When skiing started, it was a democratic sport. There were no lifts, no rules and you were only limited by how far and how high you wanted to hike. The choice of your line down was up to you. No rules, just point â€˜em and go.
Sadly, skiing has become, for a variety of reasons, less democratic. Exclusive resorts, private clubs, expensive lift tickets and twenty dollar burgers all have clouded the original joy of sliding down mountains, the real reason why the sport exists. When you look at skiing from afar, it costs too much money, takes too much time and there are too many rules.
So if youâ€™re looking for hope, for proof that skiing isnâ€™t just for the rich or the famous, that the sport can still be true to its roots, itâ€™s wise to take the cheapest flight you can find (via coach and not first class) down to Chile and to a unsung, unheralded, but very, very important resort called El Colorado.
At first glance Chile seems an odd place to search for signs of skiing as a â€œpeopleâ€™s sportâ€. But consider this. Chile is one of the few countries in the world that holds the distinction of electing a women as president (Michelle Bachelet, 2006). The nation emerged from years under the Pinochet military dictatorship with a lively, healthy democracy. The voice of the people matters here, and when the people decide to go skiing, they go to El Colorado.
Itâ€™s not hard to see why. Unlike Chileâ€™s international resorts, El Colorado is affordable. Of course, what you get for your peso is a bit of funkiness, too. But that flavor â€“ like Chileâ€™s famous asadas is good, damn good.
In fact, itâ€™s so good that many international visitors are starting to forgo Chileâ€™s other resorts to spend time on the unique cone-shaped mountain that dominates El Coloradoâ€™s terrain.
Chileanos come here for several reasons. First, thereâ€™s tons of long, open mellow terrain. And the low base elevation (the resort extends down in the town of Farellones) means that it warms up fast here. Warmth means soft snow and sun, two crucial ingredients for people to enjoy their first time out on skis or snowboards. And then thereâ€™s the lack of pretension. It doesnâ€™t matter if you ski in jeans in El Colorado. All that matters is that youâ€™re out playing in the snow.
The playing in the snow thing is simple, but oh so important. Forget fancy equipment, the latest outerwear or the private clubs that dot resorts like Aspen and Vail. If youâ€™re not smiling and laughing when youâ€™re outside on a sunny day in the Andes, sliding around, having fun. Then perhaps you need to take up golf.
And playing in the snow takes on a whole new dimension for the expatriates who have started to discover El Colorado. Because one of the best things about this unassuming cone of a mountain is a massive selection of faces, buttresses and chutes that plunge below it, providing some of the best expert terrain in the world.
In other words, democracy means giving the people what they want. And, unlike some political systems (or ski resorts), El Colorado gives everyone what they want. Are the people happy? Yes. Which means that the democracy of skiing is alive and well at this hidden spot, high in the Chilean Andes.
Ski the people’s ski area, and support democracy in skiing. Vote El Colorado:
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