Muchas Gassy-ass–Eighteen Days in South America.

Meet The Not-So Slim Shady.

Greg Hines firmly shook hands with Tina Dixon, Travis Parker, Jess Gibson, and me as he introduced himself at the Santiago, Chile Airport. He looked nervously around as he joked about the four gigantic duffel bags he was carting. “Hey Nate, carry one of these through customs for me,” he whispered.

“Hell no,” I replied.

Greg weaseled through the line, yelling out, “Oh yeah!” when he made it through unchecked by customs agents.

Gian Simmens arrived two hours later, giving Greg another chance to babble about what a great trip was in store for

us–beautiful women, the best hotels, insane terrain: “Dude, it’s gonna be the sickest trip ever.”

We had a three-hour bus ride from the airport to the mountain, and everyone was feeling a bit delirious. We couldn’t wait to get to the plush hotel in Valle Nevado. But wait, we’re not staying there? What happened? According to Greg, they overbooked. We found out later he’d canceled our reservations, trying to work the management for free rooms. We ended up having to cram nine board bags, nine duffel bags, and nine tired-ass people into a tiny, two-bedroom apartment. The apartment complex smelled of diesel fuel. I thought for sure we were going to be asphyxiated while we slept–no such luck. Darrin Cingel and photographer Eric Berger arrived the next day. Darrin thought he’d seen two dogs “playing” on the drive to the mountain, only to realize later one was eating the other.

Welcome To The Disco, Don’t Drink The Pisco

We got fresh tracks at the resorts of Valle Nevado and El Colorado, despite the fact it hadn’t snowed in five days. At 1:00 a.m., while Greg sold goods out of the apartment, the crew, along with Argentina’s number-one boardercrosser James Joffrey, hit up the disco. Pisco (a mixture of wine, gasoline, and rubbing alcohol) is the national drink of Chile; merely mentioning it causes panic in the locals. Despite the warnings, we ordered some.

By 3:00 a.m., Pisco Sours had us all in check, the place was packed, and we were feeling good. At one point we even thought we had game.

I have no style when it comes to salsa dancing, but somehow I met a very nice Chilean. It turned out she was an artist who created nude plaster casts of her body–hot damn! I stepped up to bat and thought I hit a homer. But right as I rounded second base, my stomach gave out and I had to settle for a triple. Damn bowels.

The following day we built a hip at El Colorado, and Darrin threw up three times while hiking it. We were at 14,000 feet in elevation and I attributed his discomfort to alkatude sickness.

After five days of this, we were worked. We hopped on a shuttle bus to the Santiago airport at 4:30 a.m. and tried to sleep as the driver blasted Heart’s “Barracuda” and Travis blasted ass.

Welcome To South America, Hurry Up And Wait

Brian Savard met us on the flight, and Greg told us two Argentinean beauties in Range Rovers were picking us up from the airport in Mendoza. When we arrived at the airport, no one was there. But hot chicks and SUVs … we could wait.

And wait we did. Six hours later, a Land Rover and a minivan showed up. Although both of the drivers had long hair, only one was a lady. The other was a dude named Roberto. Roberto wasn’t that hot, but he turned out to be cool. Four hours later, we arrived in the small resort town of Pucon at the Grand Hotel.

Fromunda Cheese

This hotel was sick–huge rooms and my first hot shower in a week. But it was raining in Pucon, so we left the next day. We headed across the Andes for another two-hour drive; we didn’t bother stopping for food, figuring we could wait.

The main road into Patagonia waclosed, so we had to take an alternative route. Four hours later, we reached the border of Chile and Argentina. There wasn’t a blank spot anywhere on Greg’s passport and the guard almost didn’t let him in. More driving, and our destination was nowhere in sight. We hadn’t passed a single store, and everyone was dying of hunger. Greg pulled this huge block of cheese out of a cooler and started digging into it like a beady-eyed rat. The cheese smelled like straight funk, and when asked where he’d gotten it, he said he’d stolen it from the buffet at the hotel. Ghetto-ass mofo. Everyone dug in.

After a total of eight hours, we arrived in San Martin de los Andes. It was still pouring rain, and we feared the mountain was getting soaked–the pessimists hit the disco. There were even hotter chicks here than in Chile, but none of us spoke Spanish. We went home emptyhanded at 4:00 a.m.

The next day was foggy and socked in, much like my brain, but we went to the hill anyway. An Argentinean version of Terje named Tincho guided us to the backside of Chapelco, where Savard found some good lines, and Travis and Darrin built a good kicker. As for Gian and Tina, they worked on their hockey-stop powder turns.

Everyone was stoked on our final day of riding at Chapelco, so we went to an Argentinean-style barbecue to celebrate. The meal turned out to be more of an inside sampler of sorts: grilled cow kidneys, intestines, blood sausage, and udder (yes, cow titty). Tincho wouldn’t even go near half the stuff, Darrin and I went for it and paid the ultimate price the following day.

We’re On A Road To Nowhere

There’s nothing quite like being stuck in a van full of people you hardly know for six hours, except maybe being stuck in one for seventeen hours. And that’s exactly how long it took us to drive from San Martin de los Andes to Las Leñas. We were told by the locals the drive we were about to embark on was the most beautiful in all of Argentina. To kill time, four of us opened a bottle of wine every hour, on the hour. Soon, the van ride didn’t seem all that bad. We were laughing, having fun, and Travis and I were sword fighting over a pretty Canadian girl who hitched a ride with us from San Martin. He won and proceeded to make out with her, sitting right next to me. Bastard.

The drive wore on us as we realized there was nothing beautiful about the sagebrush or the half-decomposed horse carcasses on the side of the road. Nine hours into the drive, depression set in–we were only halfway there. The paved road turned to dirt and the driver momentarily swerved off the road and drove through a creek. It began snowing, and our driver was stricken with panic. He began chain smoking and cranked up the Spanish evangelical station. The snow piled up around eight inches deep, the van had rear-wheel drive, and certain death via a two-thousand-foot deep valley lay on one side of the road, with falling rocks and avalanches on the other. This was around 2:00 a.m., and everyone was trying to sleep through this nightmare. I peered out the window into the moonlit valley below, pondering the chances of survival if we slid off the road. I conjured up scenes from the movie Alive and wondered how long I could survive before turning to cannibalism and having to decide which of my companions to eat first. Probably Tina, she takes the most showers.

Fear And Loathing In Las Leñas

Eighteen hours and several Hail Marys later, wine-soaked and exhausted, we climbed out of the van in Las Leñas. Sure, I felt disillusioned, but this resort looked off the hook: The terrain was incredible–powder, steep chutes, and huge windlips. The disco was out of control, and the women. Oh man, the women, don’t even get me started.

We ran into Andy Hetzel, Nate Cole, and Tom Burt, who had already been there seven days and looked super beat. They must have been having problems adjusting to the alkatude, too.

Only two weeks prior, Travis, Darrin, Brian, Gian, and sometimes Tina had been willing to session a kicker in the middle of a frickin’ blizzard, but now they opted for nights at the disco, and sleeping in ’til noon. Several of the riders completely blew off two semi-perfect bluebird days. I wish Hetzel had been with our team, ’cause he partied on my birthday, went to sleep at 2:00 a.m., and proceeded to win the Ballentine’s Boardercross event the next day. People at the scene said he passed out on the side of the course to kill time in between heats, waiting for someone to wake him up for his next run. Tina placed third in the women’s division.

We had become adjusted to life in South America: eating dinner at midnight, staying up ’til 3:00 a.m., and dealing with shady-ass people didn’t really bother us anymore. But then shit got crazy. Tina walked into her hotel room and found two maids trying on her bras, and someone stole a 100 dollars from Darrin’s room. But the icing on the cake was Brian coming down with some gnarly South American virus, and when he finally mustered up enough strength to get out of bed for dinner, some schmuck ransacked the room and stole his wallet, which held 450 dollars and all his credit cards. The hotel didn’t take us seriously when we brought up the issue, but how could they? Most of the employees stay at the discos until 6:00 a.m. and come into work at 8:00 a.m.

Ballentine’s threw a huge party on our last night in town, but my body couldn’t take anymore. Sure the thought of free drinks accompanied by tons of lavish-looking ladies in skintight shirts and jeans titillated my senses, but I was done.

D Day

The flight attendants are frozen with fear, the overhead storage doors have broken open–souvenirs and luggage are falling on my head. The plane bucks out of control, and people are tossed like a salad. I’m still buckled in, and the cabin is filling with a thick, black smoke. An oxygen mask dangles in my face–I grab for it, but the person next to me gets it first. My throat is burning, and I can barely find the strength to breathe. The plane’s wings clip the tops of pine trees, and the piercing screams of the passengers vanish, replaced by an eerie calm. There’s a light shining off in the distance, and I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of peace when I realize rescuers will find me and take my dead body back to my family, unless of course the soccer team sitting behind me eats it first. Mom, Dad, the ladies of Argentenia, I love you.

ad already been there seven days and looked super beat. They must have been having problems adjusting to the alkatude, too.

Only two weeks prior, Travis, Darrin, Brian, Gian, and sometimes Tina had been willing to session a kicker in the middle of a frickin’ blizzard, but now they opted for nights at the disco, and sleeping in ’til noon. Several of the riders completely blew off two semi-perfect bluebird days. I wish Hetzel had been with our team, ’cause he partied on my birthday, went to sleep at 2:00 a.m., and proceeded to win the Ballentine’s Boardercross event the next day. People at the scene said he passed out on the side of the course to kill time in between heats, waiting for someone to wake him up for his next run. Tina placed third in the women’s division.

We had become adjusted to life in South America: eating dinner at midnight, staying up ’til 3:00 a.m., and dealing with shady-ass people didn’t really bother us anymore. But then shit got crazy. Tina walked into her hotel room and found two maids trying on her bras, and someone stole a 100 dollars from Darrin’s room. But the icing on the cake was Brian coming down with some gnarly South American virus, and when he finally mustered up enough strength to get out of bed for dinner, some schmuck ransacked the room and stole his wallet, which held 450 dollars and all his credit cards. The hotel didn’t take us seriously when we brought up the issue, but how could they? Most of the employees stay at the discos until 6:00 a.m. and come into work at 8:00 a.m.

Ballentine’s threw a huge party on our last night in town, but my body couldn’t take anymore. Sure the thought of free drinks accompanied by tons of lavish-looking ladies in skintight shirts and jeans titillated my senses, but I was done.

D Day

The flight attendants are frozen with fear, the overhead storage doors have broken open–souvenirs and luggage are falling on my head. The plane bucks out of control, and people are tossed like a salad. I’m still buckled in, and the cabin is filling with a thick, black smoke. An oxygen mask dangles in my face–I grab for it, but the person next to me gets it first. My throat is burning, and I can barely find the strength to breathe. The plane’s wings clip the tops of pine trees, and the piercing screams of the passengers vanish, replaced by an eerie calm. There’s a light shining off in the distance, and I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of peace when I realize rescuers will find me and take my dead body back to my family, unless of course the soccer team sitting behind me eats it first. Mom, Dad, the ladies of Argentenia, I love you.