All Photos by Tucker Patton. All Photos ©.
Snow has started to coat the mountains back home in Ketchum and it’s got me jonesing for winter. It seems like an appropriate time to reflect back on a few “summer” adventures, while truth be told I have been fortunate enough to enjoy what seems like a never ending winter.
The bittersweet reality of being a skier in most parts of the world, is that you spend half the year trying to fill your time until you can ski again. It’s like being a surfer living in Idaho and staring at lakes and thinking about what could be if only there was swell wrapping around the perfect inland point breaks. I’ve constantly pulled my hair out dreaming about what adventures I could concoct in the off season. Typically they revolve around the sport that’s at the opposite end of the temperature spectrum.
These dreams beg the questions:
Are these simply daydreams of a skier in the tailing end of summer waiting for it to snow?
I’ve heard all the excuses about exploration and adventure:
I’ve personally spent the last 15 summers pursuing the Southern winter and can confidently say that skiing on the other side of the world never disappoints. This year I changed up my routine and traveled to South America instead of New Zealand. Here’s a look at how my appetite for snow was satiated one stop at a time in South America this summer:
First Stop: Chile
Upon arrival into Chile’s capital city of Santiago, you are immediately greeted by the hustle of a city on the up and up. Hosting a population of over 5 million people and a sprawling metropolis, it certainly feels like an unlikely destination for some of the best heli-skiing on the planet. We chose to base downtown at the Ritz Carlton where we could enjoy the the bountiful sites, restaurants and culture of the city. Not to mention we were within walking distance of the skyscraper and landing pad we used as the end point for our heli-skiing.
Santiago sits at the doorstep to the Andes and is quite the experience to be able to fly to and from a major metropolitan city straight into world-class skiing. You quickly depart from this urban center and find yourself among some of the highest peaks in the world. Dropping into my first run I had to pinch myself. Looking around you quickly notice endless terrain stacked with steeps, couloirs and open powder fields. A week's worth of epic heli-skiing and exploration certainly quenched the thirst for powder in August. Not to mention we were only halfway through our trip.
Next Stop: Argentina
A quick flight bypassing a multi hour drive through the Andes brought us to the city of Mendoza. After a family style Asado and mid day siesta we jumped in the car and drove to the resort community of Las Lenas. Navigating through vineyards and high desert, we found ourselves winding through a vast canyon network that ends in the cathedral like mecca of Southern Hemisphere skiing.
With a little luck and perfect timing, we were greeted with a couple feet of fresh snow on the morning after our arrival. An otherwise thin snowpack had us treading lightly, but the new snow allowed us to tentatively explore this sprawling resort. Without a doubt, the crown jewel of Las Lenas’ resort is the TS Marte lift. Often compared to its many rivals in North America like Squaw Valley’s legendary KT-22, needless to say I had my doubts.
After close inspection of a handful of its beautiful lines, chutes and couloirs that drain for thousands of feet to the valley floor, I can confidently say that the Marte allows for access to some of the best resort skiing on the planet. It was a special experience to witness the local crew teeing off on some seriously rowdy lines. I was truly impressed with the Argentinian’s ability to keep this lift open and the ski patrol’s professionalism to mitigate the avalanche danger in such rugged and committing terrain. An intricate Gazex infrastructure and a dedicated patrol combine to do a spectacular job of keeping the inbound ski runs and lift network open to the public. The only negative with the Marte is its inability to operate when the notorious Andes winds pick up. But I’ll be honest that when the rope line drops and the lift spins, the terrain is next level and rivals anywhere in the world. Just be careful not to follow every ski track as the locals know this place inside and out and there are some seriously committing lines.
To top off a great trip, we were treated to an exceptional day of cat-skiing in the Valle Hermosa. A short cat road off the back of the resort opens up into a sprawling winter paradise with endless terrain. Three thousand foot runs of perfect powder fields were only topped by the beauty of the Andes and the stoke of the clients.
There were a lot of moving parts to this trips that included the many clients that made it possible, Chilean and Argentinean locals as well as the main catalyst and organizer Reggie Crist. Thanks to everyone that kept the stoke meter pinned!
My take home from the trip:
Can you curb the froth? My answer to that would be why try to squalor that fire. There is always adventure and terrain out there if you are motivated enough.
Gear We Appreciated Using
Outdoor Research’s Verismo Hooded Down Jacket
This jacket came in handy whether as a backup layer to protect against the cold skiing or cruising the streets of Santiago after an epic day of skiing. It’s essential to have a multi use outerwear layer when you are traveling. This jacket is warm when you need it and useful in all occasions. Stuff it in your pack and you’ll use it all the time.
BCA BC Link Radios
Staying in constant contact when guiding in the backcountry or skiing the resort is essential. These radios offer tons of features to keep you in touch with your friends whereabouts. They are easy to use and handy to have all time. Don’t underestimate their importance.
LowePro Toploader Pro 75 AW II
One key to shooting great photos on the go is having a camera ready at all times so you can click a few off and keep moving. Having the toploader outside my pack and on my chest or slung at my hip, facilitates easy access to my gear allowing me to capture all of the imagery in this post.
K2 Pinnacle 105mm
The Pinnacle 105 is the perfect one ski quiver for a Southern Hemi ski trip. It handle all the conditions the Andes will throw at you and can turn it up when conditions are on!
Closing Thoughts: Embrace the chase. It’s always worth the effort. Thanks for reading!