You should have been here yesterday! Ah yes, the most common phrase in the ski and snowboard world. The need to tell others about how amazing or awful your day was on the mountain seems to be an everlasting art that will never go away and let’s hope it doesn’t. Whether it’s sitting around a fire with a couple of friends, eating dinner in a restaurant or riding the lifts. We’ve all heard the stories about huge airs, huge crashes and even bigger dumps of powder. I’ll be posting up some flashback tales about riding in Chile and Argentina from the past hoping to get you stoked to head to South America for the first time or head back for more. Remember that the difference with this story is that you can push me off the cyberspace chairlift if you’re bored with the story.
It was 1999 and I had been in South America since July. I had been to Chile only a few seasons at this point and I was still getting a grasp on the scene there. Joining me that season was Mathieu, a good friend from Canada. We were scoring snow all over the place and having really good luck with snowboard contests and all of the places we were visiting. Chile and Argentina had amazing snow. We were getting dealt aces when it came to snowfall everywhere we strapped in. September came quickly we were getting ready to head back to Canada at the end of the month. We talked it over about which place would be best to finish off the season. It was unanimous with that decision. Las Trancas, Chile was our stomping grounds. We loved that place and had the majority of our epic powder days in the Bio Bio region.
We headed directly back to Las Trancas and arrived on no better a date. It was Mathieu’s birthday, September 4th. The establishment where we were staying gave us free reign on the bar that night since we had stayed there for most of that season. In true birthday fashion it started to snow the moment we arrived. The party raged into the night but little did we know that the we would be getting very cozy inside this hostel for the next stretch of our South American journey and it was about to get dark, very dark.
Arising in already freezing rooms to see a heavy continual snowfall after a hard night of partying is what some snow lovers call a blessing. Great!! Let it snow all day and we can sleep in a little and get ready to rock some sweet deep turns the following day. This was just the beginning though of “groundhog day” Las Trancas style. At first storms and down days are really exciting. You get hyped on how much it’s piling up and start dreaming about what runs you’ll want to ride. On top of this we were leaving Chile soon and this would be our Swan Song exit. The universe had other plans for us though.
Days went on and the windows slowly filled in. Doorways became tighter and tighter to get in and out of. It was a very surreal scene and we started to become very aware that this could get interesting. The mountain was closed for heavy snow-fall and we were shackled to our hostel life with no hot water and wait for it…. The power is now out. Bust out those candles and let’s drink some Pisco!
The days were spent now talking about the snow, watching the snow and poking the fire multiple times. We had snowshoes and would walk around outside in the powerless little Villa under the pounding snow. You know when it snows, and everything becomes quiet? Every sound is almost eaten alive by the insulating snow on the ground? Yes, this might as well have been outer-space it was so quiet.
The food was getting low in supply and let’s just say it got to the point that green raw cabbage was dinner. Same went for the drinking. It ran out before the food did of course.
“You feel like drinking tonight, amigo?” Well let’s hit this dusty bottle of Crème de Menthe. I can now tick that off my “things to do in life” list.
We were a solid group of people at least. It was day seven of the storm and no one had gotten bitter about it yet. We were all just going with the flow at this point. There were the two Americans who kept to themselves mostly. The two Spaniards, on the other hand, were firecrackers and keep the good vibes rolling and the jokes flying. A homemade backgammon board was made out of cardboard and wine bottle corks. It became the most popular object in a matter of no time. Unless you went out on snowshoes and managed to find a bottle of booze, of course.
On the 8th day, the Military stopped outside our building on the way up to their base located on the upper mountain. We ran outside with snowshoes and boards flying all over the place. They welcomed us in the back of the truck for a ride up the mountain. Mathieu saluted the ranking officer when they dropped us off up top. He smiled and saluted back. We managed to tour up to the top of the Don Benno chair and rode some amazingly deep tree runs. Absolutely everything was covered in snow. You could ride anywhere. It was “don’t-fall-deep-snow.” Stopping on anything close to flat meant walking in neck deep snow.
Getting home that night wasn’t as hard as it seemed. Even though it was still snowing at an unreal rate the roads were getting worked on. The chairlifts on the other hand were gone. I mean vanished into the white. The storm had eaten the Don Benno and Don Otto chairs and was looking for dessert. It was getting close to our departure date back to Canada and we started to discuss escape plans. The roads were still closed and we were trapped in Las Trancas. As lame as it sounded, we started to think about trying to leave all this snow behind us–thinking it would never open.
Back in Las Trancas it was getting a little better. There was food brought in and even wine. We settled in and on storm day then it happened. We had no way of checking the weather. It was www.lookoutthewindow.com. I saw blue that fine morning and heard snow sliding off the roof which could have qualified as an avalanche in its own right. You’d think this would cause a panic right? Anywhere else on the planet people would be freaking out and frothing to get out in the snow and make turns. There was no need to rush. We constituted the entire population of Las Trancas. We wondered, would they even open the mountain?
Arriving at the resort we could see a lone lifty shoveling away at such a huge pile of snow it could have been named. It wasn’t even a discussion between the group of us. Shovels came out of backpacks and we started digging. We were laughing and having a great time doing this for hours and hours. The call was made over the radio to turn the lift on. We were blown away. Just hours ago the cable sank directly into the snow and at this point some chairs were dragging on top of the snow just barely free from the storm’s wake.
What could we say though? “Chair’s on! Game’s on!” The next two days of country club resort powder riding was what you could definitely call a regalo (gift). I already had a seed planted deep in my mind and a drive to ride South America. You could say that September it got a good watering and has been growing ever since. I wish I had more riding photos to show but since we had to fly back home, stopping for photos just wasn’t an option. You can guess how the turns were yourself.
There is no Facebook, Twitter or any other proof of this story. Just some dusty photos.
A couple days after the storm we actually stopped and took a photo. This is Mathieu’s hand and some snow. (Termas) Nevados de Chillan, CHILE. photo: #ChaseWinter