Riding powder in the summer with SGT Argentina

PHOTOS: Ben Giradi

Words: Hondo

We know what you’re thinking… How the hell can you ride powder in the summer? Well thankfully for you, this earth we live on has two hemispheres. So that means when it’s summer in one area, it’s winter down below in the other. So during the months of June-September/October you can go boarding on real winter conditions down south in places like Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia. One awesome place you can go is SGT Argentina. It’s a summer camp kind of. You could also call it a winter camp, becasue it takes place during the full blown Argentine winter. We sat down with Travis Moore, Skyler Holgate, who’s their head guide ( and also the head guide over at Silverton, Colorado in the winter) and Andrew Burns, their head coach (Who’s also a notorious Whistler backcountry and Alaska shredder and Capita rider) to get the deal on SGT Argentina.

Andrew Burns boosting on a hip that he, and a bunch of SGT campers built. PHOTO: Ben Girardi

There are a lot of other places to go snowboarding in the summer. Why should someone come on down to SGT Argentina and ride with you guys?

Travis Moore: Well what separates SGT Argentina apart from other places is the fact that we operate in the heart of summer and have full blown winter conditions. We're in the Patagonia of Bariloche, Argentina. You can come ride with us from July 27 - September 7. We feel like that's the equivalent of riding in February or March in North America. At SGT Argentina we do the whole program. We're backcountry freestyle riding, to backcountry awareness, to full-blown cultural immersion, we're talking the Spanish language, the food, everything. We guide every day. We're up there on the mountain from 9-5, fully guided each day. We offer everything from a 8-day program to a 15-day program, to even more if you want it. SGT Argentina is really focused on how to travel safely in the backcountry.

Ryan Cruze ripping a slash in some Argentine pow. PHOTO: Ben Girardi

You mentioned that there's backcountry instruction, what exactly do you guys mean by that?

Skylar Holgate: We offer AIARE level one, and AIARE level two avy classes. We also do a CPR class, construction of a split boarding class, as well as just techniques of touring through the mountain. We try to take it one step further than just an AIARE level one class though. That class is usually taught in a classroom, in front of a power point, learning the lingo, and kind just teaches you steps of making decisions in the backcounty, and then you get a day in the field. Those classes, depending on where you are, will have a mixed bag of different people in them. They will be ranging from snowmobiler’s, to snowshoe-ers, to you name it. We're unique because we get strictly people that are here to snowboard, and that class, instead of being in front of a power point, is stretched out for their whole stay. People are here for a week, two weeks, sometimes even a month. So that class gets stretched out for the entire time that they're here, and it's all taught on snow, with hands on learning. If you come and ride with us you’ll learn how to make different decisions on where you're going, how you're going to get there, and in different weather. We're down here in the Andes, the second largest mountain range in the world. We have all different kinds of terrain from high alpine, to trees, and you name the type of weather that the Andres can, and will throw at you. You'll get to experience all different types of factors.

When you come to SGT you will get an avalanche 101 lesson. That's your beacon drills, you’ll talk about terrain and changing snow conditions, and how to read those signs. If you want the piece of paper that says you've completed those classes, you have to sign up and pay more. But everyone who comes to camp has to go through the Avalanche 101 because we're out there in the backcountry every day. Everyone who comes gets a beacon, a shovel, a probe, and we're out there. Day one we do our orientation, of like this is where you eat, sleep, that kind of thing, but our main things are like fishing drills with Chris Coulter:  It's not just like this is how I turn the beacon on and off. It's full on scenarios.

Chris Coulter knows it’s not always about the easy road. Sometimes you have to hike to the goods. PHOTO: Ben Girardi

What can you tell us about the type of coaching you guys do? Because after all SGT is a camp.

Andrew Burns: The thing about SGT, like our whole aura 24/7, is we're all like a super tight unit. We're a family; we're all really good friends that have worked together in and outside of Argentina. Basically our priority is just to help everyone have an amazing time. There's definitely people like Skyler and Coulter who go out and get a bit more adventurous. I'm more freestyle oriented, but we just work our way outwards. For example if it’s one of those mornings where there's three-feet of new snow, the whole camp is just slaughtering snow on the mountain. As the snow gets older, less deep, we work our way out. For instance I'll be building jumps, Coulter will be leading a group to lines off the back, we pretty much just try to hit everything.

The thing is with the coaching, some people come just for like a guided shred program, but some kids come and really want to learn more about filming in the backcountry, or doing more tricks in the backcountry. So we work with every range out here.

What you didn’t think they had a park? Oh no, with SGT Argentina you get it all. Chase Josey with a proper plant. PHOTO: Ben Girardi

Skylar Holgate: That kind of goes back to our education stuff. When we started out 10 years ago we were more freestyle oriented, but our program has developed over the years to now we're getting a mixed bag of people. Our mission statement now is 'opening the eyes.' Like if contest kids show up and all they know are jumps and rails and riding the park, and then they have this mentality like oh, I've got to beat Shaun to become a pro snowboarder. But then they come out here, and it's just one big family. So people learn, and they see how everything works. They go out and build backcountry jumps and work with photographers. Or if they want to become a photographer, or a guide, all these different aspects of the industry are put right in their face.

 Make sure you check out SGT Argentina online!