses were used. Tree age and diameter at breast height were obtained from each plot and used for establishing DSI family functions, following the guide-curve methodology. Site classes were proportionally represented among DSI curves of 17.0, 21.5, 26.0, 30.5 and 35.0 m of dominant tree height. Reference diameter instead of reference age can be cautiously used in order to fit site index models.