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8 Tips for Skiing in Chile: Don't Be a Jackass

A pro's guide to the Southern Hemisphere.
posted: 07/16/2012

If you followed our Eye of the Condor coverage, you know that Chile is full of pow, spiny mountains, meat, and pisco.

Short-term memory is a skier’s greatest asset, and the initial snowy reports from South America have done wonders to placate any lingering bad memories from last season’s dismal snowpack. Our online editor is especially giddy since he’s heading south in July to La Parva, Chile, for the Eye of the Condor Competition. But the countless photos of Andean lanscapes blanketed in the white we missed so dearly in the Northern Hemisphere brought up another question. If you’re going to ski Chile, how do you avoid acting like a jackass?

To answer that, we tapped Donny Roth, the owner and lead guide of Chile Powder Adventures. Roth has spent every summer since 2004 traveling, skiing, and guiding clients around Chile including a stint as an athlete and guide for the Sweetgrass Productions crew during the filming of their South American ski epic, Solitare. He knows how to do it right.

This is the second part of a two-part series. For part one click HERE.

5. Equip Yourself

Under no circumstances should you assume you’ll casually pick up something once in Chile. Have your gear sorted and dialed before you depart the States. Mountain gear is extremely expensive, difficult to find, and repair will be makeshift at best. If find yourself in a pinch, your best option is La Cumbre, a specialty shop in Santiago staffed by folks that love the mountains and generally speak English well. Patagonia also has a store in Santiago just expect to pay 50 percent above US retail prices. In the suburbs of Santiago, Mall Sport offers a collection of outdoor stores, from skateboarding to skiing. If you don’t find what you need, you can at least surf on their artificial wave, which is pretty fun.

6. The Gear Goldrush

The combination of a small market, poor distribution channels, and heavy taxes make ski equipment and mountain gear very expensive in all of South America. Locals may approach you about buying your gear.  Jackets, skis, bindings, and boots can be of particular value. I know some pro athletes that essentially fund their trip by returning to the States with just the clothes on their back. I typically throw a couple older jackets into my luggage to sell to help cover some of the baggage fees, etc. I also make sure to have a couple pieces that I don’t mind giving away to the people that happen to help along my journey, like someone who picks me up while hitchhiking or shows me a particularly special restaurant. Give someone a pair of goggles, and you’ll be a hero. 

7. Chilean Slang

Chilean is a terrible form of Spanish. The culture is wonderful, but the language is the equivalent of English in the Bayou. Chileans speak quickly and use a ton of slang. Here are a couple tips.  If the word ends in “s” they will drop it. The word “po” will be added often. It is short for “por supuesto,”meaning “of course.” Do you want another beer?  “Sí po!” (Yes, of course!) “Juevon” is a derivative of juevos, which means eggs.  “Juevon!” essentially means big eggs, referring of course to, well… The point is that all Chileans will use it. It essentially means, “dude.” Taxi drivers, lift attendants, and bartenders will get a kick out of you using it; waitresses, grandmothers, and the girl you’re trying to make out with will not.

8. Getting Attention

Chile is a relatively safe place, possibly the safest country in South America. But crime is not unheard of.  The key to avoiding trouble is to not stand out too much. Chile is a conservative nation. You will notice that during the winter, most people dress in black, brown, and grey tones. That bright, new FlyLow jacket my help you land a cover shot, but nothing good will come of it in a city. Looking like a Skittle is essentially a mating call for some kid scoping the scene for an iPhone to swipe.

Looking to meet a nice Chilena? Cute and sweet goes further than cool. Be nice, try to learn some Spanish, and be patient—she’s gonna keep you at second base for your whole trip anyway.

Want an easy way to log a few laps in Chilean powder? Let Donny Roth take you there. He specializes in backcountry touring trips throughout Chile and currently has space available on his Classic Volcanos Tour. Climb and ski three classic Chilean volcanos in mid-September? Sign us up.

More information available at Chile Powder Adventures.com.

 

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