Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer skiing in Chile part 1: Mucho Viento!

It finally happened!

After resisting for multiple years to the urge of my girlfriend to do a ski trip in South America, I finally gave up and catch a plane July 12th with Amelie. After all, last winter wasn’t as great as my previous winters with only 6 weeks of ski trip (compare to the usual 12-15!!)

We left the toasting warm Montreal to leave for Santiago.
As the plane was taking off, I still wasn’t able to feel the urge of skiing.
The trip went flawlessly and we arrived as plan in the morning. After catching the city bus, the subway and a cab, we were finally at the Wicked Camper headquarter to get the van we’ve rented for the next month.
We were pretty stoked to get the key of our Chilean home!!
Since winter is the low season to rent a van, the price and availability were better than in summer. And what is really great is that the van come fully equiped with cookware, cooking stove, foldable table, chairs, pillows and chains!
Pablo, who is running the Santiago office, and Tono are both quite a cool guy and were really taking the time to show us the van and explained us basic safety and travelling tips.
Since the precipitations were pretty sparse  we hitted the road to go south towards Pucon.
The road 5 (PanAmerican Highway) is really great to travel fast. With perfect asphalt, separate double lanes everywhere, it is certainly the best way to make some distance fast. The drawback are the tolls who cost almost as much as the gas! The scenery from the road are not the most intereting since even if you can always see the Andes in the distance, you never gets really close to them.
We finally got to Pucon late after a day and a half of driving.

When we eventually woke up to get our first turns, we got to a station with absolutely no snow on the ground!
We learned that there is usually snow in the parking lot, but it is a bit early in the season to have some.
Since a bad news usually never come alone, we learned the lifts were close due to the high wind.  We made the quick skin up to the top of the chairlift. Once we got there, we could barely stand due to the wind. We chilled a bit waited for the weather to eased up a bit, but it never did…
Our first summer turns were on some spring snow with poor visibility!
It seems the Chillean are a bit used to have the lift close since a lot of them were out hiking to get some turns in. The fact that it was their winter holiday brought many of them to the mountain.!
Most of them didn’t really cared about the lack of snow or poor visibility, but were simply enjoying the joy of playing in the snow!

Since the conditions weren’t quite convincing, we decided to go check out the nearby (as it appears on the map…) station of Las Araucarias. After 3 hours of driving and crossing a closed bridge with the van, we got to the parking lot that had a bit of snow in it!

We were pretty stoked to wake up and check the conditions the following morning since the sky was all blue!

After a better look at the mountain, we realized that it was quite shinny! Signs that a recent rain episode now frozen solid….

We took a ride up to go check out different aspect and peek the possibility to hike on the Volcano Llaima.
The view certainly compensate for the shitty skiing conditions we were having! I don’t think I’ve ever skin on such hard surface for that long! We eventually stop our ascension since the wind was making it almost impossible to hike any higher.
After a lunch enjoying the view of the volcano, we thought we might try the sunny side to check if the snow has soften up from the sun.

And it did!!!
The turns were pretty smooth and it was great to have some decent turns just at the foot of a pretty stunning volcano!

As we made our way back to the resort, we found some nice spring conditions. The trees around the resort are also pretty cool! Those araucarias trees seem to have been taken straight from Jurassic Park! It was kind of making turns under pre-historic palm trees!
With high wind on the forecast and more rain, we decided to drive back to Pucon where there is more options for various activities than Las Araucarias (where the only non-skiing activity is drinking…!)

The forecast was right on!

It was fairly chilly and pissing rain.

We figured we could tourist a bit around Pucon to spend some time than headed to the termas for a soak. The town of Pucon is quite a busy touristic town. There is multiple adventure outfitter for almost every activity one can think of! That makes it a bit too much of a tourist oriented place to my taste....
Fortunately, there are some small things like the electrified trees that remind you that it is not still Banff!!!
Termas Los Pozones are apparently a favorite amongst Chilean. So there we went! It is a pretty cool set up just next to a nice class 3+ rapid! We took the afternoon to soak up in the warm water as the rain was pissing on us.
When the weather eventually cleared up by the end of the day, the top of the nearby mountain where slightly white. There was probably hope to have some decent snow higher up!
We went back to Pucon-Villarica ski resort for a second try and…. It was still pure ice. The snow from the previous day hasn’t been able to stick to the hard surface that was already present.
We put the crampons to climb a bit higher since the skins were simply useless. After some time wandering around and waiting, the snow eventually soften up a bit and we were able to have again some decent turns on some certain aspect. That could have certainly been better but we were certainly quite lucky to have the sun to melt up a bit the surface.
The next morning, we woke up to some cooler temp and a much more overcast sky. We figured that the snow wouldn’t soften up this time and that it didn’t worth making up to the hill to check it out.

With all the rain from the previous day, we figured it would be a much better day to get in the water!
We went to an outfitter and I rented a kayak as Amélie embark on a rafting trip! It was a nice float trip on the Baja Liucura!
We eventually catch up with Tree, a friend of our, who was in Chile to guide for Casa Tour. After a great dinner and some wine bottle poping, we experience the late night shift of the Chilean bar… With nothing much interesting in the forecast, we figured it was the best time to check it out! We eventually crawled out of the van fairly late this morning.
It looks like we’re most likely to hit the road to see if there is anything better around Chile.

Hope we get better snow in the coming days....because there is none on the forecast!! 

No comments: