Chile powder: AVSC skiers invade resort in the Andes
September 25, 2008
LA PARVA, Chile On July 24, I was sitting outside Ben and Jerrys sweating from the 90-degree heat, contemplating going in for a frozen treat to cool off. Two days later, I would be enjoying a frozen treat of a slightly different kind: Mid-winter face shots while tearing down a 40-degree pitch.In late July, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club alpine coaches Jeff Kai, Gene Bridgewater and Kent Towlerton, joined by Joe Downing from Loveland Racing Club, took 15 athletes down to La Parva, Chile, for two weeks of intense race training and winter fun. The first day of the trip began with our landing in balmy Santiago, which rests 1,700 feet above sea level. One hour later, after 46 switchbacks up a mountain, a tired, ragtag group of teens stepped out of a van to witness a breathtaking view of the city of Santiago far below. In the other direction, we saw what looked like an endless mountain range bleached white.After gaining more than 7,000 feet in elevation during the drive from Santiago, we stood at the base of La Parva, our home for the ensuing two weeks for daily training and repeated searches for untracked powder stashes. The skiing in South America is not the same as it is in the Rockies. The first noticeable difference is that there are no trees anywhere. When skiing in La Parva, unlike at Aspen Highlands, you are completely exposed to the elements. Another major difference is that you must be much more alert when skiing because jagged rocks jut out everywhere, and some are easy to miss. Most skiers took at least one core shot over the course of the trip, although not all were from unseen rocks. Some were from kids recklessly hurling themselves off the many cliffs that stud the mountain. One pair of skis I brought down on the trip will need to spend some quality time with Dave Stapleton when he opens up his local shop for the season. Another major difference that is easily noticed is the snow. La Parvas snow, because of its proximity to the coast, is heavier than the stuff typically found here in the Rocky Mountains. Although this does not make for the same type of powder skiing we are used to, it is ideal for making super G turns down wide-open faces.During the 12 days we skied, six were spent training giant slalom and the other six were spent training super G, so there was a lot of speed involved. We primarily trained in the morning, sometimes starting as early as 7 a.m., with freeskiing in the afternoon. This schedule offered ideal snow conditions and kept other people out of our training space. The training was excellent, and our La Parva hosts even set up advanced timing equipment so that we could track our improvements.Every day after skiing, we did a dryland recovery workout. These sessions ranged from swimming to interval jogs to shiatsu, an ancient Asian ritual in which participants walk on each others backs. Other off-the-mountain activities included hot tubbing, movie watching, and junk food eating, endeavors at which we teenagers excelled, even below the equator. The coaches also planned two off days from skiing and during those days we explored and learned about the Chilean culture. While most of the people in Aspen were enjoying summer barbecues, we ate typical Chilean winter fare. Because of Chiles European influence, the main meal of the day is eaten around noon. As a carnivore, I appreciated Chiles abundant bovine population, and found plenty of steak dishes on the menu every day. Because all of the beef down there is grass-fed, it is leaner than what we are used to in America, and also more flavorful. Unlike Aspens on-mountain eateries, guests at the mountain restaurants in La Parva pay a set price per meal, and with that comes an unlimited amount of food. The waiters were clearly in awe of how much food the gringo teens could eat in one sitting. All of the meals included appetizers, salad, and dessert, so if you are a big eater who likes tasty homemade food and great skiing, you might want to take a trip to La Parva. If youre a vegetarian, you might want to try another venue. And yes, in case you were wondering, the toilets really do flush backward below the equator.