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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    2,809

    TR: You're Not In Alta Anymore: A Drought Winter In Chile

    I've lost count of time here in Chile, perhaps I'm getting more Chilean. This was my sixth or seventh southern winter in the country blessed with the Andes' west slope and South America's west coast, and I've been here for two or three months. What I know for sure is that 2012 is the third drought year in a row, bringing extremely low snow totals to the central Andes where I'm based out of. Where last year the ski areas in the south, from Nevados de Chillán on down into Patagonia, had a ton of snow, this year the entire mountain range is dry.

    With that said, I suppose some of you should stop reading this and move on. I know there exists substantial percentage of modern skiers (and TGR readers) that seek only powder conditions, and judge the quality of the ski experience on how closely it resembles a Lee Cohen photograph from Alta, Utah. Though I love Cohen and I love Alta, skiing and ski travel has a lot more to offer, and on a drought winter like we've had here this year, you better be willing to keep your mind open.

    Because Chile a country built out of coast and mountains populated with good people, my winter, despite the snow, was incredible. I skied old places and new, I surfed a lot, and right now I'm looking out of the window of a bus at the Andes and the changing mosaic of farmland as I make the journey from Nevados de Chillán back to Santiago. I've got a few weeks left here before I head back to Seattle. I'll spend them chasing snow if it falls, waves if they come, and enjoying the times in between.


    Transition time: PNW Summer to Andean Winter.

    4th of July. Its a stimulating time.


    Skiing Little Tahoma in Mount Rainier National Park in early July. Little did I know I'd find less snow in Chilean winter than Washingtonian summer.


    Oh for Christ sakes, Erik, come down from there.


    Yeah get it, Jesse.


    And then, boom. Welcome to the Central Andes, where we bring our tennis shoes on ski tours.


    Shit the snow's beat, let's go the beach!


    Low tide.
    The tide in the mountains that is. Drought. Rocks. Dirt. An entire month without a cloud or flake of snow.

    Farellones, you're wearing the wrong color for this time of year.


    This may have been the worst day of the year for snow conditions. I think it had been like six weeks without a snowfall.


    Skiing by the light of the moon makes even the most dire conditions enchanting. Santiago, brown, dusty, and congested during the day benefits from the same effect.


    Jordan Ingmire mainly works with snowboarders, and getting to know his unique perspective was a great experience.


    Another Jordan Ingmire image.


    Somewhere here it snowed like 10cms and saved the resorts from closing in the supposed middle of their season. Looking south towards Cajon de Maipo from Farellones.


    Neighbors. Buena onda.


    More Farellones beauty, this time looking north towards Valle de la Yerba Loca, Cerro La Paloma in the back.


    Went out to Punta de Lobos again, this time to watch the biggest swell of the winter roll through. Incredible watching the tow surfers, paddle surfers, and windsurfers go after it. They don't just ride/survive these waves, they rip them to shreds. Small image, but there's a surfer on that wave.


    Back at the mountains, it finally snowed enough to write home about. My best run of the year, I'd have to say. First ones in the Chimney at La Parva. Rachael Burks is the type of person I described at the start of this post, someone who has fun no matter the snow conditions. So when she put her track down here she really liked it.


    Same day. My friend Camila's visit happened to coincide with the best skiing of the year.


    Not too much powder frenzy going on here. I went touring by myself after the storm cleared out.


    Wait, maybe this was my best run of the season.


    The view from the top of Cerro La Parva. The peak on the left is Marmolejo, the southernmost 6,000m peak on the planet.




    Living the Dream
    As if they weren't already, things got good. Travel, helicopters, friends.

    Went to Antillanca for The North Face Down South Volcano trip, the consolation prize for everyone who made the journey to Chile to participate in the Freeskiing World Tour event at Ski Arpa which was unfortunately cancelled.


    This is the Chilean doorway to Patagonia, and savage volcanoes and terrain stand proud as you look south, such as Puntiagudo, shown here.


    Chopo Diaz exploring some of the little resort's big backcountry. This was actually a sheet of blue ice, thanks to a bout of the "puelche," or fierce east wind that occasionally comes ripping in from Argentina.


    Friends and scenery while at a gas station, on the bus back home to Santiago. Volcán Llaima stands behind.


    Let's go heliskiing! Why bring just one?


    Apparently this stuff hadn't been skied before. But who knows. We skied the lower valley to the left and the main chute off the top.


    Plus a bunch of stuff on this wall.


    Then I competed in the Swatch Skiers Cup where we got to heliski this gem of a freeride venue. I can see the thing from my house in Farellones and have been drooling over it for years. And the moon happened to be full, which lit it up beautifully the night before the competition.


    Drool.


    Snow's beat, let's go surfing. Punta Lobos again.


    Got to check out Puma Lodge when I went up for a North Face Chile sales meeting. On normal winters you have to heli in, but we drove up and went hiking. Beautiful valleys head into the mountains north, east, and south from the confluence where the lodge is located. I would love to see this place on a big year.


    Checking out some 1,000+ year old Cypress trees above the lodge.


    Shit, the snow's beat. Not Punta Lobos.


    Finally, took a trip to Chillán for the dieciocho (September 18th), Chile's national day of independence. Big parties, multiple BBQs per day, and despite low snow, some great touring. In particular this hot river flowing through an immaculate snowy valley is quite a nice place to take a dip. Finally, the beach and skiing have found a place to coexist.



    That's it. Or is it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Where the climate suits my clothes.
    Posts
    3,991
    Great trip/life despite the lack of precip.. thanks for bringing teh stoke!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    seatown
    Posts
    3,299
    stellar!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    PNW
    Posts
    3,158
    Maybe not an epic powder season, but stoke nonetheless. Thanks for posting!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    funland
    Posts
    4,446


    ^^ my favorite, awesome!!!! Thanks for sharing. Was the depth hoar horrendous?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Juxtaposition
    Posts
    5,811
    Good TR. Skiing is skiing. So are friends and traveling and mountains.
    Life is not lift served.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    44.9 degrees North, 93.1 degrees West
    Posts
    532
    Nice TR. Thank you.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Wasatch Backside
    Posts
    318
    Just awesome. It's truly all about perspective...

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Carbondale
    Posts
    10,305
    Nice work buddy!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Posts
    2,499
    Wow. It looks like you got some goods, even though I guess the southern winter has been about as good as ours was.
    "Have you ever seen a monk get wildly fucked by a bunch of teenage girls?" "No" "Then forget the monastery."


    "You ever hear of a little show called branded? Arthur Digby Sellers wrote 156 episodes. Not exactly a lightweight." Walter Sobcheck.

    "I didn't have a grandfather on the board of some fancy college. Key word being was. Did he touch the Filipino exchange student? Did he not touch the Filipino exchange student? I don't know Brooke, I wasn't there."

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    Splat's Garage
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    3,290
    Hell yeah dude, nice pics!

    Even with a drought, still not at Alta.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Posts
    2,809
    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Star View Post
    Was the depth hoar horrendous?
    The snowpack in the central Andes is very interesting. The western slope is high, windy and dry, and anyone with a background skiing a North American continental snowpack is understandably on edge for depth hoar and long-lasting weak layers. But actually, due to the proximity to the ocean, the snowpack also has maritime characteristics, just not as we typically imagine it when we think of our Cali - Oregon - WA - BC snowpack. Weak layers tend to heal quickly, and despite long drought spells and very thin snowpack like this year had, the snow doesn't rot at ground level except for in the rockiest, steepest, S to SE facing slopes.

    However, the resorts above Santiago, even though they push towards 13,000' are actually just on the foothills of the range. Even the nearly 18,000' El Plomo behind Valle Nevado is still just part of the initial ramp that signals the start of the mountains. Helicopters and snowmobiles are able to get farther east, deeper into the of the range where the snowpack starts to show more continental characteristics.

    Basically, lots of terrain, little information.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    There's no 666 in Outer Space
    Posts
    666
    Dope!

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    6,491
    Nice D. What a blast.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    JH/AK/Los Andes
    Posts
    2,678
    Good stuff!
    "The idea wasnt for me, that I would be the only one that would ever do this. My idea was that everybody should be doing this. At the time nobody was, but this was something thats too much fun to pass up." -Briggs
    Quote Originally Posted by LeeLau View Post
    Wear your climbing harness. Attach a big anodized locker to your belay loop so its in prime position to hit your nuts. Double russian Ti icescrews on your side loops positioned for maximal anal rape when you sit down. Then everyone will know your radness
    More stoke, less shit.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Alpental
    Posts
    5,807
    Great write up alto, some sweet pics in there as well.

    It's rained all of 5 minutes here in Seatown since you left, I'm hoping the weather changes when you come back as I could really use an "October Surprise" this year.
    Move upside and let the man go through...

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    Seattle
    Posts
    29,717
    Thanks Drew.
    Quote Originally Posted by Downbound Train View Post
    And there will come a day when our ancestors look back...........

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Ibk
    Posts
    873
    like 12345678

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    in a van down by the river
    Posts
    2,782
    Sick TR, thanks for the stoke.
    I don't work and I don't save, desperate women pay my way.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    ANC / ADQ
    Posts
    2,629
    Great perspective and stoke

  21. #21
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Home in the Highcountry
    Posts
    483
    Living the life! Even with sub-prime snow, you guys made it happen - so good!
    An Evolutionary Rider

    www.PeaksforPeace.com

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Glendale, CA
    Posts
    28
    Basically, lots of terrain, little information.
    Oherwise known as TISA: This Is South America

    I have 38 annual snowfall totals for Portillo:
    Average is 254 inches
    5 seasons under 90 inches, min was 44 in 1998
    4 seasons over 450 inches, max was 739 in 1972
    The Central Chile Andes make the California Sierra look consistent.

    This year 136 inches; 8 of the 38 seasons were worse.

    Not to pick on Portillo in any way. They are run by an American family and actually keep records. Las Lenas gets about the same pattern of snow; Arpa and the Valle Nevado group get less.

    Bariloche/Catedral are leeward of the Andes and get a lot less snow. By logic and observation of TR's Chillan is the only place with decent lift served terrain that gets more snow than Portillo/Las Lenas. But no hard data to say how much more.

    At any rate, on a short trip MatPatSki made the best call for this season and spent his first week in Chillan. But in general for a short SA ski trip one should wait until at least the end of June to see if there is decent coverage before committing, given the scary historical volatility.

    For a whole season like alto spent you need to have realistic expectations, which he did and made the most of it. I don't surf, but we saw some on our 2007 daytrip to Valparaiso and my son said it looked excellent.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
    Location
    Fresh Lake City
    Posts
    3,209
    hell yea alto!!!

    by the way, when are you releasing "alaskagados" stateside???

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    verbier, milan, isla de pascua
    Posts
    4,816

  25. #25
    Hugh Conway Guest
    killin' it

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