(TransWorld is fixing to head down to Argentina this week with a crew of snowboarders and cameras ready to catch the action, we caught up with Desiree Baldwin who’s been vacationing down there this past week to check out the conditions. She gave us this report.)
It’s my sixth day in Las Lenas, Argentina and I’m sitting in my room at Hotel Pisces watching some kind of Argentine version of Dancing With The Stars called Al Ritmo Del Cuarteto. It’s blowing snow like mad and there’s a crazy white wind tunnel outside my window for the fifth day in a row. Even though I’ve been braving the elements the past week to make the most of my short trip to what I’ve always heard to be the best snowboard destination in South America, today the mountain is closed except for the lowest poma lift on the bunny slope. That just isn’t enough to motivate me into the morning ritual of putting on the twelve layers it takes to keep me warm here in this isolated Andean resort, where I’ve discovered that rubbing chap stick all over my face is the best way to protect myself from even more windburn in these harsh weather conditions.
I keep asking locals if this is the great Santa Rosa snowstorm that generally hits the Andes in late August and early September. No one seems to think this storm is anything out of the ordinary, so as I sit here in my hotel room getting my shovel ready to dig myself out if the snow never stops, I’m also trying to pretend this great typhoon tsunami of winter storminess is just no big thing either.
Despite the current white out, I really lucked out my first day of riding in Las Lenas. The world famous off-piste runs are just steps off the top of the Marte chairlift and they are the reason snowboarders travel across the globe to ride here. The steep and rocky terrain off of Marte has been accessible a total of two hours since I first arrived. I was one of the few gringos to hit the lift at the perfect time during a break in the weather and drop into the classic Eduardo’s Couloir. I was not so lucky that the lift stopped at least fifteen times on the frigid ride up because of 40 mph wind gusts shooting down the steep chute where the lift is wedged.
Since then, I’ve resigned to exploring the lower mountain because of harsh weather conditions and closed lifts. Even on the lower mountain, there’s a surprising amount of terrain. Taking advantage of the steep runs off the Carris and Volcano chairs as well as the never-ending poma lift T-bar things that go in a million directions, I haven’t been able to see more than a couple turns ahead because of zero visibility, but I’ve had non-stop powder since I arrived and more face shots than the past two seasons combined.
The power just went off in my hotel room and all I can hear are the loud wind gusts picking up speed and swirling around my hotel. Hotel Pisces is the largest of the handful of hotels that make up Las Lenas and has a pretty swanky scene for being out in the middle of nowhere. Even this massive structure is vulnerable to the giant storms that whip into the Andes after picking up momentum off the coast of Chile. I guess this is why Las Lenas veterans always book a minimum of two to three week trips when visiting the resort. A big storm can last over a week, but as soon as it clears up and the Marte lift opens, riders can access some of the best terrain in the Southern Hemisphere. In the meantime, there are amazing steak dinners and all night parties at the Las Lenas discos to keep you busy.
Still, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for bluebird tomorrow and hoping I’ll get to take my scheduled heli trip in the Valle Hermosa off the backside of the resort. With the speed these storms travel in and out of Las Lenas, it’s highly possible that the weather could clear up by morning. It’s also highly possible that this is the great Santa Rosa storm of the century and I’ll be spending my last day in Las Lenas with the Argentine mafia family that has taken over the hootel pool. Either way, traveling to Argentina for a little summer shredding has been an adventure to say the least. My run down the steep chutes of Eduardo’s, 5 million powder turns, and all of the people I’ve met who are also braving out the storm have made it well worth the trip.