From volcanoes to crowd throws

SHRED THREAD // 11th Nov 2013

11th Nov 2013

So I last left you in Portillo ski resort, having just crossed the border from Argentina, and had a couple of amazing days skiing powder to start off our Chilean experience. We followed it up another overnight drive, as was the theme of the roadtrip to avoid paying for hostels every night. Tove and I ended up on the sunrise shift again as we came through the green plains en route from Santiago to Pucon as the local scenery continued to impress. Chile is much greener than Argentina since the weather systems come from the west and lose most of their heavy moisture in the form of rain to enable themselves to rise above the mighty Andes. This is the same situation as exists on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand and the views felt closer to home than Europe, with the exception of the exclusively Spanish signs.
Morning light on my Dr Zipe
 
Arriving in Pucon
 
This car actually worked and was full of stock for the kiosk behind it!
 
Getting touristy on it
  We arrived in Pucon 13 hours later in the morning of a beautiful sunny day and were immediately awestruck by the landscape dominating volcano the seemed to fill the sky of the ’Center of the south of Chile’. Skiing off the summit was the last of our main goals for the roadtrip, which the others at our cosy hostel seemed to think was a big deal- that had already or were planning to take a guided tour up there including renting an ice axe, crampons, a guide and a hilarious shovel-like apparatus to sit and slide down on. The fear of alpine conditions had been drilled into them from all angles, which I assumed to be partly justified and partly to convince them to pay for the expensive tour. They didn’t know what to make of us when we said that we were just going to ski tour up, and then went to bed nice and early since they had be up at 6 and leave by 7am in the guides van. We planned to leave at 9 but ended up getting up at that time, having a leisurely breakfast, sorting out our gear and eventually leaving the hostel at 11. This meant that by the time we arrived at the gate to the national park and tried to pay entry fee the park warden told us we were too late and not allowed to begin climbing. Not discouraged we took the other fork of the road to the ski area carpark instead, which although lower meant that we were able to sneak onto the lifts and save about an hour of touring time, definite win and cheaper, thanks Mr Park Ranger. We enjoyed the sunny and windless day and commented more than once about how incredibly lucky we had been with the weather on this trip, along with everything else! Sometimes things just don’t go your way, but this week had definitely not been one of those times. Even the guys that had to skip the volcano to do some work during the day (who worked by distance and hadn’t told their boss that they were going on a road trip) enjoyed a beautiful day in the sun as they caught up on emails.  
Stoked to have just got some free vertical from the chair in the background
 
Tove is laughing at the tour group mountaineer bum sliders behind me
 
View over the clouds from the top
  We eventually caught up with one of the guided tour groups, who eyed us warily as if we were an unpredictable foreign species with unfamiliar sticks on our feet instead of shovels under our bums. To be fair to them we had been lucky that it was one of the warmest days of the Spring so far, meaning that we were able to keep our skis on until about 50 metres short of the summit, where the icy moonscape finally forced us into bootpacking the last of the summit ridge. I’ve heard that luck favours the brave though, and that you make your own luck, two quotes that I assume came from inconceivably lucky people. Even so we were feeling so smiled upon by lady luck that day and week that we could probably have penned another few sayings about how luck comes to those who smile back, but we were too busy taking time lapses and getting sunburnt.
Looking into the crater, there was too much sulfer steam to see much but we could hear the lava bubbling away
 
Stoked to have touring poles for a change, and that Tove's knee got her to the top of a volcano first day back on skis after tweaking it in Portillo
 
Arty view from the top by Harris' iphone
  The clouds began to roll in as we admired the view from the summit but this only provided an even more spectacular backdrop for the skiing pics that we snapped on the way down, and we were nearly back to the carpark by the time they actually enveloped us more the mystical looking short walk back to the car. That night we rewarded ourselves with a restaurant meal (and personally an 800 gram steak), followed by a visit to the local natural thermal springs and a swim in the neighbouring snowmelt river. Chile you are amazing.
Harris enjoying the spring snow decent
 
Tove's turn
 
Me spraying the clouds
 
Clouds revenge
 
0.8kg steak reward dinner
  The next day we drove back to Bariloche, across a Chilean-Argentinean border that turned out to be a gravel road. We got thoroughly lost, to the growing distress of the two crew that were trying to get back to work, and the growing enjoyment of us that had nowhere to be and got to see traditional farming villages, wild animals swimming and a pair of Condors playing together in the wind. We saw the local Gauchos (Argentinean cowboys with traditional bright clothing and berets) rounding up cows with their horses, open farming houses brimming with chickens and turkeys, waited out a wild sheep roadblock and eventually had to ask directions in our limited Spanish before giving the Kangoo a push to get it up the last hill back to the road to civilisation. This was one of my favourite parts of my whole trip for sure, a paradise for us tourists in a place that tourists never seem to go, given the way the farmer looked at us when we asked him for directions.
This was pretty standard
 
Extremely free range chickens
 
Totally in our half of the one lane
 
Boss sheep giving us the eye
  Once we made it back to a sealed road we were also treated to the 7 lakes road back to Bariloche which is the more well known beautiful drive in the area. Cruising the smoother road in the warm afternoon sunrays gave us some time to think and talk about the amazing experiences and luck that we had had over the past week, filling our bellies with the warm contented feeling of chances taken and gambles paid off.
One of the 7 lakes from the name of the road
  The next few days in Bariloche felt mellow in comparison, spring conditions had set in and we enjoyed some casual laps in the park, hitting some rails felt nice but also weird after spending most of the last 3 weeks in the backcountry! Niki lent me his Big Stix 100 to ski park which still felt pretty small after so long on my 192cm Big Stix 122, the only ski I took to South America J He also showed us a follow cam video of what he had been up to in the Van Titter valley (between Cerro Catedral resort and the Refugio Frey valley), scoring the same storm that we had got in Portillo, check it out here!   And suddenly it was time to get the bus back to Buenos Aires for our flight, which this time we took with the American crew that we had done the road trip with. Another 22 hour ride in first class bus comfort, check my earlier blog for pics to see what I mean. The Americans also invited to stay at their place in the city where they live when they’re not in Bariloche and it turned out to be a bit of a mansion, even city rent is cheap in Argentina! As long as you take cash to exchange at the black market rate kiddies, remember that. We enjoyed a night out partying the night before we left too, even though it was a Monday, and still managed to get kicked out of a club. I feel like we fitted as much as possible into the month we had there, but there is still so much to see and do and I already can’t wait to go back! We weren’t quite as lucky with our airport check in on the way back to Europe and had to pay for our obscenely heavy ski bags, but I figured out that I’m going to get frequent flier status on Star Alliance by the end of this year too so that put me in a better mood, airport lounges and a free ski luggage for me next year! We got to Munich and took an airport transfer to Innsbruck, gaping at the first world and how unfamiliar and unnecessarily over-developed and clean it was in comparison. It was Oktoberfest too which added an even weirder element of drunker tourists that seemed over ready to throw their money at anything vaguely amusing, and we hoped that we hadn’t resembled them in South America. Our stoke began growing again soon though because we were on our way to Innsbruck for the premier of ‘For a Few Lines More’ at IF3 (the International Freeski Film Festival), the ski movie that I am in courtesy of Whiteroom Productions and Fischer. We arrived in time to hang out and catch up with the crew, drink beers and smile before heading to the cinema together. The movie theatre was the biggest one they had and sold out which felt really good after all the effort that we put into the film, and I was stoked to see myself on a proper bigscreen for the first time. We got up on stage with the producers and director to talk about our parts in the film and the trips we went on before it showed too and it really seemed like people cared about what we had to say, or maybe it was just because we were about to throw a bunch of free stuff off the stage at them.
Nice start to IF3 Innsbruck for us, the sold out cinema filling up for our movie 'For a Few Lines More' by Whiteroom Productions
 
Whiteroom Productions crew on stage
 
Everyone spoke German except me
  I was stoked on the film, here are the tour dates and trailer, then it’s dropping online for free in spring! I’m already motivated for an even better part next year and we’re looking at trips to Canada, Iran and Norway to try and be a bit more organised than the pre-heli library session that Fabi and I had to do in Canada last year :-P Tour dates: http://www.alp-con.net/alp-con-cinematour-2013/tourplan.html Plus I'm trying to organise one at Winnie Bagoes in Christchurch, NZ on the 5th of December too. Here's the trailer, check my facebook page to see what shots are of me at facebook.com/NeilWillimanskiinghuman

  So then it was time to be one of the tourists and check out Oktoberfest on the way home, it was a cool thing to do once, but be warned that the 1 litre handles of beer are also 7% because it got the best of me and I missed the last train back to Innsbruck, now I owe Fabi a big favour for picking me up from the Germany/Austria border.
Turns out I've been spelling this wrong
 
Alex Hoffman and I getting overconfident
  I got back to Sweden in time to make the most of the warmest Autumn that Tove has seen in a long time and had to spend a lot of time on the computer organising the season and updating my website etc. But now it’s done, I’m now skiing for Dr Zipe, Komperdell, Pieps and Quiver Killer Inserts as well as my long time sponsors of Fischer, Surfanic, Planks and Incline, so stoked! And as I write this I’m on way back to Austria to meet Pieps and get free avalanche training with the team, a perfect pre-season session. Check out the Skiers Left foundation if you want to know more about freeride specific avalanche safety. So I’ll be skiing again in a few days on Sölden glacier and then staying in Innsbruck for the rest of the season! With the exception of competition and filming travels that I’m equally excited about J Bring on the good times! To all of you out there about to head off on a season as well- have fun and stay safe, hope to see you out there! [caption id="attachment_1201" align="alignnone" width="662"]First Pow turns of the season! Photo by Jochen Mesle My first Pow turns of the northern winter in Innsbruck! Photo by Jochen Mesle[/caption] .

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