The Start of Skiing in Chile
We landed in Santiago, Chile on July 23rd after a very bumpy ten hour flight out of Los Angeles, California. With little to no sleep on the plane, landing at 5:30 AM was a bit of a struggle. Regardless, we took a cab to the Solace Hotel where we had our fingers crossed they would allow us to check in early, shower, and maybe even nap. As anyone might guess, the room wasn’t ready for us this early.
Instead of sitting in the hotel until our room was available at 10:00, we took a walk down a couple of blocks to get some fresh air and find a coffee shop. After all, we had been up for almost 24 hours…
Once Allison’s father, Brian Sharpes, and photographer, Keoki Flagg, showed up at the hotel, we were able to get into our rooms and drop off our bags, shower, and have a late breakfast at the hotel restaurant. After that, our main guide, Gomez, suggested that we check out a local artisan market called the Los Dominicos Village.
Personally, when I hear artisan market, I think of a street with white tents lining the sidewalk, but when we arrived at the market, there was a stone wall with an entrance and an exit gate. Looking at it, you wouldn’t think you are walking into a bunch of shops. As soon as we entered, there were chickens, dogs, parrots, and cats scattered around and roaming these tiny little shops; some filled with hand made jewelry, others with custom leather belts and bags.
There must have been over a hundred shops in this market. All of the shop owners were Chilean people making a living off of their hand crafted goods. This gave it an amazing local and welcoming feel. The market was a great activity for our first day in Chile since we didn’t have a ton of energy but needed to get on track with our sleep schedule quickly as the next day we would hit the slopes.
Go time the next morning was 8:00 AM. After packing everything the night before, we were able to just get up, have some breakfast, and bring our bags down to the van. We began our hour and a half drive up to our first ski destination, La Parva, at about 8:30. Gomez warned us that it was going to be a curvy road up the hill but we were not expecting what was ahead. Forty switchbacks later, Allison was sick and even though I never get car sick, I was feeling a little queazy myself. La Parva is about 3000 meters higher than we were staying in Santiago.
We arrived for our first day at La Parva, got all of our gear out and on, and hit the slopes. Our first lift was a tow rope that we had to take up to get to any chair lift that would take us to the top. There were as many tow ropes as chair lifts here at La Parva and since we don’t see a lot of these in the United States, they were super fun for us to ride.
The snow was very minimal since they had only had one big storm at the beginning of their season. We were still skiing on that same snow. The groomed runs were surprisingly soft and nice but as soon as we skied off piste, the snow was very wind effected with a breakable crust on top.
After skiing off of the lifts for a while, we thought we would do a small hike from the top lift to get some exercise and hopefully some fresh snow. We toured up for about 30 minutes to a little peak overlooking the entire resort along with an amazing view of the valley where Santiago sits. While it would have been nice to see the city, we were only able to see a thick layer of smog rising up the valley as the day went on.
The skiing after our hike was variable… As you can see in the picture of Brian and Allison on top of the ridge, there are different textures of snow along the entire surface. At the beginning, I assumed the smooth snow was what was going to be soft but in reality, this was an inch or two thick wind crust that would grab your ski and not let go. It was incredibly hard snow to ski. After a bit of experimentation among the group, We found that the textured snow that looked wind effected was the soft stuff. Unfortunately, these patches of soft were few and far between.
When we got back to the bottom of the lift, we still had about an hour until the group was supposed to head out so our guide, Tucker, took us on a really cool out of bounds run. The entire slope was soft, wide open, and fast. It was a bit dodgy getting back out to the rope tow as we had to hike through some mud and do some serious traversing. That said, it was an excellent way to end our first day in La Parva.
We woke up on our third day to snow falling from the sky. What an amazing treat that was for being at the end of July! The entire group was ecstatic and the energy could be felt throughout the Powder Lodge. Everybody dressed for a storm day and jumped into the van.
As soon as we got our gear on and were in line for the first tow rope to take us up to the rest of the mountain, it had a mechanical failure and was closed for an hour. So, the group went into the restaurant and had a round of hot chocolates before going back out and braving the elements.
Finally, the lift opened up and we were able to ski! We got up the tow rope and onto the chair lift. There are two things that really stand out about La Parva and I’m assuming the rest of the resorts in the area:
- There are no trees
- The chair lift rides are very slow and very long
These two things aren’t really in your favor on a storm day where visibility was scarce and temps were very cold. After one lift ride, Allison had to go in and warm up. Brian, Keoki, and I decided to go in with her and have a nice leisurely lunch and let more snow fall for the afternoon. We arrived at the restaurant down in the village at 11:00 but they only opened at 11:30 so we asked them if we could just sit by the fire and warm up until they opened; which is what we ended up doing.
After Allison’s feet weren’t white anymore, we ordered some Rocklette and Fondu along with a nice bottle of red wine. It was so much fun sitting by the fire, eating this delicious food, and watching the snow fall from the sky. The food was exceptional and the Chilean wine that was made by a friend of our waiters was amazing.
It was now time to ski some fresh snow. With a lot of rocks covered, it was a dangerous game out there. The temps had risen a little making it more manageable for us all. We found some great shots to ski but the visibility was still very low. For the most part, we were skiing based on the bamboo sticks lining the sides of the runs!
One run, we did a cool route through some small cliffs. The snow was descent at the top and nobody hit anything so I decided to let my skis go a little bit. The mountain must have known I made that decision because in my first turn, a huge rock grabbed by left ski, sent me flying forward. I landed on by backpack and slid probably 25 feet down the hill before I came to a stop. My ski kept going…
Luckily, my ski got caught up in a couple exposed rocks and stopped 20 feet below where I had come to a hault. I gotta say, DPS makes some incredibly hard bases because I for sure thought I was going to end up with a huge core shot in my brand new DPS Lotus 124 Tour1’s but luckily, “it was just a flesh wound.”
After a great couple runs skiing by feel with very little visibility, it was time to call it a day. While we were only able to do about 4 or 5 runs, it was a successful day because we had a storm day in July!