Vacation is definitely trending this season. Forum already made a movie about it, and Salomon is working on one too. Since my only goal in life is to be cool and on trend, I felt like it was time to make a little vacation happen for myself.
Wait, that’s not true at all. In fact, I am terrible at vacation. I generally spend the whole time glued to my computer doing the exact same thing I would do at home, but with a different backdrop and slower wifi. So why would I bother dropping a couple grand and sitting on planes and busses for literally days to go to South America and work from there? That is a really good question, one that I put out of my mind when I impulse-booked a flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina a few weeks ago for SGT Session Six at Cerro Caterdal in Bariloche.
Since I was going to try my best to vacation, I had a couple rules. Rule 1: leave the boyfriend at home. Rule 2: Don’t worry, it’ll work out. But as a “jaded industry person,” I did wonder what the fuck I was doing going to snowboard camp even though (full disclosure alert) they gave me a sweet “industry” deal. Was I really spending a chunk of money to go hang out with a bunch of fashion-conscious teens and get coaching help on my snowboard riding? Really? Keep in mind I also did little-to-no research on what I was getting into, and watching one of the session edits pretty much cleared up that’s not what SGT is about at all. Camp is the wrong word. It’s more of a travel agency meets touring facility, with a bunch of dudes who are specifically there to show you the best terrain and snow possible. In other words, for an old person such as myself, heaven.
The path to heaven, of course, was a bit more difficult than anticipated. A recent volcanic eruption about 60k away in Chile left the Bariloche Airport closed (a fact, which SGT’s resident jester Lucas Moore informed almost immediately was due to Socialism), so your options were a flight to Esquel followed by a four hour bus ride, or a single 18-20 hour bus ride on a “luxury” bus, the latter being several hundred dollars cheaper. I opted for the long bus and settled in for what was actually a remarkably comfortable ride, including regular meals, free booze and occasional announcements in Spanish I just hoped weren’t important. Nearly 50 hours after leaving Portland, I arrived at Base 41, home for the next 7 or so days.
I’d come in a couple days early because fellow blogger/ SGT resident nerd Ryan Dunfee told me I’d have a way better trip if I did. Since I was “going with the flow” I didn’t question it. However, getting there before everyone else in my session, I got no real orientation, just the basic info I needed (meal times and wireless password) and spent the first afternoon of my vacation working. However, since it was vacation I did purchase myself a 1 liter Quilmes (Argentine Budweiser) to make myself feel like less of a nerd. (I should note the final two weeks of the summer are adult sessions, which meant only two teens, who were pretty cool aside from not being impressed by my DJ skills, and super lax rules about open containers on the compound.)
Roxy Dinner with Erin Comstock, Robin Van Gyn and more girls than you’d think would travel to South America to snowboard.
In Argentina they don’t eat dinner until 9 pm, which as someone who prefers to be in bed by nine was sort of an issue. It also means that by the time the Roxy Girls convinced me to come to the fancy all-meat dinner they were holding for the girl campers (of which there were surprisingly many) my first night there, I was already happily buzzed. At dinner, we got to check out Peep Show, eat tons of meat, and of course, drink wine. Lots and lots of wine. And then when dinner was over, there was more wine left, so I decided to take it, and finish it back at camp before going to bed. It seemed like a good idea at the time, after all, I was on vacation.
Luckily everyone was moving slow the next day, because apparently when you travel long distances, then drink for half a day, the next morning can be a little rough. Head coach and SGT’s resident Canadian party animal Andrew Burns was the only one who seemed annoyed that it was about 11 am before we actually made it to the base of the gondola for what would be my first day riding. Me, I didn’t give a fuck cause I was on vacation (and hungover.)
Much like they feel about meat, they feel about sweets in Argentina. Here’s the morning spread at Tage, where we’d grab lunch every day.
It hadn’t snowed much, if at all, in the past few days, and the snow pack at Cerro Caterdal was abnormally low anyway, so I was informed we’d be hiking for the goods. After a gondola ride and a chairlift, my entire warm up run was about 50 yards of snowboarding before I unstrapped, received a quick crash course on avalanche safety and beacon use and then started walking upwards to Laguna.
The first hike is always the hardest, especially when you have office legs and no clue what you are doing. I was keeping a good pace until SGT’s resident mountain man Skylar Holgate caught up to me and basically told me I’d last about 1/4 of a hike if I tried to keep up with SGT’s resident hardcore badass dude Chris Coulter as he was “a mad man.”
Coulter and Skylar were hiking further to do some sweet slash which I did not get the shot of. I dropped in from here.
“The trick to lasting all day is to go at your own pace,” he explained. “Take rest steps and don’t try and keep up. If your quads are burning, you’re walking too fast.”
I took that to mean I could take my sweet ass time, and I did, eventually making it to the top of lower Laguna about a half hour later with heavy breath, but enough energy to make it back down, and maybe even back up again.
Visibility could have been better, but the Laguna bowl offered just about any pitch, feature or line you could possibly want, and thanks to the heavy wind, they were all blown in with untouched snow. I don’t really know how much detail you’ll need to believe me, but the fact that I willingly hiked back up to do another run should say enough.
The exit from Laguna some of the coolest looking trees around.
After a few runs at the top, Burnsy, Skylar, Coulter and SGT’s resident badass babe Nicki Slechta asked if I was down for a tree run. My legs burning to the point I could barely hold a heelside edge I said, of course, I’m on vacation! What they didn’t tell me though, was that the run involved the “plank of justice” — a tree across a rocky creek you had to traverse to get to the bottom. With better snow, or more energy, I feel like this wouldn’t have been a problem, but when we rolled up on it and I look at the 10 or so feet I’d have to stay balanced, well, I didn’t even try not to fall in the river. Luckily I fell uphill, so it actually was not that bad, but nothing like falling into a hole in front of a bunch of people you just met to really make you feel cool! Thankfully, the coaches all assured me I was not the first, and would not be the last, and only laughed a little bit when I then proceeded to fall into another hole on the run-out of the trees. At this point it was a traverse (at times across mud) and then a matter of picking your way through the mud and rocks to the bottom of the resort. While we did have days where you could ride down, in general the coverage at the base of the hill was thin at best, I was informed mostly due to the fact Patagonia is directly under the hole in the ozone layer. Possibly true story.
One of the two holes I fell in this run.
After snowboarding at Cerro Cathedral, there are two real options: “Shopping”, the literal mall at the base of the resort where you could get food, coffee and drinks or Apres at Mute. Lucky for me this was a shopping day, because going straight to Fernet and coke would have been a bad idea, plus I still had a week to go…
Since this is the Internet and I know most of you stopped reading 500 words ago, I’m going to leave this riveting vacation tale here for now. If you’re that enthralled, go here to read part two and check out the video.
It’s really fucking beautiful up there. Photo: Ben Girardi
Timmy Tausig demonstrates what snowboarding should be like. Photo: Ben Girardi
Scott Kuchinski, tree freestylin. Photo: Ben Girardi
Randall Stacy, intern, avy survivor, boarder dude. Photo: Ben Girardi