Words by Mike Rogge
Photos courtesy of PowderQuest
On February 27th a massive earthquake, registering an 8.8 magnitude on the Richter scale, quite literally shook the foundation of coastal Chile. While thousands were left stranded without homes and shelters, the global community rallied together to help our common man in the Southern Hemisphere rebuild. With winter approaching fast on the bottom of half of Earth, the rebuilding effort is becoming more urgent each day. Enter USA-based skiing and snowboarding company PowderQuest Tours, a company that runs guided ski adventures in the Andes of Chile and Argentina. PowderQuest has partnered with Save The Waves Chile Earthquake Relief Fund and is donating $100 for each Chilean ski tour sold this season towards direct aid efforts. Powder Magazine caught up with PowderQuest's President and Founder, David Owen, for a short Q&A:
Did the earthquake directly affect PowderQuest?
We were personally affected. My Chilean wife’s parents were at home on the coast in a town called Pelluhue. The epicenter of the quake was right off the coast and a tsunami took out a large part of their village. They were very lucky to get out alive that night. Many people in town were not so lucky.
How did the idea to partner with Save The Waves Chile Earthquake Relief Fund come to fruition? Why not partner with the Red Cross or a larger relief fund organization?
I liked the idea of working directly with a smaller grassroots non-profit. Save The Waves was perfect as our first donation after the quake immediately got survival supplies directly to people in need with no red tape involved, and they are focusing on the hardest hit areas including Pelluhue and other fishing villages. Our second round of donations go toward the rebuilding efforts of Save The Waves in these areas.
How is the rebuilding process progressing in Chile? How are the people adjusting to the massive devastation?
Unlike Haiti, Chile overall held up pretty well for such a massive earthquake. The majority of the country is completely back to normal. Unfortunately the coast of the 7th and 8th Regions is a different story. The destruction is unbelievable. The rebuilding will take years, but there has been some progress. If you go to Santiago right now, cafes are buzzing and people are back to their normal lives, yet at seaside, families are still living under plastic tarps trying to survive the cold, wet Fall, and psychologically deal with the nightmare of going through one of history's largest earthquakes and a crushing tsunami.
What is the largest challenge with rebuilding efforts?
Right now it’s probably the weather. The winter rains and winds are starting hammer in off the Pacific. Combine that with the massive amount of debris that has to be moved and you have a huge muddy and dangerous rebuilding effort to deal with. It is certainly going to slow things down.
How can people help PowderQuest's efforts to rebuild?
Join one of our tours and we donate $100 directly to Save The Wave Chilean rebuilding efforts. If you can’t travel this summer, you can donate directly to Save The Waves, Red Cross, and Techos Para Chile online. Our PowderQuest Gives Back webpage has details. Other ways to help may seem small, but anything that can help stimulate the Chilean economy is a good thing: Hit your local grocery store and pick up some Chilean wine, seafood, grapes, blueberries, etc.
Do you think the intense media coverage of the Chilean earthquake will help or hinder ski tourism to the region this summer?
I’d like to stay optimistic as overall, Chile, especially the local ski industry is working just fine. Plus tourism is a fantastic way to boost the local economy and get Chile back on her feet. We have had previous tour guests sign up this year because they know their trip will help. However the media coverage has certainly scarred potential skiers away, or at least have them on the fence. I am down here right now, and aside from some minor road detours, I can say with assurance there is nothing to worry about. Get down here and shred for a good cause!
For more info, check out PowderQuest.com