I am currently sitting in the Panama airport, reminiscing the epic journey that is dwindling to it's end as I travel home from my Argentinean summer adventure.
The story begins in a little city called Reno. My girlfriend, Casey, and I had a flight to catch at 5 am. To reduce the stress of a 2 am wake up call that would surely be followed by a stressful rush to the airport, we decided to make it easy on ourselves and book a room at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno. Which happens to be a mere mile from the airport, this would ensure a relaxing evening and easy on time arrival for our flight.
When we arrived to check in, we made small talk with the receptionist, nothing crazy, but she really seemed to enjoy our friendly chatter. She handed us our room key and says "thanks guys, I upgraded your room for you." Not thinking much of it, we wandered up 10 stories to find our room all the way at the end of the hall and BANG! Pent House Suite! This was a big treat for Casey and I, so of course we had to indulge in the life style. We immediately ordered up a bottle of wine, a few cocktails and got to celebrating. What a perfect way to start our vacation, this was going to be a great trip!
Next thing I know, the alarm is blaring in my ear and we are already late for our flight. We frantically gather our belongings and rush to the airport! How ironic and yet so typical for me. At check in we are told to hurry, so we ran to security and then to our gate where we barely caught our flight, being the last to board. We casually took our seats and laughed at each other.
From there it was 36hrs of scrambling, sweating, chasing down luggage and struggling to communicate before we finally arrived in Bariloche, Argentina. Our main reason for traveling to Bariloche was that I was competing in a freestyle/freeride ski event conducted by Red Bull, similar format to Red Bull's Cold Rush or Linecatcher. Having never been to Bariloche, I was excited to ski new terrain and meet new people!
After landing, we tracked down our shuttle and it was off to the resort. As we got close to the resort, Cerro Catedral, I realized there wasn't much snow. With grass and mud showing 2/3 of the way up the mountain, I became a little concerned for how there was going to be a competition. When we arrived to the resort we met with the event coordinators who filled us in that the conditions were okay at best. Not exactly what we wanted to hear after our long day and a half of travel. No matter though, we settled in to our room and faded into some well overdue sleep.
|Initial views of the mountain. Not much snow and looking pretty grim.|
The next day Casey and I awoke to a gloomy overcast day, we excitedly threw on our shred gear and made our way up the dirty mountain. Upon arrival to the top of the mountain and snow, I stepped into my shred sticks and laughed at the fact I was on my skis in the middle of August. What a cool deal! We chattered our way down bullet proof ice groomers doing our best to deal with the less than favorable conditions. A few warm up laps and we proceeded to find the boot pack that took us to the competition venue, La Laguna. We tromped on through the fog not really sure of what lied ahead. As we neared La Laguna, we struggled to see the terrain, but could faintly see the red blue and yellow markings of Red Bull signs. So I made my way through the flat light and toward the signs where I found guys piling up blocks of snow into perfectly shaped cheese wedges.
I traversed back and fourth across the variable ice and punchy wind pack giving the jumps a nice once over. They were pretty cool, but didn't really seem to go in my eyes, mainly due to the firm snow pack. After a few more laps on Laguna, we called it a day and downloaded into the muddy base area below.
The following couple days were very windy with lots of rain and occasional snow in the higher elevations. The redundant winds forced the lifts to close and the mountain went on wind hold, so we were forced to play the waiting game. With our free time we tried to mingle with the locals, spraying a nonsensical mixture of Spanish and English to people at the hotel, bars and restaurants. Lucky for us, the people of Catedral are very friendly and patient, as they dealt with our lack of communication with smiles and laughter.....or maybe they were just laughing at us, either way it was good times.
After two days of rain at the base, the weather finally broke clear and it was time for the comp. I was anxious to see what happened at the top of the mountain, as I heard mixed reviews from patrol of what was really happening at the top of the mountain. When I arrived up top, I was pleasantly surprised to find 6-10 inches of wind blown cream cheese textured snow, which just happens to be some of my favorite! Just like some good ol' fashion Sierra cement.
The snow gods blessed with blue sky's and fresh snow, so I knew it would be a good day! After a quick boot up and over to Laguna, I finally got my first good view of the venue! Laguna was pretty mellow off the top with a number of jump options. About half way down the terrain got steeper and opened up into a variety of nice cliff hucks. I made a quick visual inspection and before I knew it, I was in the start gate.
|First real view of the entire venue...pretty tasty!|
So there I stood in the start, ready to drop in and hit a jump all within 100ft of the start gate. With not much warm up, roughly 4-5 runs under my belt since I had arrived at Catedral, I figured all I can do is rely on muscle memory and do what I know best. I dropped through the start gate and pumped every little nook of trany I could find so I could send 'er as much as possible. I climbed up the transition of the jump and with all my might popped the biggest backflip I could. I layed 'er out nice 'n' slow and brought it around to my feet with no worries....I love that trick, so simple and yet so fun! I continued down the venue slashing pow turns and airing out a couple fun 20 footers with ease! I was relieved to have the first run of the comp done and at the same time anxious for the next day of competition.
The following day of competition was canceled due to more weather and we settled in for another down day. Luckily this storm system came in a little colder and we received a dusting of snow at the base and close to 12 to 18 inches of fresh up top. Conditions were prime, apparently the best snow Catedral had seen in the last 2 months, what perfect timing for us!
|Group of amped up competitors waiting to shred!|
Weather cleared for us the following day and we were set for blue bird sky's and green lighted on a fresh pow venue! For this day we got 2 runs that would add with our points from day 1, effectively creating a cumulative score of all 3 runs. Not knowing our scores from day 1 and having over a foot of fresh, I figured I should step up my game a little. Out the gate I stomped out a nice cork 7, cleaned up my second air with no worries, and then pulled my typical overly amped sender to blow up! With a quick tomahawk straight to my feet I was back to my line before I even realized I crashed. Cruised on to my last feature and took a nice 30 footer out the bottom. I was a little bummed on the crash, but had so much fun on the rest of my run I didn't really care all too much.
On my second run I basically hip checked right out the gate, which was rather frustrating. I came around on my 7 a little off balance, rode out on 1 foot for a split second, eventually losing balance and putting my hip in the snow. Okay, 2 crashes, 2 runs in a row, WTF!!! Frustrated with myself I saw no other option than to send or "Hate Huck" a big backy over the middle cliff band that few competitors hit. I stomped 'er out and cleaned up the bottom cliffs through the finish line with ease.
Crashing aside, I was stoked on the competition. It was a different style comp than I am used to competing in and it kicked much ass! On top of that I made a bunch of new friends and got to shred pow in August! How bad can it be?
That night all the competitors gathered for the infamous after party. Here we over indulged in complimentary Red Bull vodkas, beers and whatever other spirits ended up in front of us. Around the same time everyone was getting into form, the awards ceremony kicked off. I was surprised to come out with a 5th place finish, apparently lots of crashing off the top booter. On top of that the event coordinators and judges were stoked on my "Hate Huck" backy and awarded me with the best huck of the comp! Which was really a great surprise! We finished up the awards with a traditional Argentinian celebration of food known as Asado. Which is essentially a giant BBQ with all different sorts of meats and sausages, it was delicious!
With competition out of the way, Casey and I were free to tour around and enjoy the insanely beautiful Patagonian Mountains! The following week we shredded pow every day, each day hiking a little further into the unknown. We spent our nights amongst friends and locals submersing ourselves in the culture that is Bariloche. Now I have no choice but to wait for another day when I can venture deeper in to Cerro Catedral's endless backcountry and the epic mountains that surround it.
|Impressive surrounding peaks|
|yep.....we could really use some more snow down here|
|Casey and I....Party!|
|Insane Views off the top of Catedral|