Portillo, Chile’s winter season started out in early June with the largest early season storm in 30 years—10 feet of snow fell in 48 hours—prompting locals, first-timers, and regular visitors like Chris Davenport and Sierra Quitiquit to migrate south and tag one of the Andes classic backcountry lines, the Super C couloir. After a massive uphill push from the ski area, Dav and Sierra remind us anything good in life—like a continuous 5,600 foot descent—is worth the effort. And while it’s been dry and sunny since the first snow this season, the base is strong and the season still new. We checked in with the pair to talk about skiing in Chile and their best advice for skiers thinking about heading south.
POWDER: What sets skiing in South America, and particularly at Portillo, apart
from skiing the northern hemisphere?
Davenport: Skiing in the Central Andes, and especially at Portillo, is a unique experience because it is all in the alpine-there are no trees anywhere. And the mountain range is young, so its steep and craggy and perfect for expert freeride skiing. Plus you add the maritime snowpack to the mix and it’s a recipe for tons of fun. That's the reason I've been returning to Portillo for 15 years in a row.
Quitiquit: Portillo sits on the Chilean/Argentinian border with access to world class skiing. We call it the cruise ship because it’s completely secluded, the services are amazing, and the only thing to do is ski, eat and hot tub—no complaints of course. The skiing is all high alpine terrain. The lift access offers solid groomer options but the real gem of Portillo is the incredible backcountry access. Because the resort is so secluded, powder days are particularly awesome—no need to fight for first tracks.
POWDER:How accessible are the lines you’re skiing in this edit?
Davenport: They are pretty straight forward logistically but quite challenging physically and timing wise. It's pretty much a 3,000 foot bootpack straight up a wide couloir, but the conditions have to be right, meaning safe and not too deep that you are wading through the snow at your waist. Plus you have to go early and move fast so the sun doesn't warm up the slopes above and cause increasing hazard. But I've skied the Super C 31 times now and it absolutely never disappoints. It's one of the world’s greatest descents.
Quitiquit: I think that’s what makes Super C so spectacular is that it’s so accessible. You start the hike from the top of the Roca Jack lift and hike to the top, drop in, ski 5,000 feet and load a chair to get back to the resort.
POWDER: Are there unique elements to local ski culture there that stand out to you?
Davenport: The thing that stands out for me with the people in Chile is how friendly they are. You can always get a smile out of the lift-ops and patrollers and if you speak the language they are quick to converse with you. I've made some life-long friends down there and it's part of what keeps me coming back.
Quitiquit: If you’re lucky enough to be invited to an asado (think BBQ over slow burning wood fire with a never ending array of meat) always say “yes” and bring wine!
POWDER: What has been unique about working with Caleb Farrow and Matt Cook on this edit?
Davenport: Those guys are sick skiers and total athletes themselves. They know what lines we want to ski and how the edits might reflect our style and personality. I wish I had their editing skills. Plus they are hilarious to hang with in the bar.
Quitiquit: This was my first time working with Caleb and Matt and I was thoroughly impressed. Those guys are incredible athletes, super nerds, and really fun partners in the backcountry. It was cool to watch their production skills.
POWDER: Any tips for skiers making their first trip to South America?
Davenport: Don't try to do too much. Pick two to three resorts and spend two to three days at each. Rent an RV and travel around to see as much as possible. Pay attention to snow forecasts because it can snow a meter in one zone and nothing a hundred miles away. Work on your Spanish—it will really help out if you have some basic conversational skills.
Quitiquit: Make friends with the locals—chances are they’re amazing people and they’ll end up showing you lines and inviting you to their asado.