The rumors are true. I went to South America. I spent most of the time snowboarding, and you can read lots of words about it here and here. This post though, is just a whole lot of pictures. Some from Cerro Catedral in Bariloche, and most from Buenos Aires, most notably Recoleta Cemetery.
It only took one day riding at Cerro Catedral Bariloche to realize this place was like nowhere I’d ever been before. I mean, I’m a pretty badass snowboarder, totally been there, done that, but this place was something else. For part two of my tale, I won’t bore you with a break down of each an every day, rather a few specific examples of how incredible it really was.
Just a buncha babes, riding pow.
I’m definitely not 21 anymore, so going snowboarding can sometimes make me feel a bit old, not just because everywhere hurts and it takes forever to warm up. But at SGT’s adult session, I was pleasantly surprised to find the other “campers” in attendance ranged in age from mid 20’s to 50’s. Almost all were from North America, and a surprisingly large number were female. (It probably didn’t hurt the female ratio that it was the Roxy session, and many of the girls who’d come for the previous session we’re forced to extend their stays due to Hurricane Irene and civil unrest in Chile.)
Roxy Chicas Erin Comstock and Robin Van Gyn
As far as “sweet pros” went, Robin van Gyn and Erin Comstock were the guest coaches, and Laura Hadar also randomly turned up. Hadar was down on her own accord, filming with Austin Will for what will potentially be an incredible project, and staying with some guy they’d met on couchsurfing.org. Every morning we’d meet up at the gondola and break off into groups. And almost every day I found myself riding with a group of girls. Riding with other females is not something I’ve typically gone out of my way to do, but somehow, out of a big group of bitches, there was only one actual bitch, and it was amazing.
For the most part, everyone kept up and no one complained, although there was one time when a camper asked Chris Coulter (our token dude) if we could just cruise groomers for a run. He laughed and just said, “No.”
This is Lower Laguna (two days after the storm). Feel free to start picking out your lines now.
After a slow first morning, things moved a bit faster the next few days in Bariloche. Fast being a relative term because in Argentina, it is customary to rush nothing. They don’t understand lines, opting more to form masses, and there is no urgency to do anything. In other words, it’s a good place to be on vacation. However when a foot of new snow falls, it can be mighty frustrating that the staff of the resort has way more work to do, yet doesn’t get there any earlier.
Being accustomed to the “no friends on a powder day” rush it was strange how slowly things moved the morning of the biggest snowfall. Luckily though, the volcano scared most people away and there were no lift lines. And when there’s new snow at Cerro Catedral, it means party pow laps for SGT all day.
The worst part of being a coach is letting all the stupid campers go first. Chris Coulter.
From the first gondola until well after three we didn’t stop, riding untracked pow every single run. No, seriously. If a spot had been hit, you’d simply traverse a bit further and have it all to yourself. We only got one day of inbounds magic, but at the end of it, I found myself walking at an Argentine pace (read: slow) back to the hotel, so tired I could barely move. Ironically, the days we’d hike require less energy exertion because there was more downtime and less leg burning.
And about the hiking. I don’t hike. Ever. That’s why there are lifts. But in South America, I went for it and you know what? It wasn’t that bad. The Lower Laguna hike, which we did almost every day, got easier and easier, and by the end I could make it to the top without feeling like I was dying. The upper Laguna hike, however, I did once (a requirement for the best view ever) and when Robin asked the next day if I wanted to do it again I literally LOLed. It was worth it that one time though, and I’d like to give a shout out to SGT resident shit-giver David Burg for forcing me to the top.
The view from the top of the world.
With only a few days under my belt, something magical happened. I felt 19 again. I could shred, party and still function. I tried to describe it as a combination of adrenaline, excitement and booze, but Lipton explained to me, no, that’s what fun feels like. To have the most fun though, some life alterations were required. While I’d definitely told someone not to listen to, or follow, Skylar Holgate, I will say he explained the best how the SGT coaches were able to party all night, every night, and then hike and ride pow every day.
Around 7:30 every night, this pool looked much more like sausage stew.
In Argentina, the party starts at 11 pm, at the earliest. So while it was easy to get distracted by après festivities at the base, or the indoor-outdoor heated party pool at Base 41, if you really wanted to do it right, a nap was required from after riding, until dinner at 9 (possibly with a brief wake up for tea time at 5.) Then, if you really wanted to get after it, another hour or so of sleep after dinner and you were ready to hit the bar. A few hours at the bar, and it was time to go to the club, where you would stay until 5 or so. Then it was up at 8 to go snowboarding, which sounds scary, but if you did the napping right, you actually logged a solid 6-7 hours of sleep each day.
Skylar also told me that trying to keep up with the coaches, especially Burnsy, was not a good plan, so I tried to keep it mellow. It was only on my last night in Bariloche I found myself chugging Fernet and cokes until 5 am with Dunfee and Garrett Russell at someone’s birthday party. Considering we had to stop halfway through the cab ride home so that I could puke (luckily they both spoke Spanish to communicate this to the driver) I guess it was pretty impressive that I was up for breakfast at 8 the next day. I hadn’t planned on riding, but everyone convinced me to go check out the Chicas Only contest, the annual event that brings out literally 100s of girls to hit mini park obstacles. I didn’t really ride, but I did maintain my buzz from the previous night at the handy dandy mid mountain lodge. And honestly, it was probably one of the most fun days I had on hill.
Approximately 3 beers deep and still drunk from the night before. Don’t judge. Photo: Ryan Dunfee
My trip was 10 days total, and I think I rode 6 days in a row. I could have ridden one more, but my Achilles tendon felt like someone was shoving knives into it, and there were inexplicable bruises all over my body. I’d gotten epic pow, jumped off stuff, and even hit a park box. I decided to jump back on the 20-hour bus to Buenos Aires. I spent my final night and day in South America drinking with tourists from around the world, mastering the BA public bus, and making friends with someone who may or may not have been a bum. But I think that’s a story for another time and place, so I’ll leave it at this: if you ever get the chance to go snowboarding in South America, do it, duh!
I would have been so mad at myself if I didn’t get this photo taken.
Definitely not the only one of these…
James Haffner. Photo: Ben Giradi
The mad man that is Skylar Holgate. Photo: Ben Girardi
Randall Stacy. Photo: Ben Girardi
Jumpin’ Jack Hessler. Photo: Ben Girardi
Johnny Aguillera. Phoro: Ben Girardi
*** Special thanks to SASS Global Travel and all the SGT coaches for making this possible. And also thanks to Jared Souney for running the site while I was gone. ***
Vacation is definitely trending this season. Forum already made a movie about it, and Salomon is working on one too. Since my only goal in life is to be cool and on trend, I felt like it was time to make a little vacation happen for myself.
Wait, that’s not true at all. In fact, I am terrible at vacation. I generally spend the whole time glued to my computer doing the exact same thing I would do at home, but with a different backdrop and slower wifi. So why would I bother dropping a couple grand and sitting on planes and busses for literally days to go to South America and work from there? That is a really good question, one that I put out of my mind when I impulse-booked a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina a few weeks ago for SGT Session Six at Cerro Caterdal in Bariloche.
Since I was going to try my best to vacation, I had a couple rules. Rule 1: leave the boyfriend at home. Rule 2: Don’t worry, it’ll work out. But as a “jaded industry person,” I did wonder what the fuck I was doing going to snowboard camp even though (full disclosure alert) they gave me a sweet “industry” deal. Was I really spending a chunk of money to go hang out with a bunch of fashion-conscious teens and get coaching help on my snowboard riding? Really? Keep in mind I also did little-to-no research on what I was getting into, and watching one of the session edits pretty much cleared up that’s not what SGT is about at all. Camp is the wrong word. It’s more of a travel agency meets touring facility, with a bunch of dudes who are specifically there to show you the best terrain and snow possible. In other words, for an old person such as myself, heaven.
The path to heaven, of course, was a bit more difficult than anticipated. A recent volcanic eruption about 60k away in Chile left the Bariloche Airport closed (a fact, which SGT’s resident jester Lucas Moore informed almost immediately was due to Socialism), so your options were a flight to Esquel followed by a four hour bus ride, or a single 18-20 hour bus ride on a “luxury” bus, the latter being several hundred dollars cheaper. I opted for the long bus and settled in for what was actually a remarkably comfortable ride, including regular meals, free booze and occasional announcements in Spanish I just hoped weren’t important. Nearly 50 hours after leaving Portland, I arrived at Base 41, home for the next 7 or so days.
I’d come in a couple days early because fellow blogger/ SGT resident nerd Ryan Dunfee told me I’d have a way better trip if I did. Since I was “going with the flow” I didn’t question it. However, getting there before everyone else in my session, I got no real orientation, just the basic info I needed (meal times and wireless password) and spent the first afternoon of my vacation working. However, since it was vacation I did purchase myself a 1 liter Quilmes (Argentine Budweiser) to make myself feel like less of a nerd. (I should note the final two weeks of the summer are adult sessions, which meant only two teens, who were pretty cool aside from not being impressed by my DJ skills, and super lax rules about open containers on the compound.)
Roxy Dinner with Erin Comstock, Robin Van Gyn and more girls than you’d think would travel to South America to snowboard.
In Argentina they don’t eat dinner until 9 pm, which as someone who prefers to be in bed by nine was sort of an issue. It also means that by the time the Roxy Girls convinced me to come to the fancy all-meat dinner they were holding for the girl campers (of which there were surprisingly many) my first night there, I was already happily buzzed. At dinner, we got to check out Peep Show, eat tons of meat, and of course, drink wine. Lots and lots of wine. And then when dinner was over, there was more wine left, so I decided to take it, and finish it back at camp before going to bed. It seemed like a good idea at the time, after all, I was on vacation.
Luckily everyone was moving slow the next day, because apparently when you travel long distances, then drink for half a day, the next morning can be a little rough. Head coach and SGT’s resident Canadian party animal Andrew Burns was the only one who seemed annoyed that it was about 11 am before we actually made it to the base of the gondola for what would be my first day riding. Me, I didn’t give a fuck cause I was on vacation (and hungover.)
Much like they feel about meat, they feel about sweets in Argentina. Here’s the morning spread at Tage, where we’d grab lunch every day.
It hadn’t snowed much, if at all, in the past few days, and the snow pack at Cerro Caterdal was abnormally low anyway, so I was informed we’d be hiking for the goods. After a gondola ride and a chairlift, my entire warm up run was about 50 yards of snowboarding before I unstrapped, received a quick crash course on avalanche safety and beacon use and then started walking upwards to Laguna.
The first hike is always the hardest, especially when you have office legs and no clue what you are doing. I was keeping a good pace until SGT’s resident mountain man Skylar Holgate caught up to me and basically told me I’d last about 1/4 of a hike if I tried to keep up with SGT’s resident hardcore badass dude Chris Coulter as he was “a mad man.”
Coulter and Skylar were hiking further to do some sweet slash which I did not get the shot of. I dropped in from here.
“The trick to lasting all day is to go at your own pace,” he explained. “Take rest steps and don’t try and keep up. If your quads are burning, you’re walking too fast.”
I took that to mean I could take my sweet ass time, and I did, eventually making it to the top of lower Laguna about a half hour later with heavy breath, but enough energy to make it back down, and maybe even back up again.
Visibility could have been better, but the Laguna bowl offered just about any pitch, feature or line you could possibly want, and thanks to the heavy wind, they were all blown in with untouched snow. I don’t really know how much detail you’ll need to believe me, but the fact that I willingly hiked back up to do another run should say enough.
The exit from Laguna some of the coolest looking trees around.
After a few runs at the top, Burnsy, Skylar, Coulter and SGT’s resident badass babe Nicki Slechta asked if I was down for a tree run. My legs burning to the point I could barely hold a heelside edge I said, of course, I’m on vacation! What they didn’t tell me though, was that the run involved the “plank of justice” — a tree across a rocky creek you had to traverse to get to the bottom. With better snow, or more energy, I feel like this wouldn’t have been a problem, but when we rolled up on it and I look at the 10 or so feet I’d have to stay balanced, well, I didn’t even try not to fall in the river. Luckily I fell uphill, so it actually was not that bad, but nothing like falling into a hole in front of a bunch of people you just met to really make you feel cool! Thankfully, the coaches all assured me I was not the first, and would not be the last, and only laughed a little bit when I then proceeded to fall into another hole on the run-out of the trees. At this point it was a traverse (at times across mud) and then a matter of picking your way through the mud and rocks to the bottom of the resort. While we did have days where you could ride down, in general the coverage at the base of the hill was thin at best, I was informed mostly due to the fact Patagonia is directly under the hole in the ozone layer. Possibly true story.
One of the two holes I fell in this run.
After snowboarding at Cerro Cathedral, there are two real options: “Shopping”, the literal mall at the base of the resort where you could get food, coffee and drinks or Apres at Mute. Lucky for me this was a shopping day, because going straight to Fernet and coke would have been a bad idea, plus I still had a week to go…
Since this is the Internet and I know most of you stopped reading 500 words ago, I’m going to leave this riveting vacation tale here for now. If you’re that enthralled, go here to read part two and check out the video.
It’s really fucking beautiful up there. Photo: Ben Girardi
Timmy Tausig demonstrates what snowboarding should be like. Photo: Ben Girardi
Scott Kuchinski, tree freestylin. Photo: Ben Girardi
Randall Stacy, intern, avy survivor, boarder dude. Photo: Ben Girardi
If you don’t follow me on twitter, than maybe you’re not aware that I’ve declared Argentina the best place ever. It is. However being down here, I am aware that session 6 is almost over and these guys have been too busy riding pow to put out a damn session edit in a timely manner. Either that or it just takes a long time to come up with literary gold such as, “From rock slides to step-downs to tree jibs and pillow lines, Cerro Catedral was turned into a veritable Legoland for slayers.” Yeah Dunfee!
Riders: Randall Stacy, Ryan Mendez, Andrew Burns, Tony Pavlantos, Johnny Aguilera, Chase Josey, Tommy Tikos-Kadji, Ben Girardi, Dustin Eldridge, Skylar Holgate, Nicki Slechta