If my Pisco hangover was any worse and the Chilean wind any stronger as it slapped my face, I would not have been able to comprehend why all these skiers and snowboarders were climbing towards what is obviously the crater of an active volcano. But luckily, I was adept at weathering all elements at this point in my two-month trip to Chile. I reminded myself: This is an adventure.
The adventure of packing up in the middle of summer to go skiing is already pretty ridiculous, but if adding the element of an active volcano sounds fun, then Avalancha en el Volcán is something that might be for you.
But you don't have to be hungover or wind-weary to find the concept of this race mildly intriguing. Now in its third year, Avalancha en el Volcán is an individually-timed race from the smoking, belching crater of 9,341 foot Villarrica volcano. More than just an opportunity to race balls-to-the-wall down perfect corn snow (and sometimes not-so-perfect corn snow), it is quickly evolving into a celebration of the southern hemisphere’s winter season.
The concept of the race is simple and fun. Participants climb in a guided, untimed group to the summit of Villarrica and then pass through mandatory flagged areas on the descent, crossing the finish line more than 3,000 feet below at the SkiPucón Cafeteria.
Avalancha en el Volcán is open to all skiers and snowboarders. The cost of registration includes a lift ticket, crampons, ice axe, a race bib, and the guided group ascent up Villarrica. The event also features Chilean-style asados (barbecues), an evening of backcountry ski films, and an avalanche safety workshop taught by the South American Beacon Project—a nonprofit dedicated to bringing avalanche education and equipment to Chile and Argentina. The best weather day for summiting the volcano is selected between the three days of the event (September 13-16, 2013) and the other elements keep Avalancha participants busy in Pucón.
Upon reaching the crater, I am amazed to be staring into what is literally a deep abyss. The stink of sulfur and heat issuing from the depths of the volcano add to the feeling of electric energy in the air. I look around and people are high-fiving, scraping wax off their skis, and snapping photos. Smiles are everywhere. A huge cheer erupts and the race is ready to start.
I was the sixth person to drop and by the time I crossed the finish line, something like 7 minutes later, it felt like my quads were going to burst through my ski pants. I was exhilarated. I stared back up at the summit and then followed the microscopic dots as they meandered down the massive volcano and eventually crossed the finish line—everyone panting. While everyone was obviously thinking about racing the clock, I could see that the true bragging right of this event was about being a part of the skiing and snowboarding community: uniting people who all share a passion for snow, regardless of where they come from—and whether or not they’re nursing a Pisco hangover.
ONLINE REGISTRATION: http://avalanchaenelvolcan.wordpress.com/registration-pucon/
Dates: September 13-16, 2013
Cost: $40,000 CHP for 2011 Competitors; $50,000 CHP for 2012 Competitors; $60,000 CHP for New Competitors
Includes: Transportation to/from Pucón, 1 Lift Ticket (day of event, only), Crampon rentals, Guided ascent of Volcano, Race Bib
Competitors are required to provide their own ski and snowboard equipment, and must be advanced or expert level riders to compete. English registration available soon.