I already knew winter was on its way, thanks to the arrival of still air and the worsening air quality. But the fun part of winter—snow— was yet to arrive, and I was not expecting it until early–mid June. But, weather is nothing if not surprising, and a week or two of storms in mid-May had the ski hills open early. So, on the heels of a trip to a US East Coast spring, I joined some friends for a day trip to the mountains of Chile to crush snowflakes.
Konrad, Yara, Graeme, and I met at the “Ski Total” near the Escuela Militar station a little after 0800 on Saturday morning to take a bus up to the mountains. Konrad had discounted passes to El Colorado, making that the obvious destination. I had been to the other two ski resorts up there (La Parva and Valle Nevado), so was excited about checking out the last one on the list.
The bus ride was unremarkable (and I was asleep for much of it anyways) and we were skiing by 1100 (unfortunately the typical start time when taking the bus). There were a lot of people there, particularly on the main lift, but the crowds thinned out the father one went around towards the backside of the resort.
We had a gorgeous day, with lots of sunshine to accompany the nearly perfect snow. Even Santiago was visible below us at the start of the day (though it would disappear by the evening , as pollution re-accumulated in the valley). Thanks to recent snowfall (two days earlier) the snow was silky and there was a little bit of powder left off-piste. All-in-all, it made for a gentle and fun first day out on the slopes for the season.
The early-season conditions did make themselves known. Off-piste runs were somewhat iffy, with exposed rocks in places and hidden rocks in more places. So, some consideration in picking a line was needed. But, as the day went on, the thin cover made itself felt as skiers moved snow around and off the runs. I hit a few rocks over the course of the day, and even managed a core-shot on one of my skis. Upon commenting/complaining about this to a friend in CO, he replied:
“All skis are rock skis” Good point.
Amusingly, as we were wrapping up the day and taking the cat track to the front-side of the mountain we encountered two dogs racing the skiers. Presumably not strays, since they had collars, they seemed to be out with their owner enjoying the sunshine and the snow like the rest of us.
We skied essentially up until the scheduled departure time for our bus, maximizing our time on the slopes. After returning to Santiago we capped off the day with beer and french fries. Not bad.