Los(t) Gringos – Adventures in South America PART 3

September 22nd, 2010

We met up with Kiwi Riders – ‘the 2 Andy’s’ and their posse on the hill at Bariloche. They have been spending the winter riding here and travelling around South and Central America. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Read Part 1 of the blog here.

Read Part 2 of the blog here.

Argentina – Schoolies in Bariloche

Still wrecked from a 36-hour mission involving a party in Santiago and straight onto flights to Argentina, we made it to Bariloche – The Queenstown of Patagonia. We were mere shadows of ourselves.

Packed with tourists from Brazil, Chile and Buenos Aires Bariloche is South Americas more famous resort town and in September it hosts thousands of South American ‘schoolies’. It’s mayhem and fun depending on your age and tolerance for chain smoking 17-year old’s who aren’t scared of a public pashing – Breakfast, dinner, street – anywhere is the go for a grope.

This photo sums up food in Argentina. Trays of meat like this costs around $30USD and is enough to feed 4 people or 0 vegetarians. Note the big black sausages – they are blood sausages, similar to Haggis in Scotland and made of coagulated pigs blood. Photo: Russell Holt

Brains from Snow Park Technologies, who build the X-Games courses wanted an authentic Argentian dinner for his last night. He got some with this blood sausage… so disgusting. Photo: Roland Morley-Brown

The Resort of Catedral Alta Patagonia

40 minutes bus ride along the lakefront you reach the base of the ski hill and Cerro Catedral Mountain range. It’s a reasonable sized ski village with numerous hotels and base buildings, lots of entertainment and a nice view up to the main bowl of Catedral Alta Patagonia ski resort.

This resort has 38 lifts (counting every small little poma and carpet Ride) but more like 10 lifts that actually take you a distance. They have a vernicular to to the top of the mountain and a 4 person gondola that take you to the east side of the resort dropping you out below the towering cone shaped rocky peaks which give the resort its name – Cathedral (translation).

The Mountain has huge ski-able terrain and consists of mainly two huge bowls. There is a small terrain park and loads of runs from advanced to beginner cat tracks that criss-cross the mountain providing runs that can last over 10kms to the bottom.

The vertical drop is over 1100 metres, which is a lot larger than what we had experienced in Chile. Compared to Chile where you get less vertical but higher altitude, here in Catedral we find more vertical at a lower elevation. The top of the mountain is around 2100m, whereas in Chile most resorts start at about that height.

The low elevation hasn’t affected the snow pack though and it’s still over 2m deep at the top of the mountain and its Mid- September. This means with the snow in a melt-freeze pattern the easily accessible backcountry and off piste is great for riding as the Patagonian sun quickly turns the snow into soft corn.

Two of our crew take a break from hiking the backcountry of Argentinean resort Catedral Alta Patagonia. The town of Bariloche is on the valley floor in the distance. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Cat tracks that wind their way down the mountain at the Catedral Alta Patagonia make for a long and fun run home at the end of the day. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Burton team rider Nick Gregory lugging the camera bag home down the long cat track stops for a rest and grab a moment of perspective – riding Patagonia! Photo: Johnny McCormack

Shredding Patagonia – and the Snow Penis Session

We ventured around on that first day, heads hung like donkeys, but purely stoked to be in Patagonia. It’s such a famous region of the world and the landscape is amazing. Cold desolate tundra flats stretch far as the eye can see, while huge mountains of the Andes cast an ominous eye over the thousands of tourists milling about the mountain and city below.

Will Jackways and Roland Morley Brown spotted a big ‘ol rock on the east side of the mountain that afternoon. Its flat top stood about 12 foot above the snow and its perfect for a gap-on gap-ff session. We got about building it including a non-intended penis-shaped strip of snow on the rock to land and take-off from, which scores some rowdy comments and laughs from the nearby chair.

Nearly finished and of course we are finally shut-down by the trail crew, although Will J manages to talk them into a session after the lifts close. In the meantime we catch up with a crew of Kiwis; Andy Kennerly his girlfriend, Andy Clarke along with Brains from Snow Park Technologies in Tahoe who spent years building Snow Park’s terrain. It’s good to have a rendevous with some people who have been around for a couple of months although Andy K’s stories of being held up at gun point had us a bit worried as its our next and last stop on tour.

When the lifts shut we got to have a super fun session in the fading sunset overlooking the town of Bariloche in the distance. Some tricks were thrown down from all the crew and the session ends by 6pm when Ski Patrol finally give us the boot. It’s was good start to our visit and we all head back to town for another Argentinean meat feast and a few too many Fernot and cokes (the Argentinean’s favourtie drink – tastes like horrible cough medicine but it grows on you).

Will Jackways sizes up the gap onto the rock. Catedral Alta Patagonia. Photo: johnny McCormack.

Nick Gregory enjoying the sunset session in Bariloche. Photo: Johnny McCormack.

Our trip to Bariloche was in Mid September and the snow was in a melt-freeze daily cycle. The snow behind Roland Morley Brown and Will Jackways from NZ is actually 30cm deep corn and rides nearly as good as fresh powder. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Bariloche Backcountry

Way too much Fernot, meat red wine and smoke filled pubs, overheated hotel rooms equal brutal dehydration and hangovers. It’s easy to forget you don’t go to bed until 5am as a minimum in ‘Argie’, actually people don’t even go out till 1am… By the time you get home the sun is coming up and its just you and the street dogs sifting around looking for any kind of mischeif. Just gotto watch the paks of dogs – they seem to band together which will make you think twice about smelling like the 2 steaks, sausage and intestines you ate for dinner!

Hangover or not we wanted to get up the mountain for an afternoon session and get into the backcountry, which by then was nicely softening.

It’s pretty icy up there in the mornings but on the North Faces the sun is doing its magic. We traversed into the backcountry and past the side of the resort where they have a lift into the backcountry. It’s kind of weird, but it beats hiking and works well. (Although all the same rules apply – self rescue, no avalanche control etc etc.)

Will J and RMB spot a kicker that’s left thaing in the sun and give it the old dust off and line up a poochy spring landing over a rock and 60 feet away. Although unfortunately after one hit the increasing wind of an oncoming storm puts things to a halt and we retreat into the trees for a fun tree-ride session.

Will Jackways hiking the Catedral backcountry dwarfed by the cone shaped peaks that give the resort its name “Cathedral” in ehnglish.Photo: Johnny McCormack

The Trees of Bariloche

The trees in Bariloche are amazing for riding. Huge straight trees make up a well-spaced forest that cover the bottom half of the mountain. The place looked lie it would be epic mid winter (July/August) on a big powder day with pillows, bumps and cat tracks littered under the canopy of perfectly spaced trees.

Argentine Capital – Buenos Aires

Get ready for dinner at midnight, bars till 5am and lazy breakfasts in Parisian-style cafe’s on cobblestone streets at lunchtime. Buenos Aires is on a totally different schedule.

This city of 20 million is an expansive urban metropolis full of character, history, charm and that magnetic Latino spirit. The home of Tango, thriving art culture (both in galleries and on the streets), beautiful architecture and of course Maradona and his beloved Boca Juniors Football club; Buenos Aires the city overpowered us with culture, life and friendly encounters at every turn.

It would be easy to try and do too much in Buenos Aires so we went the opposite route and spent most of our time in one area called Palermo. Bars, restaurants, and boutique shops line the cobblestone streets (no KMart’s here!). The food was incredible and we indulged in what the country is known for – Beef and red wine. Numerous steak houses line Palermo and you can eat at the best staeak house for under $50 per person with full meal and your wine… After dinner if you have the energy you can head out to the many bars and clubs that get kicking after 1 or 2am and where locals prefer to dance Tango.

We missed visiting the famous Boca Juniors game, one thing that is nearly worth flying the Pacific again to revisit, but we spent a day roaming the streets of San Telmo – an old and colourful part of the city which was full of history, old antiques, food, wine and music. Plus the Empanida stops (Empinidas are the Argetinean version of a meat pie in folded pastry form).

Overall Buenos Aires was one of the most interesting and vibrant cities I have been to – you have the flair of Latin America with the sophistication of Europe. If you ever travel to Argentina or Chile for a snowboard trip Buenos Aires is a must-stop destination. You’ll experience the power of the culture and spirit of Argentina there, which is only felt in lighter shades in the ski towns.

So now I’m sitting on a plane over the Pacific, The Los(t) Gringo’s are found and a solid 2 weeks of riding in Australia is left and some crazy spring powder is waiting for the Kiwi boys. We’ll be back to South America we only scratched the surface.

Look out for the full story and photos from our trip in our magazine – 2011 and check back from an upcoming video edit from the trip.

For 3-weeks we are launching attacks on the resorts of the Andes Mountains from the 7-million strong city of Santiago. We aim towards all those infamous resorts across Chile and Argentina. On the hit list: Valle Nevado, El Colorado, La Parva, Portillo, Nevado De Chillan all in Chile and Las Lenas, Cerra Catedral in Argentina.

The sun’s reflection on Buenos Aires shimmers into the air like a gold plated armour. The city packs 20 million people into the size of Sydney in dense urban living mostly roofed by metal. The sheer humanity can be overwhelming.

Buenos Aires is a cultural hub of art and life. The streets live. Photo: Johnny McCormack

A good way to explore the streets of the Palermo district in Buenos Aires. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Tourista’s in the down town region of the city. Photo: Johnny McCormack

The Obelisk is the symbol of Buenos Aires. Standing at 67.5 metres and weighing in at 170 tonnes the 1936 monument commemorates the 400 year anniversary of the cities foundation. Photo: Johnny McCormack

The streets of San Telmo offer a antique bargain hunters dream. Incredible area to walk around and absorb the cities culture. Photo: Will Jackways.

At least the dogs of Buenos Aires are kept unlike Bariloche and Santiago in Chile. These dogs weren’t happy with our photographer. Photo: Johnny McCormack

Photo: Johnny McCormack

Photo: Johnny McCormack

Photo: Johnny McCormack

Photo: Johnny McCormack

This is what happens at an airport when an airline tries to charge excess baggage to pro snowboarders at the end of a long trip. Some lucky cleaner will score… Photo: Will Jackways.

Nightclubbing steez in Buenos Aires. Photo: Roland Morley-Brown

Will Jackways and Nick Gregory took a liking to the home of tango – Buenos Aires.

Can you crack Jenga? Apparently. Photo: Russell Holt.