Words: Max Kuszaj
(Ed's Note: Because of lack of snow, the Ski Arpa stop of the Freeride World Tour was canceled. The North Face, the tour's headlining sponsor, was understandably bummed, and decided to take some of the athletes on a trip instead. Here's what Max Kuszaj, the tour announcer who got to tag along on the trip, had to say about it.)
After the Ski Arpa stop of the Freeride World Tour was canceled this summer, The North Face Chile and the FWT management put their heads together to give the athletes something to do. They decided to travel to Southern Chile, to the northern Andes of Patagonia, to the small resort of Antillanca for a week of backcountry volcano skiing.
Getting to Northern Patagonia is not for the weak traveler. A 12-hour plane ride from Salt Lake City will get you to Santiago, Chile, 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 cervezas. 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.
For five days, FWT athletes loaded the T-bar alongside the camouflage-covered Chilean military and Junior Chilean race teams. The common bond of skiing easily bridged the culture and language barriers. Sidecountry and backcountry lines were accessible in all directions from Antillanca's summit. An 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.