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Shredding Powder in the Andes

Billy Went to Chile!

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What??  A snow skiing River Rock employee??

Heck ya – we love all sorts of outdoor environments and I particularly love snow skiing.  Check out my most recent trip to Santiago, Chili.  I try to answer some of the questions most frequently thrown my way.  Doesn’t this make you excited for winter!

What were you doing in Santiago, Chile in the middle of July?

Towards the end of July my buddy and I had the opportunity to fly down to Santiago, Chile and go on a guided ski tour. Our tour guides were from Powderquest, a ski outfitter founded by a gentleman from Richmond, Virginia. He started the company because he wanted to give outsiders (people not from the area) the experience of riding the best snow in the Andes mountains. We got to do exactly that! We rode multiple resorts on and off piste, did some back country skiing, had amazing seafood and red wine, and got to experience the journey with people from all over the world. Check out our cool group.

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Who guided the tour?

Our guides were named of Mo and Maxi. Mo is from Australia and Maxi from Argentina, together they have over 50 years of skiing experience. Mo and Maxi have both been guiding for over 10 years each.

Where were the other guests from?

There were guests from all over – Panama, Germany, UK, A family of three from Chicago and a guy from Israel (and of course me representing for the home crowd).

What resorts did you ski?

We skied El Colorado, Valle de Nevado, La Parva, Portillo, and a ski cat operation by the name of Ski Arpa.  Ski Arpa was the back country skiing that we did. There were no chair lifts! We got up the mountain by Snow Cat and got down the mountain by skiing.

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Hardest run/ Most favorite?

Pretty much everything thing was challenging! I would say the hardest runs were definitely at Ski Arpa. The best run was El Chimenea in La Parva.  If you look at the picture above you will see little tiny people – that was us.  I’m not going to lie, I almost peed my pants on this one.  Luckily we had great guides who gave me the confidence to charge down the run.

Best food, wine, and lodging?

The best was the Powder Lodge at the foot of El Colorado! We had local red wines with dinner every night and a personal chef who could do just about anything in the kitchen.

What cool stuff did you learn?

I learned multiple tips on how to find the best powder for skiing.  Hint – take a look at the weather patterns the day before you go to ski.  If it is hot, snow tends to melt and freeze at night. This of course will affect the snow and make it wet, heavy, and sticky which is not what you want to ski on. Wind also affects fresh powder. Wind tends to blow that fresh fluffy powder all over the place, but usually powder gathers in the valley like bowls. Visibility is important as well. You need to be able to see to find the best powder. If it is overcast it is very difficult to tell whether or not it is nice powder or icy crud. For the best case scenario you want a clear sunny day that is cold with little or no wind.

We were put through an avalanche course where we got to play out an avalanche scenario where in case we had to deal with one we knew exactly what to do. We were taught the correct way to use our transceivers in search mode to find the person that has been buried. Also we were shown how exactly to use to probe and how to dig when trying to save someone underneath the snow.  I definitely learned that an avalanche would not be cool!

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What gear did you use?

I was all over the place with my gear choices and brands.  Once you have spent a good deal of time in your sport it becomes less and less important the brand you choose and more important the gear’s rated performance.  I rely heavily on gear reviews, personal experience, and word of mouth.  Have a doubt on what is best – rely on the experts, the ones who have put it to the test.  All gear has pros and cons – for me, in my 20’s, price was also a serious factor.

Ski Equipment: I used Head Venturi 95- All Mountain skis, Salomon X-Pro 100 boots and bindings, and Atomic adjustable poles.

Jackets: My North Face Thermoball Hoodie held its own in the rough environment. The jacket has synthetic insulation which was really nice because it kept me warm even with my perspiration and wet snow. My Marmot Precip rain jacket was perfect for those really windy days; it kept the wind out and kept me warm because of it.

Pants and Gloves: I used Burton snowboard pants and Burton mittens. My reasoning for going Burton is there waterproofing is top notch. I look at it like this, Burton makes snowboard pants waterproof because snowboarders are always sitting on their butt strapping in after every chair lift. 

Base Layers: I wore just your standard long johns, a Merrell synthetic dry-fit t-shirt, a pair of synthetic dry-fit shorts, Icebreaker ultralight merino wool ski socks, and for those extra cold days a Patagonia synthetic vest.

Highlight of the trip?

Honestly, everything was the highlight of my trip. I got to ski big mountains in a place I never thought I would go with people who were an absolute joy to be around.  Definitely a dream come true to ski the Andes.

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October 13, 2016

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