September 9, 2009
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I’m constantly trying to determine my favorite places on earth, and Patagonia has just messed everything up. I thought I had things pretty well organized until this place, which had been little more than Yvon Chouinard’s legacy to me, came along. Patagonia is truly like nowhere else on earth. Giant, turquoise lakes enclosed by pine trees give way to towering, snow-capped peaks that seem to go on forever. What truly makes sections of Patagonia special is that it’s all but deserted during the winter months. Thus, I feel particularly special as the heli rises above the fishing lodge that has become our makeshift base and takes off into the Southern Andes for our second week of shooting with the Movistar crew.
The rotors break the morning silence across countless mountain lakes as we edge toward one of the largest peaks in the area, at what seems like a painstakingly slow rate due to our excitement. The rotor-wash temporarily blinds us as we step out on a snowy ridge just below the summit of 2,942-meter Cerro Tres Picas. Due to a recent warm storm with a rime event, the peak and the surrounding mountains are completely caked in snow and ice—it looks like it’s possible to ski practically everything. Based on the snow around the heli and the looks of the surrounding peaks, I think it just might be an all time day. Maybe I finally timed it just right…
…Or maybe not, I think to myself as we shot the first takes. What seems like a blanketing of fresh powder is nothing more than a wind drift, with the rest of the terrain all but stripped of decent snow. Nonetheless, we work the surrounding terrain that is defined by cartoonish cornices, glaciers, and ramps that, given the right snow conditions, would be right up there with anything in Alaska. After some not-so-impressive attempts at some more ambitious lines I concede to the conditions and tone it down a bit, enjoying the scenery as much as anything. After all, in a place as beautiful as Patagonia, even for me, the skiing is just a bonus.
To paraphrase Thoreau, many men spend their entire lives searching for good snow, when, in the end, it’s not the snow they’re really after
September 6, 2009
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“Brrraaaaapppp,” goes the 900 Polaris RMK as we tear across the frozen lake in a volcanic crater. I watch with amusement as little pieces of white shrapnel eject from beneath the sled, harmlessly hitting the rider I am shuttling to the top of a 3,000-foot face on the Argentina-Chile border. It is September and through some random connections, I am snowmobile skiing. It is the first day of a multi-day commercial shoot for a large South American cell phone carrier. It’s rare that mainstream companies look toward skiing, particularly big-mountain skiing, for their marketing content, and I’m glad I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The e-mail came about a month ago. “Hey, we’re filming this commercial and need an American skier for a few days of sled skiing and heli time. Do you think you can make it?” wrote my friend. Hmm, I think I can make that happen, I thought to myself. After a few weeks of waiting, we are in our own private winter playground just outside of the Argentinean town of Caviahue. Located six hours north of Bariloche, Caviahue is like nowhere else I’ve been on Earth. The combination of the lakes, mountains, and trees creates a prehistoric atmosphere that makes me feel like I’m on the set of The Flintstones. As far as sled skiing goes, the terrain in Caviahue is about as good as it gets. The north- and west-facing aspects are low angle and have harder snow, allowing for easy shuttles to the south faces, which are more sheltered and shaded, holding snow long after storms have moved out.
So, here we are—two skiers and two snowboarders—providing content for an upcoming advertising campaign that will air at the end of the season. For the next two days we ride countless lines accessed by some of the only sleds in Argentina. Secretly, I’m worried that we’d get material that was “too good” and they’d cut the heli out of the budget. However, at the end of the last day of filming I am informed that, while the footage we are getting is good, we really need a heli for the appropriate branding for the ads. So, we have to travel back to Bariloche to meet the heli, and then head deep into Patagonia to finish up the shoot.
August 10, 2009
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BUENAS DIAS!!!!! That´s Spanish for, good day. Anyway, finally made it to the snow from 90 degree weather in the states. After flying Atlanta-Beunos Aires we spent the day getting things organized to tow the sleds to the mountains. By the way, the Atlanta international terminal may have the best people watching in the world, my advice, set up shop by the piano player where the three wings come together- grab a beer and those ten hours will just fly by. Anyway, my friend Andre has spent the last three months getting sleds from Tahoe, CA to Buenos Aires- no easy feat. But he is now the proud owner of two of the likely less than ten sleds in the country. So, we had to put the finishing touches on the trailer as well as pick up some last items for the sleds. We finally had all of our affairs in order and hit the road around mid-night for the 24 hour drive to the hills.
I´d like to be able to say that I helped navigate the way to the mountains, learning a lot about the Argentinian landscape on the way there, but honestly I slept three quareters of the way. We arrived in Bariloche early Sunday morning after a hang up in Neuquen, just as the sun was hitting the snowy peaks surrounding the town. For whatever reason it’s very therapeutic to see the alpinglow after an absence from the snow. Bariloche is one of the most beautiful places I´ve ever been. There are gorgeous, crystal-clear lakes surrounded by snowy peaks everywhere. It´s like now place I´ve ever been. I took the above photo at an overlook the other evening, so cool! For now we´re hanging out in Bariloche getting things ready and waiting for the snow to snow. As soon as the snow gets good we will hit up the heli and the sleds…hopefully they will give me a warm up run first.