Words by Ryan Dunfee
There’s not enough Malbec in Argentina to blur my vision of the towering peaks that surround the South American Snow Sessions (SASS) compound at the Hosteria Valle del Sol that taunt me day in and day out. Fortunately for my employer, having a broken ankle relegates me to zero time on the hill and endless hours in the dungeon that is the Sass Global Travel Bariloche office. While I should be up on the hill finally getting my Avi 1, embarrassing the rest of the sales staff by sending it in Laguna and stacking more helmet cam footage than Newschoolers would know what to do with, I find myself in a more familiar position: typing on the computer, writing about skiing while bitching about not being able to do it enough, being egged on by an editor’s endless joy in the outward expression of my latest misery.
Getting to Argentina has been something of a personal battle for me. I’ve spent the last four summers trying to make it to Argentina to ski; agonizing over my bank account, flight costs, logistics, friends dropping out, girlfriends complaining that I won’t come visit them because I’d rather drop all my earnings on a chance to do some stupid activity they’ve never tried and don’t understand. It’s never come to pass, and every August, after looking at the budget for the last possible window of opportunity I had, I’d shut my laptop, remove all the South America links from my computer, and try to get excited about surfing New England summer ankle lappers again.
But this summer was different; this time, I was working for the exact damn company whose primary product is a ski and snowboard program in Bariloche, Argentina. Outside of completely failing on my sales goals, there was no way I wasn’t getting on that plane. That was until I decided that since I’d been such a badass that, having started my season October 8th in Colorado, I deserved to try to pull off the full MacGyver and ski every month this year. That goal remained intact until June 6th, when, on a miserable, rainy-day assault of Mt. Washington’s Tuckerman’s Ravine, my left ankle started to throb during a truly shitty four-hour hike down from the landing strip of snow left on the Sluice. Had anyone else been there when I cranked my ankle hiking up my friend’s steps and began cursing every step, squirrel, rock, raindrop, forest ranger, and national park, they wouldn’t have known what to do with the homeless-looking idiot in ski socks, cringing on the steps of some condo in Jackson, New Hampshire.
Now I find myself finally in Argentina, one goal accomplished, but left staring at the mountain, guessing what the lines are like, trying to imagine the runs and chutes I’ve been glorifying in sales calls since December. As I ask students in the Sierra Nevada College photography program with legendary snowboard photographer Sean Sullivan for photos, I slam my fist on the table as photos of campers slaying untracked pow lines, cliffs, chutes, casually built backcountry kickers, and trees materialize in my Gmail.
Everyone makes their best effort to tell me their day on the hill wasn’t great, their eyes quickly focusing on my sticker-plastered crutches, sympathy in their hearts, but the photos tell it all; untracked lines all day, untold knowledge acquired from our unreal staff of seasoned ski pros, goals met and boundaries overcome. Even the fellow idiots from New Hampshire are learning how to send it in terrain that has no tight trees, no shitty, frozen terrain, no frozen blocks of ice construed as park jumps. They fake as if there was no fresh snow up top, but as soon as I open my inbox, it’s obvious. Emma Lande, back for another year to train for the Freeskiing World Tour, turns her laptop away out of respect, but I can hear the helmet-cam footage rolling in the background, and a quick holler as she finishes a straightline.
I hope you’ll enjoy finding out about what you’re missing out on as much as I have; I’ll be sure to keep you regularly updated. I’m sure there’s a lot of secret ski knowledge James Heim, Michelle Parker, Dash Longe and Garrett Russell will be dropping on our clients that I will be missing out on. If you want more info, shoot me an e-mail at Ryan@sasnow.com. If you catch me a few fernets y cocas deep, I might be happy enough to respond.