Words by Ryan Dunfee Photos by Tony Xu, Krystina Nedele, Max Santeusanio, and Ryan Dunfee
At this point, three months deep in South America, the Argentine lifestyle has completely consumed me, and there goes my excuse for why this article was two days late for submission. Days taken up earlier in the summer by screaming across the office or into the phone, uploading content till the internet crashes and posting more blog and Facebook updates than Mark Zuckerburg could handle slowly gave way to near-daily asados in the backyard, the computer mouse replaced by a liter bottle of Quilmes. The adult clients, here for the final VIP Session, got skunked for pow, but still had a successful off-piste experience when Head Counselor Lucas Moore took a break from sneaking himself into every good ski photo produced this summer to safely guide the clients to 7 of the 10 on-mountain bars in one day, and somehow the definition of “hangfire” was changed to something related to shots of Fernet.
While the clientele got deep into vacation mode at Catedral, a donated national parks truck showed up brutally early in the morning on Friday to cart the walls of our plastic bottle greenhouse to School No. 321. After I summoned a few ruthlessly hungover saps to help load the water-soaked lumber walls onto the truck, I drove down Avenida Bustillo with Garrett Russell tweaking in the passenger seat as we watched the truck nearly take out every power line hanging across the road, the top of the greenhouse panels just barely squeaking under each one. 36 hours later and with the help of yanquis and Argentines both, a twenty foot by ten foot greenhouse with walls made of plastic bottles recovered from bars, clubs, and other foul trash was in the ground at the schoolyard in the shadow of Cerro Catedral, and a three-month old project that started with little more than an idea, some goodwill and a few very critical local connections was complete. The greenhouse will be used for a mentoring program where high schoolers will teach primary school students how to grow and care for trees, which will be re-planted in a local forest next to the resort that burned down several years ago. I have to say, after getting the greenhouse in the ground and handing off our biodiesel reactor to its new Argentine home on Monday, I was pretty impressed with myself; after spending three months on crutches surrounded by people who were skiing powder on a daily basis, I had enough positivity and motivation to finish two different community projects. There must be something in the malbec here that just brings it out in me.
All told, and despite the relentless sarcasm that soaks anything I write, the past three months have been absolutely amazing; from eating bar none the best meat I’ve ever had, to seeing my clients have the best day of their ski or snowboard careers after stoking them out over the phone for months, to being able to return a bottle of Quilmes for 3 of the 5 pesos you paid for it, to turning pro skiers and snowboarders from magazine and video heroes into good friends, to finally doing something with my four years of sustainability education, to making great Argentine friends who helped me turn my Mexican “gey” into an Argentine “che,” to partying on crutches on the stage at Dusk until the sun came up, summer 2010 will forever be one for the books, as it seemed to be for nearly everyone involved as a guide, coach, intern, or client this summer.
Despite or maybe because of the occasional disaster, guaranteed illnesses caused by college-style living in a foreign country, and the occasional feeling of swimming culturally upstream when you wanted to get something signficant done, fighting rebuttals of “maana, maana,” the SASS experience, even as a loyal sales team hype lieutenant who’d been building it up since Christmas, was unreal. Just ask Garrett Russell why he chose to forego ACL surgery this spring in order to be able to come down, even if it meant missing the better half of his 2011 winter.
It feels weird to see the Facebook updates from friends begging for winter; after three months burning the candle on both ends and bagging more faceshots than I could ever hope to get in a lifetime in New England, our crew has a bigger appetite for the short week of spring we’re now enjoying in Buenos Aires and the SASS Global Travel surf trip (sassglobal.com) we’re planning for Puerto Rico in the fall. The fall hype season of movie premiere after movie premier seems inappropriate at this point, or at least poorly timed; we just lived the pro shred lifestyle – beacons, probes, backcountry pow, parties and all – for the entire summer, and no movie’s going to get us more stoked than the memory of the week-long, 10-foot Santa Rosa storm that crushed Bariloche at the end of August. And while I didn’t get to experience a single turn of it, I know about every slash, cliff drop, jump build, hut trip, and Laguna lap that I missed, so you can rest assured that, when you meet me this winter in the freezing northeast cold at some stupid event under the SASS Global tent, I know what I’m talking about when I tell you South America Snow Sessions is the best thing under the sun. But also keep in mind that with no broken ankle-producing Tuckerman’s trip on my to-do list for the next several years, I will definitely be on my skis next summer in Argentina, and I will be snaking everyone for first tracks.