Dash Longe in Argentina
Words and photos by Dash Longe
One bright Salt Lake City summer day, while shooting a round of golf with Pep Fujas, for some random reason skiing was brought up. During our conversation Pep mentioned something about heading down to Argentina. I told him I had been trying to put together a trip all summer but couldn’t get full commitment out of anybody. He said, “well you should come down and meet me, I am leaving in in like four days.” About a week and five phone calls later I had a plane ticket and less than a week to get ready for my trip.
After somewhere close to 24 hours of travel, it was around ten o’clock pm local time in Bariloche, Argentina. I was at the bar with Pep and a bunch of cool campers in the lodge that was rented out for South America Snow Sessions (SASS) talking about how the next day was supposed to be a sick pow day. With a good night’s rest, a couple of tiny crossants con dolce de leche and some café, we all piled into the camp bus and headed to the resort Cerro Catedral.
My first day on snow in months and I was skiing knee deep powder through tight trees. I could not help throwing out a hippie holler or two. It was totally perfect; one day golf, the next day powder. The skiing on the lower half of the mountain was full of thick branchy woods. The sun was out and and heating up the open runs, but the cooling shade of the trees kept secret stashes good for enough time to tear them to pieces. At the bottom of our favorite run called the Pomelo trees the forest turned into rolling hills covered in dence patches of dark, hard bamboo that you have to traverse through to get back to the chair. This wip-like bamboo would leave nice sized welts if you were not quick enough to nock them out of the way like gates on a slalom course. The snow only lasted a couple of days before the hot south american sun melted it down quite a bit. Then it got cold and cloudy for a day. The frostier tempatures sucked some moisture out up high and the sun pushed its way through the clouds. Some of the snowboarders had started a jump at the top of the mountan, so a group of us decided to finish it. This hip jump had potential, but it was hard to get speed. We hiked as high as possible, pointed it through sharp rocks and still couldn’t gain quite enough momentum to get to a proper landing zone. All in all, it was a good feeling to be hitting a kicker into 8 inches of soft in the middle of August.
Pep and I ended up staying for a while with our new friends at SASS. It was a good group and tons of fun. Everyone there was having a ball and you could tell. We would shred all day and have plenty to do at night. This particular camp is different than other camps I have attended in the past. The most exciting thing about SASS is that it is winter in the southern hemisphere, so it is actual skiing and snowboarding; you aren’t waterskiing in your tee. They encourage hard riding, but let the campers ski whatever type of terrain they want. They teach avalanche safety to those who are interested, and they also see that you get into some of the culture by offering Spanish lessons and feeding the camp authentic three-course local meals.
Besides all the great powder, hiking and tree skiing, San Carlos de Bariloche is conveniently a decent-sized city, which makes for good eats, shopping, and hot chicks everywhere. Another thing about Argentine culture is that they don’t even go out at night until around one, and they dance until six or seven. So you can imagine this life style is hard to get used to for your average gringo, but it makes for a great experience.
On top of the fun terrain in bounds at Cerro Catedral, there is an amazing back bowl named Laguna that is only a short hike from the top of the chair. The views from the top of the bowl are truly spectacular. All of the mountain tops surrounding Laguna are covered in giant jagged rocks, giving the ridges the look of a great white shark’s mouth. Beyond the resort you see Lake Nahuel Huapi, a vast island-filled body of fresh clear mountain water encircled by the massive snow covered Andes. The scenery alone is worth a trip to Bariloche.
After an amazing day of hiking, riding down steep rock faces, hucking off of everything we could, and watching campers do the same, Pep and I decided it was time to start our journey North towards Mendoza, a city located at the base of the Andes where you can catch buses to other ski towns. Mendoza also happens to be wine country. During the 17 hour bus ride, the double-decker stopped and opened the doors. I thought it would be a good time to grab some snacks. I had put the items on the counter, when I looked out the window and realized that the bus was driving away. I yelled to the lady “NO MAS” and ran out after the thing. The doors opened and I threw myself in. My heart was pumping harder at that moment than when I had dropped in on a steep-ass sixty foot rock ride the day before.
Pep and I spent a day in Mendoza doing a wine tour, roaming the city and hitting up an authentic style Argentine “asado” (a barbeque, that in my mind nothing in the States can beat), that was put on by the youth hostel we were staying at. It was great fun. The next morning Pep and I parted ways. He was off to meet K2 people in Portillo, Chile and I hopped on another long bus ride to Las Lenas.
When I arrived it was mid afternoon and I was a little spun from all the traveling. I was sitting on my bags when I heard, “DASH.” I knew it was my buddy Dustin Handley (Cinematographer). He swooped me up and brought me to his place. It ended up being the room that a bunch of my friends were staying in: Adam Clark, Will Wissman, Billy Pool, Julian Carr and Blake Nyman. These dudes, along with Mike Wilson and some dope snowboarders, were all there to film with the Levitation Project. They were nice and let me crash on their floor.
A wall ride and two of the windiest days I have ever seen in my life went by before we were able to go up. Unfortunatlely the wind had blown off all the snow down to the rocks on the Marte chair. (Regarding the Las Lenas winds: some friends told of a previous season when one morning after a multiple day, 15 foot dump, they woke up to dirt everywere in sight, as the wind had blown the massive piles of fresh snow away.) When we did get out to ski, the patches where snow remained looked like the texture you would picture being on an alien planet. In some spots there were multiple patches of crazy looking wind cups that were as deep as 2 to 3 feet and covered entire aspects. The fast moving current of air had blown dirt and rock into many of the holes we skied over. Below this terribly wind effected snow was a rock solid, but smooth hour glass shaped apron that led into a wide dog-legging shoot that finally opened up with close to a thousand feet left of vert before you hit the groomer. Julian and I looked at each other. He said “should we ski it?” I said, “hell yeah.” The constantly changing and foreign feeling snow was a slight challenge, but it was still an epic run.
I could tell that with the right conditions, Lenas is the place to be. But sadly enough my trip was coming to an end and same for the crew that I was hanging with. So we finished it off with a proper rap party and made our way to Buenos Aires. One more long bus ride and we were livin’ it up in the big city. I separated from my friends and ended up with a group of young girls that took me to the discotheque and tried to teach me the dance that Argentina is famous for: the one and only Tango. It was a great night that ended really early. On my last evening a local ski buddy, Ivan, that I had met in Bariloche, welcomed me into his home and I was able to experience the warm, Argentine family-style household (with his grandmother, mother, father, aunts, uncles, siblings, their children and friends). The next day he showed me around some less touristy areas of BA where we saw the vast watershed of smaller rivers that feed into the giant delta which separates Argentina from Uruguay. Ivan called me a cab and I was off to the airport. As I was sitting on the plane having a mental slide show of the trip, I thought to myself, “Wow, Argentina: sick skiing, beautiful women, and the best steak I have ever had, what a country.”
About the author:
Shay Williams is the Managing Editor of Freeskier Magazine. He loves cheeseburgers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Sweden. He's likely on a plane right now—first class only.