Heavy rain falling on the streets of Santiago awoke me early the first morning of our trip in Chile. Excitement and relief swept over me, as precipitation in the city would translate to snow at the higher elevations. The rain was a welcome sight for those of us in search of new lines in the mountains, since this was one of the driest winters on record in Chile.
With the first snow in two months falling the morning after we landed, saying we “got lucky” is an understatement. The new snow overnight allowed us to access some incredible terrain at El Colorado. I was happy to have Tamo Campos to guide us though an area known as Santa Teresa. This dreamy “slackcountry” zone is on the edge of the resort. While it is easily accessed by the chairlift, it has very real consequences, with massive cliffs, rocky chutes and deep, wind-loaded aspects. Blissfully unaware of where a wrong turn would have taken me, I followed Tamo’s tracks down a narrow, rock filled chute and had one of the best runs of my life. When we looked at our lines from the bottom I had a new respect for this zone and was wishing for another run, but we had a storm to chase and headed south the next morning.
After organizing nine people, newly made split boards and a slew of camera equipment into a cargo van we left Santiago eager to get to the next spot. After collectively deciding that we didn’t need chains it was not a huge surprise when we got stuck in the snow close to our destination of Nevados de Chillán. A little bit of teamwork got the van out as huge snowflakes, the size of our smiles, puked down around us. This has to be one of the few times that we were all happy to get stuck in the snow.
With the forecast calling for a continued storm cycle we were pleasantly surprised to awake to blue skies. After an amazing morning sharing deep lines and slashes with the boys we retreated to the lodge to warm up as the snow began to fall again. Looking around the nicely appointed lodge it was easy to see that this was a place for the wealthy and was reminded of how lucky we were to be snowboarding in South America.
Although Chile is a developed country with a healthy economy and growing middle class, snowboarding is still far beyond most peoples reach. An elitist sport anywhere you look in the world it is expensive, plain and simple. In Vancouver we have the luxury of living with world-class resorts at our doorstep. This is in addition to an excess of companies based here and a high demand for product, allowing for reasonable prices in the market place. As an athlete supported by some of these companies it reminded me of how fortunate I am to be traveling internationally with a snowboard attached to my feet.
While our trip continued with more mountains, volcanoes, split boarding and surfing, I was constantly taken back to of the gravity of growing up in Vancouver and having access to these amazing opportunities. While I was living la buena vida in Chile, twenty minutes away from my childhood home people were living in poverty in the downtown eastside.
Beyond Boarding aims to inspire snowboarders to make positive change in the world. Traveling to the other side of the world helped me realize that I can help make positive change in my own city. I am looking forward to working with Beyond Boarding this winter to execute a snowboarding benefit for the Downtown Eastside Women’s Center.
So as the rain begins to fall on Vancouver again snow will soon be coming covering our mountains. While I will be forever grateful for the experiences gained on this trip I am excited for the promise of a new winter and for getting lucky beyond Chile.