Ingrid Backstrom skis below a thermal hot spring in Nevados de Chillan, Chile. Photo: Adam Clark

You're probably thinking about summer now. There isn't much snow left and the beach, a cold Tecate, some dream pop, a tan, and an ice-cream sandwich sound pretty damn nice. So does the singletrack, that girl you've been waiting to see in a bikini, and a mojito.


These are distractions. Let them go. You are a skier, and skiers need to ski. That girl doesn't like you, and there aren't any half-decent jobs out there, anyway. And while winter up north is coming to an end, the chairlifts and bars in South America are readying their bullwheels and shining their pint glasses in anticipation of the busy season. In fact, some Southern America ski areas just received five feet of snow.

So this is what you should do:

Sell your savings, your bicycle, your ticket to Coachella, your plasma (no, the sperm bank doesn't want you), and all your summer fantasies, and buy a ticket to Santiago. Pack light. Bubble-wrap your skis and fill a backpack with the essentials: your skins, a flask, a layer or two, one flannel, one pair of Carhartts, and a sleeping bag. You don't need underwear, or vanity for that matter, in South America. Chile is a place for adventure (see The Motorcycle Diaries) romance (see Neruda, Pablo), and self-exploration (see Solitaire).

Once you land, stop by the duty free. Buy a bottle of red and some bottom-shelf Pisco. Use that to hitchhike to Las Llenas. Once you get there, drink the rest, and find a place to curl up in that sleeping bag. When you awake, head straight for the Marte lift. Lap it until it el viento shuts it down, then head off the beaten path.

Take the train to Chillan. Befriend a gaucho. Ride in his horse-drawn trailer to Las Trancas. Or just take a bus. Head to the Chil'In for a Kuntsman and some thin slice. Eat sparingly. That's tomorrow's breakfast and lunch.

You need ski partners. So go to the Snow Pub, where there are plenty of extranjero ski bums from all over the globe. Fall in love with the girl behind the bar, not the one missing teeth, the one the Spanish ski patroller with the dread mullet is trying to steal from you. Kiss her on the cheek, then buy a round of whiskeys on the shotski. Introduce yourself to your new touring friends.

Head up to Nevados de Chillan with them. Explore the wind-blown pow on the endless swell of ridges. Take in the solitude on the 21-minute long Otto chair, or the 2,000-foot canyon you'll have to yourself. Marvel the condors. The pungent sulfur. The ave-paltas. The Mapuches. The stars.

Stay awhile. Nevados frequently has the most snow in Chile and you and your new touring friends don't have to share it with anybody. Get to know the locals that sell knickknacks at the end of the road, the summits of the volcanoes, the hot springs at the valley floor, and your new Chilean girlfriend.

When you run out of money, figure out a way to get home. Find a couch to crash on and get a job, you gawdamn bum. Then, when it starts snowing again in North America, do it all over again. You can go to the beach when you're dead.

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