Posted: Sat Oct 13, 2007 10:27 pm
Sorry for the little delay in this TR. Life caught up to me with a vengeance since I came back from this wonderful trip. Work, Family, stuff plus a series of concerts, most of them in Montreal.
HOW DID THIS ADVENTURE START?
This part might be very boring, because it all about the pre-trip preparation. Not many pictures, nothing about how great the actual skiing trip was. Don’t worry, it will get better. I still need to get some pictures. I’ll kept updating and adding to this story. I hope I finish by Christmas
Okay, so I first thought about this trip back last October when I was able to make some turns at Jay Peak and continue my consecutive ski streak with 13… I was able to start it in October 2005 at Wildcat NH and continue on Tuck in May, Mammoth for June/July and finally Timberline for the last 2 month at the last week of the season. It was a dream year which saw many epic days, especially during a Montana-Wyoming-Utah trip of 13 straight day of epic skiing. Okay, this is nothing like Endless’s streak on TGR, but it worth trying to rack up a few months in a row and I get to ski more and bitch less about ski withdrawal going the long hot summer months.
So I hike and made month 13 at Jay Peak…My chiropractor asked me how far as I going to go? I told him I was only aiming one month at a time. The Winter went on and the months followed. I didn’t make that planned ski trip out West when I found out that Grizzly, one of our cats, had cancer and only had a few weeks to live. I wanted to be home for our two girls, my wife and Grizzly. This was an epic year in the East, didn’t miss out not going out West. I don’t recall a year where I had some many good powder days.
Drinking beer at an end-of-season ski party in Ottawa and talking about the incredible skiing in the last few weeks in Mad River Glen and Whiteface, I also started mentioning about maybe making it down to South America for the first time and maybe continue my ski streak. Andy, follow Masters’ Racer who broke a leg mentioned that he was also thinking about Chile.
Skiing at Wildcat with Wake from ZSki, I started talking about plans to contact Max (older users on FTO & ZS might remember him) about his New Zealand trip. Who we did happen to see on the slopes that day. Found out that he had been one week in Portillo with two days trip to Valle Nevado and El Colorado. The option of a South American trip was getting serious. I wanted to try to continue my ski streak, however I wasn’t willing to buy two plane tickets like the previous year in order to continue. The initial goal was 12 straight months, everything else was bonus. I also wanted to try something different than ski a glacier at Timberline. I had done it once, however it didn’t necessarily want to make a repeat trip which didn’t make much sense considering the cost versus the others possible options for August/September.
Turns at Tuck, research and e-mails. My friend SuperNat who had been to Chile twice or three times before said she was looking into going toward Bariloche this time, but was going to keep me posted. Andy was still looking to go, but wasn’t sure where and then they was Tony’s plan. Experience had told me in life that you better not wait for anyone and do it yourself, because sometimes things don’t work out. Also I had some health which also included a knee that has been bothering me all year. The Doc a few months noticed sign of arthritis in both knees. WTF??? Sport medicine noticed something that physio could probably solve.
Pathetic turns in the rain on a snow patch in Tuckerman and Air Canada seat sale. Started a thread on TGR whether I should my points (50000) or buy a seat on the Air Canada seat sale ($850). The overwhelming consensus was to use the points…Of course, never one to listen to advice, I didn’t use my points and bought the plane ticket. Tony’s trip is shaping up and he was bugging me to join them. The initial plan was a few days in Farrellones followed by one week in Portillo and maybe Arpa cat-skiing. Some sightseeing in Santiago and Val Paraiso in the last 3 days.
After a few e-mails, I decided to join Tony’s group for the cat-skiing and tour to Val Paraiso. Tony’s trip was via with Santiago Adventure, so the cost of this part was, although not terribly expensive for what I was getting, more than my daily cost for the rest of this trip. I would join them after the last day skiing in Portillo and head down with their group which was also in Portillo that day.
An interesting development, I noticed that it was possible to book less than one week at Portillo many days in advance through Ski Total with the backpacker package of 4 days with transportation from Santiago included. Now I wasn’t boxed in in Portillo for one week, I seriously started looking in getting to Termas de Chillàn. So here was the second plan: landing on the 29th and taking train/bus to Las Trancas. Ski in Termas for a few days then back to Farrellones (Chile’s version of Three Valleys) and then off to Portillo for 4 days and finished off with Arpa, Val Paraiso and maybe leave to Valle Nevado with Tony on September 11th.
That was good until I heard from Andy maybe one week before. Andy was arriving with his friend Brendan two days after me and was thinking of heading first to Termas and maybe heading to Portillo afterward. He wondered if I wanted to change my plans and join them. Bus/Train versus car rental. Okay, it might be more expensive, but advantages out weighted the solo part.
TO BE CONTINUED
Posted: Sun Oct 14, 2007 9:20 pm
August 28: YOW-YYZ, Ottawa-Toronto or getting closer.
D Day is finally here. A big day for two of the members of our family. My maiden voyage to the Southern Hemisphere AND first day back to school for Morgane, my oldest daughter. Brought her to school in the morning. She and Tara, her younger sister, were sad that they aren’t able to join me on this trip and go skiing. Maybe when they’re older. Caroline, my wife, dropped me off at the airport a few hours before, because she had a conference to attend. The plan was leaving Ottawa at 20:00. I was at the airport maybe 3 hours before my flight.
After making my way through the long lineup, I’m finally about to check my luggage at the counter. All of a sudden I cannot find my plane e-ticket and passport. SHIT!!! What the F*cked happened, I had just used the automatic check-in machines to get my boarding passes. Luckily I see an Air Canada employee walking near the head of the line with my envelope. Thank God and that employee. Somehow, I left my envelope with my tickets and passport on a table when I was writing some name tags for my bags. I don’t know if it was the excitement, lack of sleep, but this is not like me to easily forget stuff.
Okay, so now I’m through security and how I have a few hours to wait. I decided to take a few pictures while I wait.
Ottawa-Toronto isn’t a long flight, especially when you’re in an Airbus 321. Flight time from gate-to-gate is 1:05, but time spent in the air is maybe 40-45 minutes. Once in Toronto, I had to go through a series of Jetson walkways to finally get to gate 10000001. There was two side-by-side walkways. One of them, the express walk was in construction. It definitely looked different with a different handrail and everything. It seemed that walkway was build to carry people at warp speed (definitely thinking that I didn’t sleep enough).
I had 2:55 minutes to gate to my new gate. Bought the new Skiing mag plus more time to take a few pictures again while I was waiting…waiting…waiting. The flight was leaving at 23:55. Finally boarded on the Air Canada flight 93. Wow, I love this plane. Mini-screen with a choice of movies, TV shows and CDs to listen too. Talked a bit with an Argentine girl with limited English sitting next to me. I found out that the Air Canada flight fly into Santiago before going to Buenos Aires. Listened to the whole new Bjork, Volta and one from Buddy Guy before falling to sleep at around 2:30.
Listened to the whole new Bjork, Volta and one from Buddy Guy before falling to sleep at around 2:30.
Buddy Guy: Five Long Years
Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 12:25 am
Flight AC93 and Santiago
Woke up at around 7:30. Flying to South America is way better than Europe, you can get a descent night sleep. Eat breakfast, watch the movie Time Machine and got a good look of the Andes.
Arrived in Santiago at 10:30. Get off the plane and follow the signs with the US, Canadian, Mexican, etc. flags. Once at the counter you pay the reciprocity fee; for Canadians its $132 US (US citizen pay $100 US). This fee is the Chilean government’s response to a similar fees in our countries. This entry fee is good until the expiration of your passport. This means I need to get back before my passport expires in 5 years (I just renewed mine for this trip). After that you head for the next lineup at Customs counter. There they stamp your passport like crazy. Pick up your luggage and skis. Customs Officer with her dog sniffing at the luggage. While most people aren’t here to ski, a few of us are. Another passport control and you’re let free in the Airport.
People calling names and taxi drivers trying to gather your attention. Although I could have used public transportation (bus/metro) to get to Central Santiago, however I had my Hostal arranged the Airport Transfer with a TransVip taxi. Once I spotted the Transvip rep, he leading me to the van and saying that it was something like $17.000 CHP ($35 US), which is the price for the exclusive van. Hard to communicate and say that isn’t the price that I wanted to pay. Eventually they understood that wasn’t what I wanted and the regular van is $4.500 CHP ($9 US). You have to be careful, because I’m sure that more than a few gringos have been scammed at the airport. I later heard on this trip that another skiing Gringo paid $400 US for THE cab ride.
I shared the regular van with 3 Chilean (I think), so I got to see some of the non-touristy areas outside Central Santiago. Notice some makeshift houses with animals on the edge of the river away while we were on the highway into Santiago. Outer neighbourhoods are colourful and very different from the Central part of Santiago. Small homes side-by-side. I was staying at Hostal Forestal which is also a stone throw from Plaza Italia. As we drove by the Plaza, there was a demonstration which the Police was about to crackdown on.
As you can see from the first video, demonstration turned ugly and Police started cracking down (and heads) South American style using tear gas and water canons. (good ambiance tune to get the SA feel)
Second is what I was on the giant screen at the Hostal. The person that gets clobbered by the carabinero is Chilean Senador Navarro.
Welcome to South America!!!
After checking sending an e-mail back home to my wife and getting my stuff in order, I headed outside to see the sight.
Hostal Forestal is perfectly located, slightly off Central Santiago and next Parque Forestal and Plaza Italia. As I stepped out of the Hostal and walk through the park and Plaza, the place had been cleared of people and there was a heavy police presence. There was a few signs of piles of trash burning and paper everywhere and the smell of tear gas lingered in the air.
On the other side of the bridge crossing Rio Mapocho is the lively Bellavista district which is know also as the bohemian corner of the capital. Bars and restaurants line Pio Nono and neighbouring streets. The neighbourhoods is also where you can find the house where the poet Pablo Neroda lived and many shops selling lapis lazuli stones. Raising above these streets is Cerro San Cristóbal (860m) with a 22 metre-high statue of the Virgen Del Immaculada Mary on top. If the smog isn’t too bad, you get a good view of the city and the Andes to the East. There is also the teleférico (mini-gondola) at the top that goes across the Cerro San Cristóbal.
There is a funicular that take you to the top, however the everything was shutdown for fear of trouble due to the demonstration. At the top there is the teleférico (mini-gondola) that goes across the Cerro San Cristóbal. I eventually found a way to get to the top via a long wide open zigzagging road to the top. Along the way meet a girl and her boyfriend who had been at the demonstration. She spoke very little English and me very little Spanish, she showed me some pics and videos she took of the “action”. We were able to have a good talk even if our knowledge of the others languages was pretty limited. The only thing her boyfriend could say was “We are American Rock Stars”. The hike might have taken us 90 minutes?
I enjoyed the view of the city and the Andes. Next to the top, I found a small, steep and narrow hiking trail that only takes 20 minutes to get at the bottom. Definitely a good thing, especially that sunset is much earlier than home. Hard to realize this is Winter, it’s about 16c outside and flowers were blooming (beware allergies).
Back at the Hostal, sent a few e-mails. Set up a few meeting places with Andy once he gets to Chile; he’s leaving Ottawa the next day. I went out grab something to eat. Pretty much everything is shutdown that evening for fear of trouble. Hostal hostess mentioned to be careful outside, manage to eat a Barros Luco. I was told that this was named after a Chilean President that liked a beef and cheese sandwich. While I was eating, I could see a few anarchists heading toward Plaza Italia.
Guest and hosts were partying, drinking or playing pool on one of the worst pool tables I’ve ever played on. Some of the guests took maybe 45 minutes to play (not me – but I was waiting my turn), it doesn’t help when you’re totally harmed on Pisco Sour, Chilean Wine or Rum and Coke. The people at the Hostal were either from North America or Europe, some of them have been traveling around the World on a Worldwide ticket or traveling around South America. No one had a schedule or planed itinerary. Meet some Irish guys that have been gone for 9 months and had just arrived in South America. They were following 6-hour Spanish lesson for one or two weeks at the Hostal. Most of them were young adults or people my age having mid-life crisis. In which category do I fit in?
I need to get to bed, it’s too late, the room is spinning and I’m going skiing tomorrow.(I didn’t noticed if I was spinning in the same direction as in the Northern Hemisphere) Funny thing about South America, one of the first thing you check is if the water really those flush in a different direction.
source: Rough Guides: Chile (2006)
TO BE CONTINUED
NEXT POST WILL HAVE SOME PICTURES OF SNOW. DON’T THINK I’LL BE ABLE TO POST SOMETHING TOMORROW. PICTURE SELECTION AND RESIZING IS TAKING TOO MUCH TIME.
Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 3:44 pm
The alarm goes off, it’s something like 6:30 and it takes me a few minutes a jump off the top bunk. The breakfast is included at the Hostel, unfortunately breakfast at 8:00 is a nonstarter for me, that’s the departure time for the ski bus.
Trying not to disturb everyone else still sleeping in my room, I dragged everything out. One of the badly hungover hosts, hears me and says, “What are you doing? Go back to sleep”. I reply in a cheerful annoying voice for someone who’s head is hurting, “i’m going skiing this morning”.
Another thing that you cannot take for granted skiing in the Andes is water. As I fill up my camelback, the 2-liter water bottle I bought the night before just sprays all over place. Crap, this is Aqua with Gas (Mineral Water)… From that point on, I made sure the bottle had Sin Gas written on it. Found some food at a corner market, everything is good and it’s a bright sunny morning in Santiago.
I start walking toward the Bellavista Camp where they offer bus rides to the local ski areas of Valle Nevado, El Colorado and La Parva. When I was planning my trip, my friend SuperNat had mentioned the SkiTotal buses departing daily from Las Condes and the Eastern end of metro line 1. However once I arrived in Santiago, I realized that there were many options, including one only a 10-15 minutes walk across the bridge from Plaza Italia. For my first day, I was thinking of heading to La Parva, as I was meeting Andy at El Colorado the next day and maybe heading to Valle Nevado with Tony at the end of my trip. However Bellavista Camp didn’t offer service to La Parva anymore due to the quality of the snowcover, whatever that meant? The only choice available was El Colorado or Valle Nevado. As I later found out the next day, this was probably dictated by lack of interest and customers for LaParva. One bus can serve El Colorado before heading to Valle Nevado, but La Parva is requires a detour. So I started out with Valle Nevado which seem to be the most popular of the three areas.
Bellavista offers of a whole bunch of rentals which includes ski equipments, ski suits and gloves. Many people taking this bus are tourists, but not necessarily ski tourists. Most of the people on the bus needed to rent skis, boots, ski pants, gloves, etc. We were maybe 8 in the van, only two of us weren’t South Americans and there was only one person from Chile in those 6 South Americans. The bus ride takes about 2 hours to reach its destination, however time of departure, an obligatory stop at a gas station / convenience store and traffic is variable during the two days I’ve used their services. The cost from Santiago to La Parva and El Colorado is $8.000 CHP and $8.500 CHP ($15-16 US) for Valle Nevado.
Valle Nevado is about 50km (30 miles) from Central Santiago on one of the craziest roads I’ve ever seen. The only one that comes close would be the one at Alpe d’Huez in France. The road starts climbing once you leave the city, steady at first then through many kilometers a series of what it felt to be hundreds of switchbacks with few guardrails along steep mountain side. I can just imagine what this road is like when it’s snowing. I know my daughter would have vomited a few times already. The difference between Santiago and the Valle Nevado is roughly 2,400 meters (7875ft) in less than 50km.
Although it’s still officially Winter in the Southern Hemisphere, Spring has definitely started in this part of the continent. The region and hills East of Santiago is pretty barren with cactuses along with the odd animal (cow, horse, goat) on the steep terrain. Snow level started at about 1600m. First signs that we’re getting closer is the buildings at Farrelones at 2400m and this points you either turn left to head for El Colorado or La Parva or right for Valle Nevado. The rest of the road is surrounded by snow and sometimes snow covered, you also get a good views of the interesting backcountry runs leaving El Colorado toward this road. I was able to noticed a few skiers already using some of the lines. In order to get back to a ski area, these skiers/boarders will need to hitch a ride.
Valle Nevado resort is located at 3000m (9800ft) on top of a ridge, as we steep out of the van and get own gear, the air feels warm. Most people left Santiago in ski clothes, I got dress along on top. I left the stuff I don’t need in the van and head off to get my lift ticket and the slopes. Lift ticket cost $20.000 CHP ($40 US) in low season. The website claims the following….
THE LARGEST SKIABLE ACREAGE IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE.
Located on a 23,000-acre total surface area, with 23 miles of slopes, providing skiers and snowboarders with options for all abilities and preferences.
Here you have the opportunity to ski on the largest skiable acreage in the Southern hemisphere, with 23 miles of trails on snow that is appropriate for all levels and preferences. It is all fit into a natural environment that allows you to enjoy clear, sunny days more than 80% of the time. Top it all off with excellent snow quality due to the orientation and altitude of the resort. There is just no comparison! The most daring skiers and snowboarders will also find that our resort is leading the way in Latin America due to the fact that we have a Snow Park for jumps and free-style and a Half Pipe that has enabled us to become the only site in the Southern Hemisphere for the World Cup of Snowboard.
It’s possible that it’s the largest, the area has 810m (2,650ft) vertical and has a few peaks, however the way of the terrain is laid out, maximum continuous vertical would be 600m and most vertical for runs would be between 250 and 400 meters. It was definitely sunny on that day. B) Perfect day for pictures, although it would be nicer with fresh snow.
Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:24 pm
FINALLY – SOMETHING ABOUT THE SKIING
As I head off toward the slope, I was asked by the two people from the bus if I wanted to ski with them? Yes, why not. One of them was Chilean and the other was a tourist from Denmark. First mini run to ski from the Hotel to the bottom of the El Mirador quad. I was stoked, first time in South America, August turns AND first turns on new skis. YEAH!!!! No complaints. First run was on a high speed groomer on “Diabala”. I was super stoked, ski edged perfectly on the harder snow. I’m cranking my new B3s as if they were GS skis, much more stable than my B1s. At the 5th high speed turn, one of my skis poop off. Although I’ve adjusted the bindings before I left, I wasn’t willing to set the bindings high like my GS skis, because I didn’t how they skied plus this isn’t the type of skiing I bought this ski for. This run is a perfect example of the type of skiing I can find locally, 324m vertical groomer with the top 1/3 being steep and gradually getting flatter toward the lift. Regardless, this is fun and sometimes you can understand why some great skiers are perfectly satisfied skiing on mole hills 30, 50, 70 times a year without going out West.
The ski terrain expands beyond the initial slopes next to the hotel. After a ride back up with the chair, we head further away from the main face (see map). One ride on Las Ballicas poma then unto the other face with Tres Puntas. At 3,670m (12,040ft), Tres Puntas is the highest point in-bounds of Valle Nevado. However there is serious backcountry possibilities beyond the highest two summits of the ski area. The Tres Puntas runs had better snow and mirrored an GS course on the black Shake run at warp speed. Almost lost it also after a caught an edge. Geez, I like my new skis.
Picture close to the top of Tres Puntas poma (3,670m). Left, Trote run from top of El Mirador lift (3,300m) toward the back lifts. Las Barricas lift, summit where Andes HSQ ends with El Colorado cone picking to the left of that. Below, Camino Del Inca run
After exploring toward the Valle Del Inca lift we decided that we’ll wait after lunch before trying the Andes Express HSQ. We didn’t know it at that time, but this was an excellent decision. As we waited in line to get our food, the power went off and all the lifts stopped for a few minutes. The Andes Express remained stopped for most of our 75 minutes lunch. Found out later, that this is part of TISA factor, more on that later on the trip.
First two runs after this long South American lunch were on the Andes HSQ. First one was a red groomer similar to our first then headed off to Eclipse. I think Eclipse is probably the only real steep ski run at Valle Nevado. Eclipse is a short steep face along the ridge that serves as area boundary. The skiers left has bumps and the rest probably doesn’t see enough traffic to get any. The Dane and I connected with the Chilean partner after Eclipse and continued on the nice and long El Sol. From this run, you get a good close up view the Cono Este of El Colorado. The run also arrives lower than the hotel resort. After this were decided to go back to the lift higher up for one last time before it got to late. One good thing about skiing in the Summer in South America is that the lift close at 17:30. Maybe that’s why Chilean nightlife ends so late?
Posted: Sat Oct 20, 2007 4:38 pm
This was a great day. Valle Nevado might be the largest skiable acreage in the Southern Hemisphere, but the on-piste terrain definitely lacks expert terrain or continuous vertical. The place is excellent for intermediate skiers and the skiing above treeline is always spectacular unless you’re in a white out. Of course, the off-piste possibilities are probably endless, but I guess this would apply most everyone in the Andes.
Arrived in Santiago at 20:30 and headed off to eat supper with one of my ski partner of the day, the Chilean partner had to go visit one of his girlfriends. Anyway, I found one more example that Chilean are generally very friendly and always willing to help. Back at the Hostal, another lively night gathering. Most of the guest at the hostel weren’t skiers and haven’t been up to the mountains, but they were all curious to know how it was when I came back. I did see two other skiers arrive at the Hostel that night; two German guys which had started they trip in Terra Del Fuego two month prior. Now this I know they were skiers? Goggle tans!
I checked my e-mail account before I went to bed. The previous day I had mentioned to Caroline, my wife, that Santiago reminded me of Lyon, France, her hometown. She sarcastically replied she had forgotten about that Lyon had Palm trees. Chile and France are very similar. The skiing and the terrain, the long lunch, no-stress attitude, traffic signs, the crazy mountain roads to get to the ski areas, French cars and smog in Santiago is a bigger scale than Grenoble
The next day I’m meeting Andy and his friend Brendan. Not sure where? We’ve set up a few places to meet on the hill at a certain times or that evening at the hostel. Not sure if they make it to the mountain after arriving midmorning with 10+ hour overnight flight. Their plan was land, rent a car, go skiing and then drive toward Las Trancas (500+km). I’m dead just thinking about that road down from the ski area, let’s alone the flight, 500km after a few hours of skiing.
TO BE CONTINUED…NEXT TIME – EL COLORADO
Post originally started on Sat Oct 13, 2007 10:27 pm on firsttracksonline