South America is the place to go for summer vacation.

South America is the place to go for summer vacation.

Summer 2008
South American Snow Sessions
By: Dash Longe

Once again I was lucky enough to find myself on the way to Argentina to hang out at the camp known as South America Snow Sessions. SASS is located in the town of Bariloche, which has been a hub for young skiers and snowboarders for years. The city is on a giant high-alpine lake that has mountains shooting up out of it. The ski resort is the largest in South America and has all types of terrain for every level of skier or rider.

Some friends and I had seen Pep Fujas off to South America a few days prior. I had gotten word from him that his flight had gone through some serious delays. After around 24 hours of my own travel, I was waiting at customs and saw Pep in line around 30 people behind me. It was pretty funny that I beat him to Buenos Aires by about twenty minutes, even though he left a good 40 hours before me. I smiled and yelled to him, “I’ll meet you on the other side.” It was perfect because this way we could travel together to the next airport, which was clear on the other side of the city. Pep was nervous because he only had 20 minutes before his next flight was to depart and we were about an hour from that airport. We showed up at George Newberry Airport to learn that his flight was delayed and was going to take off at the same time as mine. We laughed, then found a spot for a snack and a quick beer to celebrate the funny way things seem to fall right into place and the time we were about to spend together ripping the Mountains of San Carlos De Bariloche. For the second time that day we met at the baggage claim and awaited our ride to camp.

We arrived at the coaches house to see all of our friends from the previous year and some new faces as well. We had walked into what the coaches were calling “Metal Mondays,” which meant that all through dinner and into the night, the whole house slams heads and rocks out to death metal. By listening to the conversations going on around me, I quickly picked up that the winter had come off to a slow start and the past few weeks had been pretty dreary and wet. I was bummed for my friends and the campers that they had sat through bad weather. But, I was pumped, because there was a storm coming that night! It ended up snowing so much that the mountain was closed the next day. Our peers were very stoked and telling us that we brought the snow. This was a familiar feeling, because a similar thing had happened to Pep and I the year before.

Cerro Catedral

When it finally cleared, I booted up for the first time in a month and a half to go ski two feet of powder on a blue bird day in some of my favorite trees off the Condor lifts at Cerro Catedral. This resort has some of the coolest tree skiing ever. The trees are covered in thick green moss and are mysterious looking. They look like a dark and dangerous forest that would surround a medieval castle. These particular areas under the Condor lifts are called Segundo Lomo and Pomero Tree’s. They are popular amongst expert skiers, although you still see some total gapers in there that definitely do not belong. The place can be quite precarious, due to the fact that it funnels into gullies and terrain traps. It is also low in elevation and heavily affected by temperature changes and sun. It is filled with log rides, pillows, little airs and even a few cliffs. Once it opens up, you immediately hit a bamboo-covered region that has to be traversed through, in order to get back to the resort.

Mossy Trees in Segundo Lomo.

It snowed off and on for the rest of that week. Our ski crew — Pep and coaches Michelle Parker, Garrett Russel, Jordan Seldin, Mauri Cambilla, guide Alex Hunt and the campers — stuck to the trees on the lower half of the mountain while we waited for it to clear. We were anxious to head to the bigger terrain that resides in the high alpine of the Andes Mountains. The snow was coming in wet and heavy, but we were still skiing freshies and having a blast. The wet weather did not let up for over ten days.

Pep and Michelle.

Due to a scare that the mountain had had with a kid being buried in a big avalanche just days before I had arrived, the mountain management was hesitant to open up a lot of the higher lifts. Also, the Argentine peso was down against the Brazilian, causing the mountain to be flooded with brasucas (this is Argentine slang for Brazilians). The other main ski destination in Argentina, Las Lenas, was very over priced and no one was planning to vacation there. This brought a vast amount of Yankee (pronounced Janky, Argentine slang for “Americans”) tourists our way. Plus, most of the beginner lifts were at the top of the mountain and they too were closed. All of these factors lead to lift lines that were out of control long this year. It made for some frustrating and wet chairlift rides. But it seemed to pay off. I had a smile at the bottom of every run and I saw the grin of approval on all the other campers faces, too.

Pep in the Andes.

Pep had some other people to see and places to ski, so we gathered up the tight bros and went for an amazing dinner. We ate blood sausage, chorizo, cheeses, salads and beautifully prepared steaks, accompanied by gorgeous Argentine wines. It turned out that this restaurant had what I called “the 17th century bar” downstairs. Our local friends were calling it a “cavern.” The place seemed real chill. It was a small bar with comfortable, cozy seating. It turned out that the place transforms into a sweet little dance spot that people go to before they head out to the real thing at about 2 a.m. Due to the storm and Pep’s departure, everyone decided to come out. We all danced to crazy loud techno all night like we were Argentine!

The master of meat!

It seemed like forever before there was a break in the storm. It came in about twenty days into the trip. The resort had finally opened the “Del Bosque” lift, which takes you to one of the highest points. That meant the goods were possibly open. It turned out that they had opened the outer boundaries and we were able to hike out to an area on the backside of the resort called “Laguna.” In just a 30-minute boot pack, you are surrounded by a huge amphitheater that is home to many cliffs, lines, chutes, small couloirs and kicker spots. These hike-access areas are the reason why I LOVE Bariloche. I was so pumped, I hiked four different features and sessioned a dinosaur backed wall ride-like fin with Garrett. By then it was about six 6 p.m. The day had gone by quickly. That night I slept very well knowing that I had finally gotten to ski what I came to ski. I dreamed about a cliff that I spotted and wanted to hit the next day.

Dash, cooking a lamb on the hill. Why not, right?

My trip was coming to an end and another storm was rolling in. I was afraid that I was not going to be able to drop the cliff I planned to hit. People told me no one had ever descended it before. This made me want it even more. I couldn’t run the chance of not jumping off this rock, so my only option was to change my plane ticket. I absolutely had to ski more Laguna days. I pushed my departure date back another twenty days. Sure enough, a few days later, the weather cleared and the ski patrol opened up Laguna for the second time in a month. I had to deal with getting a new pass, so I was stressing that someone was going to track out my landing. I got up there as quick as possible and went straight to my line. I hiked up a steep face in hot snow until I was at a safe place to click in. I pointed my tips towards my take off and I was falling right for the path I planned to land in. I experienced the sensation that never gets old. It felt good to go so big, even though I wanted a stomp. My satisfaction meter was on high. I grabbed Alex and we skied some epic trees straight to our favorite spot and got some tall crevasses.

Having a snack and some vino after a big day on the hill.

We had all been trying to watch as much Olympic coverage as possible while down in Argentina. It was quite hard to catch the sports that the U.S. does well in, so it seemed natural, since I was in a Latin country, that I should pay attention to soccer. It was cool to see our girls win against Brazil and we were all very proud. But it was extremely special to be in Argentina while their team climbed their way to the finals. Every one in the town was fired up. I borrowed an Argentine jersey from a friend, and we headed out to support the team. There was a party in every bar and restaurant. We went to our preferred spot, The Roxy, where one of the campers had reserved a booth and was ordering champagne. It was loud and rowdy while the locals watched their country’s team dominate for the win of the Olympic gold. The streets were wild and the atmosphere was exciting. The celebration went well into the night and everyone was happy for days.

It continued to storm and dump heavy snow. We showed up to the hill one day to find out that an avalanche had taken out the entire terrain park and the Refugio that stood at the base of it. This was huge. The avi swept away an entire building. This did not help out the confidence of the mountain’s patrol, but I thought it was pretty exciting. Being down there made me think of how things must have been in some European ski villages a long time ago. It reminds me of old stories I have heard about avalanches taking out whole towns. You don’t hear about that happening as much these days, and there I was on the chair looking at debris from a chalet in a slide path that went for hundreds of feet.

It snowed so much they had to dig this cave to get into this hut.

I continued to ski freshly fallen snow and eat good Argentine meat for a few more days. I had been talking to some of the people at the camp about traveling to some new towns, possibly even heading north to some that were close to the equator where we could hit the beach. I was beginning to feel the need to get a few more summer days in before I headed right back into Fall in the Northern hemisphere. My plans to travel were shattered by a major crash that left me bed ridden for close to a week. Unfortunately, Alex separated his shoulder that day too. It worked out well because we could help each other. We became “team injured.” We talked about heading to the coast to check out some new towns, but then we were constantly reminded that we couldn’t pick anything up, let alone travel with our huge bags. We would laugh and say “maybe there’s a movie on the gringo channel?”

Nico Alba making good use of a stormy down day. Photo: Ashley Barker

I was ready to get out of a snow-covered town that I couldn’t enjoy the fruits of. So I jumped on the bus to Buenos Aires with some of my fellow SASS friends. We ended up staying at a friend’s house outside of the city. It was very luxurious and relaxing. He welcomed us with a huge asado lunch. The crew feasted and wound down. The pad was equipped with a mini ramp, pool and plush patio furniture. I, for the first time in five weeks, had my own room. This was quite a treat.

Alex and I decided to leave the group to stay with our friend Gordo. We stayed with him and his welcoming family for the last few days of our trip. It is always nice to hang with a local so you can experience the culture in its true form. It was a great ending to a once again lovely time in a beautiful country.

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