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Summer Schooled: K2 Swarms Chile

Testing prototypes and intimate van rides at La Parva and Valle Nevado, Chile.
posted: 09/17/2008

“OK, something’s in my ass now,” said the editor of Powder. “Live with it,” said the editor at large from Freeskier. “There’s nothing you can do about it now,” said the biggest ski retailer in eastern North America. “I think it’s my ski boot,” said the editor of Skiing, and then restrained himself from inserting it a little further toward Mr. Powder’s colon.

This heavy, plastic colonoscopy came by itself honestly. Six men had piled into the back of a van after a 3,000-foot lap of Andean backcountry, each clutching a beer and using a ski glove as an anatomical coozy. And this specific assemblage of skiers in the van wouldn’t have gathered by itself. K2 designed it to happen, inviting a few key retailers and ski media whores to Valle Nevado, Chile, to discuss a few things, get our shred on, and test ski prototypes that won’t see shop walls until 2010.

It’ll be an interesting year for K2 and I’d love to tell you about it. The only hitch is that I’d get my ass sued off. The project is so top secret that the K2 brass had all of us sign a non-disclosure agreement that stopped short of using words like “testicles” and “glass shards.”

The project will be announced in several months and you’ll see for yourself. But here’s what I can tell you: We flogged the prototypes at an adjoining ski hill, La Parva, and did so in hardpack, crud, and powder. (If you haven’t heard of La Parva, you will. La Parva is negotiating with Mountain Sports International to host a big mountain comp in September 2009.) After skiing K2’s new line here, it was hard to blame the company for its secrecy: The prototypes ski very well.

This consensus was reached earlier in the week but it coalesced into something more tangible on the last lap—the final run of the trip. Twenty of us rode several lifts to another adjoining ski resort, a small hill called El Colorado, and promptly skied out of bounds. We aimed for a wide saddle that rolled over blind, then combed a huge bowl from ear to ear and re-grouped above a cliff band. Those who’d been here before and watched a snowboarder cliff himself out advised us to trend right. Mike Gutt and Ben Wallace, ever the dutiful K2 employees, went straight. I went left. And what we got was some minor billygoating, some steeper lines wending around cliffs, and some creamy pow.

When all 20 emerged at the road, cold beer waited for us in a blue cooler jammed into the muddy spring snowbank on the side of the road, somewhere between the 55thth and 56th switchback. The van showed up, the back hatch opened, and we prepared to cram inside, and accidentally put our ski boots where we shouldn’t. As we loaded into the van, there was the requisite high-fivery and breaking down what just happened; the did-you-see-my-line?; the yes-I-saw-your-line-because-I-skied-it-too; the let’s-hit-that-again.

Listening to all the chatter and sucking down a cold Escudo on the road with a shit-eating grin was Anthony, the guy who ultimately oversees product development. Looking at his line, the skis he’d made, and the beer in his hand, he managed to distill the skiing, the day, and the week into six words.

“Chile,” he said, smiling. “I think I like Chile.”

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