Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Snow Gods Appeased?

At some point, I must have pissed off The Snow Gods. I don't know where, I don't know when, but I must have done it.

Working in the ski racing biz, The Snow Gods are important. Perhaps the MOST important thing. Except for the Serendipity Gods, of course - the ones that bite you on the ass despite development, testing, failover planning, and so forth. In the "old days", I can remember World Cup races at Snowbasin, Beaver Creek, and Vail (amongst others) being canceled due to TOO MUCH SNOW, which is sort of the ultimate accident of nature for a guy like me. I're at the mountain (sometimes via police escort because the roads to the venue may be closed to the public, due to snow), your skis & boots are there, the races are generally canceled by around 8 AM, and then you've got absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the day....except ski all that fresh pow off. On a mountain that's probably closed to the public. Your on-piste race pass gets you on any lift at any time. In a pinch you can even occasionally commandeer a snowmobile. Some of the best powder days of my life occurred (for example) during the US Nationals at Snowbasin in 1994, and again during the World Alpine Championships at Beaver Creek in 1999.

But the last few years, it seems The Snow Gods have turned against me. In 2007, I sat around with my thumb up my ass for a week in Kitzb├╝hel in 50 degree weather, watching a week of violent rainstorms wash away what little snow remained on the Hahnenkamm DH course. This year (2008) at Kitz, I had two great alpentouring powder days just before DH training started with my good friends from the Kitzb├╝heler Ski Club (thanks Hermann & Micchey!!), but then the weather then turned against us; both the Hahnenkamm DH and the Super-G were run from their respective bad-weather starts, which was a bummer for all concerned.

So it was with no small amount of trepidation that I scheduled a quick dash to Argentina last week to try to get some skiing in the Andes Mountains. I figured The Snow Gods were going to hose me, so I planned to get some pleasant socializing accomplished, drink a few bottles of Malbec, and maybe get up on a few mountains to have a look around.

I guess The Snow Gods must now like me again, because out of 6 ski days in Argentina, 4 of them were freshie spectaculars. I started out in Bariloche with three powder days at Cerro Catedral. I hired professional mountaineering guides to ski with me through CASA (, because the best skiing in The Andes isn't in bounds, it's off-piste in some fairly dangerous places. We absolutely raged. Climbing on skins, hiking out of bounds, we got some of the best fresh tracks I've had in years. Many thanks to Lucas and Craig of CASA. Then on to San Martin de los Andes, a really cool little town about the size of Park City. I skied two days at Chapelco, which were pretty crappy. Bad viz, a bit of rain, a lot of fog, and out of bounds was out of the question (even with professional guides) because the snowpack was extremely unstable and two guys had been wiped out by an avalanche 4 days before we arrived.

Then - the last day at Cero Bayo. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. Drove from San Martin de los Andes down to Villa Angostura the night before, and it rained like hell the whole day, the whole way. The road to Angostura was about 2000 feet below the bottom of Bayo, so I was hoping all the precipitation was snow up at the ski mountain.

It was.

What a day. Cerro Bayo had blue sky, a half-meter of fresh pow, so much snow in fact that the road up the mtn from Villa Angostura was almost closed. Almost. We encountered a traffic jam of stranded cars, but in a hilarious display of a vigorous game of "ultimate clusterfuck", anxious skiers jumped out of their vehicles (stuck or not) and pushed any stuck cars off the road so we could get up to the lifts. This is in August, mind you. While everyone else in North America was sweating their asses off, and everyone else in the sports biz in in Beijing breathing toxic air. Went huge all day long, and in fact left a lot of fresh powder untracked up there, because when they shut the lifts down on us around 5 PM, there were still plenty of freshies to be found. I was so spent, I could barely put one foot in front of the other to make it back to the car. Just to put a nice exclamation point on the day, the owner of CASA was skiing with us that day, and he shot some video of me going off, which he kindly edited into a nice snippet with music and sent to me. So here it is, sports fans: Cerro Bayo on a bluebird August day.

Guess this old bod still has a few powder days left in it.

Thanks to The Snow Gods. Whatever I did to piss you off, guys, I am sorry to the bottom of my heart, and thanks for giving me another chance.


Mike W said...

You suck!

And, it isn't even hot here in Toronto. It has rained every day since January......

Cockroach said...

I see you finally got a chance to ski South America in August.
Good for You.