Sick Days: Valle Nevado, Chile

Sick Days don’t mean down days. With crews and photographers scouring spots across the world for snow, we only have so much room in print for the photos. As the warm season draws upon us, we have asked our senior photogs and editors to go through hard drives and share some of their favorite sessions that highlight the uncanny ability of the riders and the sessions that never saw the light of day.

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words and photos: Mary Walsh

It’s always pretty crazy when you are halfway across the world in another country and you run into friends. It’s one of the coolest things about snowboarding, and while it isn’t that ridiculous, considering how as snowboarders, we flock to the mountain ranges that have accumulated recent snow, it still blows my mind every time it happens. In early August last year, Christine Savage and I headed down to Chile a few days before we were planning to meet a crew of ladies for a Beyond the Boundaries x Steep-n-Deep trip. When we landed in Santiago, Christine got word from Burton’s Mark Bradsell that he was staying up at Valle Nevado with BC Burton Area Manager, Stephen Hare–and that a storm was about to roll in. Valle is one of our favorite places to ride, and we hadn’t hit it with fresh snow before, so we were stoked.

Stephen Hare calls the mountains of Eastern BC home, so he’s no stranger to kicking up clouds.

We had semi-blindly secured a rental car from the Santiago Airport–one of the city’s standard issue red pick up trucks. We had to stop at a cutty-looking building with a bunch of guys hanging out in front of it to rent chains to get up the winding mountain road to Valle, which sits at about 10,000 feet above sea level at the top of about 30-something switchbacks. After a stilted conversation in which Christine and I exhausted our elementary-grade Spanish and I was forced to hand over an old Victoria’s Secret credit card as collateral (negotiated down from letting the guys keep my passport), we threw the chains in the back of the truck and headed into the mountains.

The lap takes you back toward the village at Valle, which is perched on a diving board of land among the Andes giants.

When we arrived at Valle, it was already snowing and we were met with more familiar faces. Mikey Rencz and Mark Sollors had come down to the Andes and made a beeline to Valle to get a few laps in before heading out on sleds. That night, as the snow piled up around us, we met up with Bradsell and Daniel “Poroto” Avdaloff, a talented snowboarder and industry veteran who grew up riding the mountains of Chile and spent off seasons clocking turns in the US for years while also working for Burton. We checked into Chile officially with a round of Pisco Sours and settled in early in anticipation of an August powder day.

Rencz, going full winter mode in the middle of August.

The next morning, we lucked out and the clouds started to break as soon as we got on hill. Valle Nevado is all above treeline, so laid out in front of us were long powder fields, shallow gullies lined with sidehits, and plentiful windlips, just waiting to be slashed. Poroto led our crew to some of the best stashes the mountain has to offer and we dropped one-after-another, our first summertime turns in the Southern Hemi some of the best of the year. We rode until the clouds moved back in for part two of the multi-day storm, but by that time, we were ready for empanadas and piscos. Viva Chile!

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