San Carlos de Bariloche, Catedral
Patrulla Invierno 2017.
I am spending my summer in Argentina working for the Ski Patrol. My son Brennen and I arrived here on July 5th. We began travelling on the 4th from Denver, Colorado, the United States’ Independence Day. When we arrived in Bariloche we were greeted at the airport by two warm, familiar faces, as these two Patrulla had participated in the same exchange which I am now representing. The Ski Patrol, with the backing of the company Catedral, has put us up in a nice two bedroom apartment about half way between central downtown and the ski area. The team is a variety of strong personalities cut from a similar cloth, hence our career choice. They are already reminiscent of colleagues that I have enjoyed working with in other parts of the world. We are inherently all brothers and sisters in this profession no matter which flag hangs above us.
Here they work six days a week, about ten to eleven hours a day. Even though it’s only a three month season, many folks will pick up the longer winter north of the equator somewhere. It is a long double season in the ski boots, so I think this will be my only year to double down. The work is standard patrol duties. The equipment and protocols are a little outdated, mostly due to poor funding.They use many nets and pop-fences to try to prevent the clientele from tumbling into rocks, creeks, buildings and other fixtures. This requires constant maintenance, as the Patagonia winds blow strong and relentless. The patrol is structured like my home mountain Snowmass with four stations and teams, four team leaders (rotating every two weeks), a director and an assistant director. The ski area falls from a ridge which runs north and south offering many chutes and bowls from its highpoint and dropping vertically via several drainages to treeline and down onto a bamboo forest at the valley floor. Etched in are groomed roads and cat tracks leading to the lifts and ultimately down to the base village. I was fortunate to catch a rare snowy winter and enjoy atypical skiing to the base. Powder days are amazing, like anywhere; when they get a big snow, there is much terrain to enjoy with these conditions. There is also some easy access side country on neighboring ridges, as well as an eternity of backcountry, and a refuge for overnight trips. On a powder day the locals get after it and tracks are laid in every possible line.
It is a maritime climate so the snowpack hazard is normally associated with storms. The avalanche control program is young – only four years in practice. It requires a 4 AM start. It is dark and windy, with some form of precipitation, and we ride a snowcat to the summit, hike out to the ridge tops and place a match lit charge in the same predetermined location and observe for results. This was my experience the few times I assisted with the P.I.D.A., as it is referred to here. The program seems to meet the needs, and I think it may evolve with time.
The mountain employees are open and welcoming, we have enjoyed amazing meals and gracious hospitality. Brennen has also had a positive experience here skiing, meeting new friends and attending a local charter school. We both feel like a part of the community and have developed strong bonds with the folks that are in our daily lives. We have both enjoyed working and playing down here where South is North and West is on the right, from the culture of town to the views from the mountain. We will always remember looking out over the lake, beyond to the volcanoes and glaciers in the distance and up to the Southern cross at night.
I have now participated in both ski patrol exchanges, and value greatly my friends in Chamonix and in Bariloche. I feel blessed to belong to a program that is creating long lasting relationships. I am grateful to Aspen Sister Cities, Aspen Schools, Aspen Skiing Company, Catedral Alta Patagonia S.A., The Woodville School, Compagmie du Mont Blanc and L’ecole de Chamonix for supporting this growing international community.