BD athlete Drew Stoecklein ripping it in South America—Dispatch #6
Black Diamond ski athlete Drew Stoecklein is spending six weeks skiing in South America, hitting the mountains in search of steep lines, blower pow and a cultural adventure. He will be providing us with weekly updates on his travels, complete with photos from the slopes.
Here is Drew's sixth and final dispatch:
After I finished with Columbia Sportswear in Argentina, I traveled with Ride Guide TV back to Chile to go cat-skiing. This trip was truly the icing on the cake—or as they say in Chile, the pisco in my cola—for my South American adventures!
We packed our bags and set out on another adventure back to Chile. After being rattled around all day in planes, trains and automobiles, we finally arrived at our hotel, the Casa San Regis in Los Andes, about an hour outside of Santiago.
Each morning we traveled in a car packed to the gills, ascending 6,000 vertical feet on a dirt road to the only privately owned cat ski operation in South America, Ski Arpa. The drive to Apra is one of the most epic drives that I have had during my travels in South America. This road blows all of the other roads out of the water that go to La Parva, Las Lenas, Termas De Chillan, and Portillo. If you are into adventures and scenic drives, this is the road for you.
It is the equivalent of driving through a zoo with every animal you can dream of right off the side the road. The best part about it is if you feel like jumping out of the car and riding a horse, chasing goats, or getting charged by a bull, there is no zookeeper to stop you from having the best time of your life. If the animals don't impress you, the scenery will. There are luscious green vineyards, beautiful rolling grass hills, and snow-capped mountains—this arid desert climate is a one of a kind view on the way to the ski hill.
The ski lodge at the top of the road is truly a unique site. It’s hand-built into the side of the mountain by the owner and his son. An avalanche had destroyed the previous lodge that they had built together, so this one had to be built into the side of the mountain. After we geared up in the underground lodge and signed our lives away, we jumped on the snow cat. The cat clawed its way 3,000 vertical feet from the lodge to the top of the mountain. When we jumped out we were stunned by the spectacular view that surrounded us. We could see perfectly, the hundreds of mountains in every direction. We could even see the marine layer rising off the ocean and the biggest mountain in South America, Mt. Aconcagua. Being able to see this peak firsthand was an amazing experience. I never thought I could be standing on a 12,000 foot peak and be dwarfed by a mountain so far off in the distance.
For the next three days we explored the terrain around Ski Arpa, finding that it had some really epic runs, especially for cat skiing. The majority of the runs that we skied there were around 3,000 vertical with a consistent pitch to them, along with some great features to play on. The snow conditions were not prime when we were there, but we were still able to get in some great skiing because the slopes were south facing. After skiing almost every inch of terrain at Ski Arpa it was time to go home.
We packed our bags back up for one last time at the hotel and set out for the airport in Santiago. On the drive to the airport I reminisced about all the incredible times that I had in South America. It was a bummer that the trip of a lifetime actually had an ending to it.
When the trip was said and done I was really stoked that I had been there for almost two months. I think that if I had gone for two weeks, I wouldn't have learned anything about the culture and traveling in South America. Not to mention that I probably would have not hit the correct dates to ski some incredible southern hemisphere powder.
In the end I would like to thank all my sponsors for helping me achieve this South American dream. Below are some pictures from my adventures at Ski Arpa.