Usually I spend June through September hitting the beach and working on my tan. However, this past summer I was in South America, which unfortunately for me, was in smack dab in the middle of winter. This was a daunting thought at first. A self considered beach bum I could hardly imagine a summer without my toes in the sand let alone a summer without the awesome undone waves that define quintessential beach hair.
The one bright spot in my winter to winter itinerary was that I would have the chance to check one task of my travel bucket list. Summer skiing is something I have always wanted to do and something that winter in South America would allow me to accomplish. Before I even arrived in Bolivia my summer ski plans were on the books: Chile and the Andes Mountains, done.
Come September and my arrival into Santiago I was ready to hit the slopes. An hour up the the windy mountain roads and into the fog Cristian, Ellinor and I arrived at El Colorado, one of the three renowned ski resorts on the outskirts of the Chilean capital. In the heart of prime ski season I was ready to hit the slopes and go.
As I’ve learned from my travels and proved once again at El Colorado, even the best laid plans experience bumps in the road. Ours were less like bumps and more like moguls one would find on a double black diamond run. Though the mountain was supposed to be covered in snow through September and well into October, it had been unseasonably warm in the days leading up to our trip and El Colorado was covered with more dirt than powder.
To make things more interesting, the warm weather wasn’t the only snafu. Santiago is known for it’s breathtaking views of the Andes, views Cristian assured me were marvelous despite the fact that I never got to see them. As my luck would have it the day I arrived in Santiago so did an intense fog that blanketed the city in dense white mist. As we drove up the mountain it soon became clear the fog was encasing El Colorado as well. At a base altitude of close to 8000 feet (2430 meters) we were literally in the middle of a giant cloud.
On the lift up I couldn’t see anything and nor did the visibility improve on the run down. I chose what was supposed to be an easy green as my first trail and never in my life has skiing been more terrifying. I couldn’t see the tip of my skis in front of me let alone the curve of the slope or the other skiers next to me. The humidity the fog brought with it didn’t help matters either. The “snow” was more like slush, parting and turning into mud the second my skis glided over it.
In the end, my big summer ski day consisted of just two runs and I was on the slopes of El Colorado for less than an hour. All things considered, the day should have sucked. But honestly it was one of the highlights on my South American adventure.
The skiing wasn’t good at all, but that day I realized how lucky I was to even have the chance at skiing during my summer on another continent in an exotic corner of the world. Though the employees at El Colorado and I did not speak the same tongue, we spoke the same language of sport. My frustrations were the same as those of the Chileans and other tourists visiting El Colorado. The camaraderie on the slopes that day transcended any culture, ethnicity or religion.
That’s maybe the most important lesson one learns on the road. In the end, we’re all really the same. The disappointments and joys we experience are not unique to any one person they are collective. And even though I only got in two runs, I still skied in Chile in the summer. Cross that one off the bucket list.