Springtime temperatures and a well-groomed, south-facing slope saw Switzerland’s Gilles Jaquet and Austrian Doris Guenther win Friday’s Parallel Giant Slalom in Valle Nevado, Chile. Top U.S. finishers were Vermont’s Eric Warren in fourth, and Lisa Kosglow, who came out third in the women’s event.

Somehow the plan of “no plan” usually gets you where you need to go. With a passport and LanChile confirmation number in hand, TransWorld set off to shred the Southern Hemisphere mountains of Chile. After escaping the near-riot atmosphere of a September eleventh Santiago (9/11 is a day of political protests surrounding unanswered questions from the Pinochet dictatorship that ended in the late 80s), Annie Fast and I rallied up the nail-biting switchbacks to Valle Nevado-just an hour and a half outside the city.

By noon, we were strapped for the first time since Hood, and making our way to the Parallel Giant Slalom course for the FIS World Cup season opener. We hadn’t seen anyone in a speed suit since the Olympics, either, but the dark-horse powerhouses of snowboarding were in full force.

Nerves are frayed in any contest, but in the parallel format riders are pitted directly against each other and have to “knock each other out.” There are two mirror-image courses, and racers take one timed run on each, earning advantages or differentials over their rival. A day of racing might include ten burning runs to make it to the podium. How’s that for some shreducation?

Snowfall earlier in the week made the race possible (the snowboardcross event was cancelled), and the course held up throughout the day.

Canadian Jasey Jay Anderson dueled Eric Warren for third and fourth place after both lost in the semi-final round. In the battle for first and second were Gilles Jaquet-a perennial name on the racing circuit-and Austrian Lukas Gruener. Jaquet nudged Gruener for the win.

Another Austrian, Doris Guenther (Doris Guenther and Doris Krings are both top Austrian Alpine riders) made her countrymen proud, handling the women’s field nicely. We’re hooking up with Doris later in the week for a sort of Austrian Women’s Alpine team photo shoot-it’ll be on the Web site to check out.

The race over, we settled into our borrowed digs, a plush condo care of some friends and overlooking the valley. In the distance, Santiago glows orange even after sunset. A Chilean-style dinner with the U.S. Team and a club filled with happy Austrian blondes capped the night. Tomorrow is pipe day; we’ll be back to fill you in.

Yo, LanChile, thanks for a smooth flight down, the great meals, and that computer checkers game.