Words by Ryan Dunfee
Photos courtesy of South American Snow Sessions
We’re halfway into Session 3, and the days are blurring together. Having taken one full day off since arriving on July 20, a calendar just looks like a sequence of numbers, and I only notice Saturdays and Sundays when I head into town to find my errand list thwarted by closed shop after closed shop. The buckets of rain dowsing the SASS compound, signaling the arrival of what could very well be the legendary Santa Rosa storm, combine with my lack of sleep from another all-night bender in town and the lack of any measurable light in my tiny office corner to produce a truly purgatorial feeling as I stare into this laptop screen, trying to remember, yet again, what I’ve been missing by not being able to be up on the hill.
Session 3 has felt very different from the first month at SASS; gone are most of the underage clients, replaced by careering adult rippers and a heap of visiting snowboard pros, with teams from Burton, Roxy, and the One Life crew now crowding the dining room instead of freckled and over-eager teenagers competing to see who can drink the most Red Bull. This more mature crowd was instantly awarded with a mobbing of snow that puked nearly four feet on the top of the mountain. As the crew waited for the higher chairs to open the first day after the storm, 6’4″ tall guide Pete Connelly stepped out of his skis to bury a backpack for a beacon drill, and immediately sunk in to his chest. While the crew crushed heavy pow for the day, the temps rose and for a few days, aprs-ski began at noon instead of five and the crew’s physical efforts were concerned more with crushing the dancefloor at Dusk instead of rallying in the early morning to the Zebra chutes. Michelle Parker even took a break from crushing lines at her signature 100 mph-speed to double her money at the downtown casino in between teaching Argentines how to dance and crushing an empanada… or four.
But now that the roof of the SASS compound echoes with the pounding of cold Andean rain and reports of a foot of new snow at the base of Cerro Catedral complement a forecast of over 60 inches that are due to slam the mountain over the course of the week, priorities have shifted somewhat. While some of the snowboarders grab a tool and move their bindings back in anticipation of needing some extra flotation, the guides dig out bars of wax and irons from underneath piles of rotting clothes. An eleven o’clock bedtime suddenly becomes acceptable again, and any skis smaller than 110 underfoot are left in the hotel lobby. While the Freeski World Tour competitors suffered from limited coverage in Chile and at Las Leas, the rain slowly floods the backyard of the SASS compound, signaling the heavy, snowy beating being unleashed upon Cerro Catedral.
Josh Lempert, SASS’s in-house park builder, sits staring out the cat window. The gorgeous 60-footer he just sculpted sits growing uglier and more misshapen by the minute as flakes the size of golf balls clobber the park lane. It’s all he can do to dig out SASS’s terrain park in between storms, and his work, like any good park builder, goes unappreciated. As Josh sits underneath the chair, pulling the rake back and forth over the takeoffs of the triple line, Garrett Russell, Michelle, and James Heim pass by overhead on the chair with their clients. They take one look at the park as they ride by, then switch their gaze to the Nubes chutes above, intent on setting off into the great unknown of Argentine gnar once again.