For most, the summer months are a time to embrace the warm climate and praise the fact that winter is months away. For freeskiers, it’s a time of restlessness, waiting for those wintery months to return, blanket the mountains with snow and embark on the powder highway of which, we the freeskiing tribe, all dream. Traveling to the South America in search of snow has become an annual summer task for many athletes, especially those on the Freeride World Tour (FWT).
For four years, the FWT has been traveling south of the equator to expand the sport of freeskiing into the South American region and ski culture. La Parva and El Colorado have hosted past events but this summer’s tour headed to Ski Arpa. Slated as the first stop of the 2013 Freeride World Qualifier (FWQ). Unfortunately, due to unsuitable conditions, the event was cancelled. With many individuals head and heart set on getting their South American fix, The North Face Chile and the FWT management put their heads together resulting in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; to travel to Southern Chile, to the northern Andes of Patagonia, to the small resort of Antillanca for a week of backcountry volcano skiing. In true “Never Stop Exploring” fashion and the family-like mentality of the FWT the adventure was sure to provide a strong kick off for the 2013 season.
Getting to Northern Patagonia is not for the weak traveler. A 12-hour plane ride will get you to Santiago, Chile (from Salt Lake City, Utah) where the FWT athletes and staff cultured themselves by walking the city streets, dining on the local cuisine, taking in the Chilean lifestyles and enjoying true South American cervesas. But Santiago is only the halfway point in the travel adventure to Patagonia. Add a 12-hour bus ride and a two-hour van ride through dense rainforest vegetation in Puyehue National Park, and we finally reached our mountain paradise at the base of the Casablanca Volcano. The skiing terrain is only accessed by a few T-bar style chairlifts and one double chairlift (which was not in operation). Antillanca is beyond unique when it comes to ski standards.
For five days, FWT athletes from all over the world, dressed in bright multi-colored freeskiing attire, loaded the T-bar along side the camouflage covered Chilean military and Junior Chilean race teams, but the common bond of skiing easily bridged the culture and language barriers. The athletes planned to explore terrain in and out of the resort boundary, documenting full days of action from first chair to the incomparable Andes sunsets. Side-country and backcountry lines were accessible in all directions from Antillanca’s summit, terrain not usually explored by the locals. A quick hour-plus tour puts you on the summit of a volcano, with surreal panoramic views of volcanic peaks. The next step is to pick a line into a snow-covered crater or onto picturesque exposed terrain that would challenge the best athlete out there.
Antillanca, although more of a vacation than a ski event, was the perfect way to start off the 2013 Freeride World Qualifier athletes and stoke the fires that are sure to fuel the most exciting series in freeskiing history. The January launch of the 2013 tour at Revelstoke Mountain Resort in British Columbia does not seem that far away.