Arriving in early August in the northern province of Patagonia known as Rio Negro, we find ourselves basing out of the quintessential ski town of San Carlos de Bariloche. The storm track took direct aim at the mountains around Bariloche the first week of August and dropped nearly five feet of snow. Wind is usually the largest factor affecting snow quality in this region and its fury was witnessed as the storms abated. However, it helped compact the snow into a nice creamy substrate perfect for carving massive turns at high speed.
The avalanche activity was notable during the storm and we observed debris piles on the south through east facing terrain. A bit of rain followed the initial storms and created challenging conditions at the mid and lower elevations. This combination kept us relegated to the highest reaches of the mountain to ski the expansive cirques lined with stunning red granite torres.
Abundant sunshine prevailed for the start of the second week of our journey and provided unlimited visibility. Looking across the Cordillera, we could see well into Chile and spy the volcanic peaks of Tronodor, Puntiagudo, Lanin and Puyehue. The warmer temps also helped improve the firm conditions and some spring-like conditions were found across the range.
Snow is again in the forecast for the coming weeks. Slightly north of Bariloche along the historical Ruta de Los Siete Lagos, we plan to check out several more ski areas. Cerro Bayo in the tiny enclave of Villa La Angostura has recently updated their infrastructure to include a gondola that goes from base to summit. This provides nearly 3,000 vertical feet of skiable terrain accessed by one lift. From the top terminal skiers have a commanding view of the Lake District, in addition to extensive backcountry access. In 2011, the Puyehue volcano devastated this town, spewing thousands of tons of particulate into the atmosphere that blanketed the town in three feet of ash. The enduring spirit of the townspeople won out over nature and they have made a full recovery. It remains one of our favorite places to visit for this reason.
Further north is the resort of Cerro Chapelco. The town of San Martin de Los Andes has a vibrant mountain culture and the ski resort is one of the best managed in the country. Grand vistas of the surrounding lakes and towering peaks inspire skiers to dig deep and venture to all sorts of terrain. The back bowls are perhaps the most adventurous skiing and it is easy to access from the top of the poma lift. We hope to find soft conditions after the coming tempest and explore new areas to find the most exciting lines.
Stay tuned for our next installment or get down here pronto and see for yourself. Check out PatagoniaSkiTours.com for more info and footage from our travels abroad.