This past summer I embarked on a journey to Argentina in search of an extension to my ski season, to explore, a new culture, and meet new people. I was traveling with a group called SGT (sass (ski and surf sessions) global travel) a couple of my friends from Stratton, who were on my ski team, had gone down the previous summer and were coming with me this time were on my flight along with Jackson Boyle.
The journey started with us taking a three-hour car ride to Connecticut, where we would spend the night, the day before our flight, which was mostly fine except for a besides a bit of traffic. We then spent the night at my uncle's house in Darien. The next morning we woke up around 7:00, packed up anything we had to last minute, printed our boarding passes and got out our passports. After a short car ride to the LaGuardia airport in New York City, we then met up with my friends who were coming with us and said our final goodbyes to our parents. After finally boarding the airplane thunderstorms came which delayed our flight 2 hours in which we sat on the runway. Then, leaving the airport it was a smooth 3 hour flight to Miami until we unloaded the plane, ran across the airport to our next gate only to find out that it had left five minutes before. The next flight to Buenos Aires (the capital of Argentina) was leaving at two hours later, as we attempted to get tickets to that flight they then told us that it was fully booked and the next flight would be leaving the next day at 8:00pm. We were all tired after a long day of travel so American Airlines got us hotel rooms were we spent the night.
The next day we woke up and were taken to South Beach with SGT's travel agent who was conveniently a former model. After swimming at the beach for a few hours it was time to go to the southern hemisphere and transition to winter so we packed our bags and headed to the airport where we had an overnight 9-hour flight from Miami to Buenos Aires. When we arrived at about 5:00 in the morning we then went through customs and met up with another travel agent named Tomas who had a very strong Argentine accent and dropped an f-bomb just about every other word. We then transferred from the international airport to the domestic airport and got on our final flight to Bariloche, Argentina where we would spend the next two weeks. After a two-hour plane ride we arrived in Bariloche and were pretty much in skiers paradise, the Andes. Then, with a short 30 minute bus ride we were at our final destination and after three days of travel we made it.
The views were breathtaking, the mountains were incredible, and most of all the culture was amazing. Other summer ski camps such as Windells and Woodward lacked what SGT had so much of and that was a culture, the campers and counselors formed a bond unlike any other camp, our hotel was in the middle of town where we had the freedom to walk around, and we explored the culture in the city of Bariloche.
The first day we started with some beacon drills and back country training then headed into the back country (Laguna) where we basically spent the next two weeks skiing. The snow was very wind blown and icy because in the previous days wind speeds had reached about 60 mph. That night we sat by the fire, went in the hot tub, and hung out by the ping pong table which were the basic night time activities at our hotel.
The next morning I was woken up by my roommate at about 6:00 am by the exact words of, "HOLY S*** IT'S DUMPING!" Immediately I sprinted to the window to see white out conditions, the roads covered in snow, and no more than five feet of visibility in front of ourselves. These kind of days are what skiers live for, theres nothing better than waking up to a blizzard. With too much energy to go back to sleep we pretty much just hung out until 7:00 when we ate breakfast and got ready to go skiing. In the morning the mountain was closed because there was too much wind so we basically hung out by Tage, which was where we got lunch everyday to put in our bag then eat on the mountain. When the mountain opened we headed up on the first chair and headed over to Nubes, (new-bus) which was one of the peaks of Cerro Catedral (the ski resort.) Nubes was the most bizarre part of the mountain, it had terrain you would find while heli-skiing in Alaska but with the accessibility of a chairlift. The chutes there were somewhat of a new obstacle for me since you really can't find real ones anywhere on the east coast.
With virtually no visibility it was hard to ski and never mind keeping track of everybody else, nevertheless our guides were still sending it, going off 15-20 foot cliffs, throwing 360's over ledges and charging lines. That was enough motivation for us to try to follow in their footsteps as we enjoyed free refills all day on Nubes.
After our powder day of skiing white out conditions the skies cleared up, but the snow remained. With a little over a foot of fresh snow and blue skies we skied up all the fresh in bounds then headed out to to Laguna. Hiking to Laguna was about a 25-30 minute hike to the first "saddle" as we called it. From the saddle you can ski many different lines you can traverse over to the diving board which is about a 25 foot cliff in the shape of a diving board hence the name diving board, you can ski off a cliff which ranges from about 200 feet in the dead center to about 15 feet on either side, or you can ski straight down into the banana chutes. From there we skied straight down through the banana chutes getting some fresh turns and learning a bit of the terrain in the bowl.
After finishing the run we skied through the woods and back to the chairlift after getting up the chairlift we decided to go back to Laguna and ski some terrain further to the right, which was a bit of longer hike but definitely worth it. Not many of the skiers were willing to hike to the saddle never mind the right side of Laguna. To get out there you would have to hike to the saddle then continue on hiking for another ten minutes, after that you could put your skis on and ski over to where we started our run.
We got to the top which had yet to have been skied after this new snow and it seemed as though all of the snow had blown into that chute in the past few days. When we looked down to see the deep snow our guide immediately shouted, "Grab your powder snorkels, 'cause this one is gonna be steep and deep!" Skiing down was amazing snow was chest deep and I had some of the best turns I have ever had in my 12 years of skiing. There were a couple of fun spines to ski down and some small cliffs to air off of until the terrain became more open and was just a field full of powder, in which Jackson Boyle had one of the funniest falls i have ever seen. Then nearing the bottom there was a chute followed by a fun cliff to the bottom of Laguna. After that run we headed back to the resort and did some woods laps and then headed back to the hotel for a night of rest.
After our fabulous powder day we decided to head up to Laguna to do a quick diving board run. The diving board is a cliff which is about 20-25 feet tall and is shaped like a diving board with a long rock jetting out of the main cliff creating the diving board shape that gives it it's name. Hiking up is about a half an hour hike from the Del Bosque chairlift. At the top we studied the line with our photos just to make sure we knew what was below and could ski it in the best way possible. Being the first one to hit it I was a little scared hitting this new cliff but with the wise words of my coach Mauri to, "Just send it, Dude" I tapped my poles and called drop before getting a couple good turns then straight-lining it into the diving board where i hit the cliff cleanly and came out fine into the flat part of the bowl (a frozen lake) where I waited for the rest of the crew to join me. Most of them landed clean but there were a couple funny falls and tomahawks from other's tracks. At the bottom we admired the tracks we had made in the bowl.
Then we rode up the Del Bosque chairlift again to get on the bootpack to hike back into Laguna this time we would be going further than before to the furthest point and to the highest peak, the Tage chutes. Getting out there was a long journey it took about an hour and fifteen minutes total. First, we hiked to the saddle of Laguna, a hike we were very familiar with. Then, we kept on going on the high traverse of Laguna where we reached a point that we put our skis on and traversed over to the far right side of the bowl where we hiked upwards for about ten minutes then headed over across a wide chute where there was high danger of avalanche. Because of the avalanche danger we had to go one at a time but luckily we were all safe. Finally after hiking a short while upward we reached our destination where we could see all the way to Chile on one side over the Andes mountains and on the other across the plains of argentina and the great lakes of Bariloche. We enjoyed our lunch with just about the best view ever.
After finishing lunch we headed down to the Tage Chutes which we had been admiring for days from the hotel's pool. Finally the long awaited run happened and we were filmed from the hotel with our videographer's telephoto lens. After a long tiring day we wound down with a couple laps from the chairlift and then headed back to town to hang out.
As the fresh snow became scarce we were forced to earn our turns. The snow in-bounds had had all been tracked out and most of Laguna had been skied by us. Early morning we headed out to the gondola and made our way over to Del Bosque, where we made our way into Laguna. On our way up it was clear that we had lost quite a bit of snow and we were starting to lose our hopes of finding any snow. When we got to the saddle we traversed over a little bit where we arrived at a wide chute. When we passed by we saw the Oakley team doing a sunrise photo shoot on a jump they had built. The skiers were going huge and it only motivated us.
To the right side of the chute there was a fifteen foot tall rock formation that had a small opening in it. That opening is where we would have to go to reach our final destination, the Playground. We got out of our skis and put them on our shoulders as we climbed up these rock stairs that went about halfway up the rock tower. Then there was a small opening in between two rocks that we threw our skis through and jumped down from. The drop was about five feet and then we got our skis back on and got ready. To our surprise there was no tracks in this part besides the few that Jackson and I had made a couple days before. We got ready for our run and the photographers set up their cameras.
To The left there was a small five foot cliff and then dead ahead there was a twenty five foot cliff. Our guide, Pete, went first he went off the cliff to the left so that he could spot our landing and give us a description of it. First, Noel eagerly sent it off the right side and skied off to Pete. Then, before I could even move Jackson followed right behind him. Finally I tried to follow in their footsteps when I landed right where they had both landed, a two foot deep hole of snow that immediately made me double eject and tomahawk twice. After clicking back into my skis I had to ski the rest of the way down with my goggles full of snow and got back to the main part of the mountain.
After our playground run it was time to head back out to the back country. This time we were going to a new location, Upper Laguna. The Upper half of Laguna had yet to be skied as it was a long hike and there are only few willing to make the trip. It had some of the best snow that we were going to find and was a view worth the hike.
We hiked up to the saddle where we continued enroute to Upper Laguna weaving in and out behing rock towers, standing on ledges with 50 foot drops, and climbing up rocks all with skis on our backs. As we neared the top you could begin to see over the back of the mountain and into the Andes. In the hike continued to get harder and we began to walk on only rocks with ski boots on, which is not easy.
Once we reached the top we ate our lunch with the view of a lifetime, volcanoes, great lakes, and some of the most magnificent mountains in the world. We ate our milanese sandwiches, an Argentine favorite, along with our Argentine candies and pastries. When we finished we got ready to drop in. My hands were freezing from the roaring winds and I could barely move them. Ben, our photographer set up his camera and got ready to shoot as we started to go one by one down into the fresh, knee-deep powder. The beginning was narrow and you had to take a couple hop-turns before it opened up and rode a spine for about a hundred yards. After that it was time to straight-line it as I went as fast as I could into the soft snow that then changed to wet, heavy snow that sent me tomahawking once more to end my day.
To be continued...