Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pista-Off in the Andes

Hello Everyone! Our adventures have brought us to Chile. In the winter. Near the Andes.

If that doesn´t conjure up images of skiing, then I don´t know what does! Hammer and I decided a skiing adventure was in order while the other guys decided to explore Santiago for the day. When we arrived in Santiago on Thursday, there was intermittent rain in the city, but I knew that it must be snowing in the mountains a few thousand feet above us in elevation so I was getting pumped for a powder day in the Andes. As with any good ski day, it started before dawn when a mini-bus picked us up from the hostel and took us to the tour office to pick up skis, boots, poles, goggles, and ski pants. Although that took a long time, soon we were heading up to the mountains in a packed mini-bus sharing cups of matte tea (an argentine tea I picked up and was eager to try. Yummmmm) and cliff bars.

The drive was really the first adventure, and soon the mountains we had seen from the city were all around us. The best way up them was over many tight switchbacks that a steady line of cars was snaking up. We had chains on the tires, and the ride wasn´t too scary, but plenty scenic. Soon, we were at the base of El Colorado, one of the bigger mountains close to Santiago and we jumped into our ski boots and headed for the first lift. After all, it was a powder day!

The mountain was above the treeline, so it was a big expanse of snow, with a good network of ski lifts and surface lifts crawling up. The day started out warm and sunny and we had amazing views of the Andes all around us, and could even see Santiago way down below. Most of the mountain had sections that were expertly groomed right next to areas of fresh powder, so there was something for everyone. The mountain wasn´t too steep, but the 10 or so inches of fresh snow made for really great skiing.

We were conquering even the toughest trails, but there was a section of the mountain that led to the base of a closed lift, requiring a short hike back to the open lifts. I parted ways with Hammer (the rule that there are no friends on powder days was only a little true!) for an hour or so to spin some laps in the knee deep fresh snow, and I got a fresh line each lap. Needless to say, I was prett happy!!!!! While the terrain wasn´t very steep, there is something magical about being able to take perfect turns in thigh deep snow. Ahhhhhhhh!

Hammer and I rendevoused at a mid-mountain eatery for a great lunch and a few beers. But we were there to ski, and were quickly back at it. After a few more runs, Dan joined me on the fun powder field and he was carving up turns like Alberta Tomba. We did the short hike out and found another little powder stash that Dan promptly got stuck in. But hey, it´s not easy to put your skis on when the snow is up to your thighs! I needed to spin a few more laps on that powder field, so we parted ways for another short time. I could have skied that part of the mountain until my legs gave out, which actually happened after another hour over there! As I was heading back to the base area, Dan passed me overhead on a lift, and he gave out the first part of our new favorite cheer, ¨Chi, Chi, Chi¨and of course I responded with the ¨Le, Le, Le, Viva Chile!¨

At 4:30 we met up at the base area with time for either one more run, or one well-deserved beer. Guess what we decided on???? Beer never tastes as good as when it´s after an amazing day on the slopes, and this was no exception. We traded our boots for sneakers and boarded the mini-bus back to town. The sun was setting on the Andes as we snaked down the mountains, and we were exhausted and really excited that we had such a fun day on the slopes.

After getting back to town, we regrouped with the Hern, Mike, and Carlos and headed to the beautiful port town of Valparaiso which we have been exploring all day and will get a post all to itself.

Ciao, Joey

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