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Chile: Skiing, Hangovers, and Sunsets

Have you ever been to Chile? I would have said no to that question a few weeks ago, but now I can say yes with a big smile on my face as I look back on my time there. The notion of flying to Chile in the middle of the summer to ski began with an email chain between photographer Greg Von Doersten, Tim Durtchi, Matt Phillipi, TGR filmer Nick Kalisz, and me. It ended with a cold plunge into a lake half covered with ice and surrounded by the stunning snow-covered peaks of Portillo. The time between was perfect—full of laughter, pow shots, open bars, wetsuits, and unforgettable times.

Above photo: Greg VonDoersten

imageThe plan was set. The five of us were going to put together our best short video edit and seven photos from one week of skiing in La Parva. We were team TGR: united by the film company that we all love working for, and excited for another adventure together. My adventure began in Aspen at six in the morning, to be driven to Denver International Airport by a couple co-worker babes from The Cantina. Although we showed up at the airport with time to spare, we decided we should kill some together and enjoy an Einstein’s bagel before security. We became really nervous as soon as we got in that security line after the bagel, when we realized how long the line was. We parted ways as soon as we stepped through the metal detectors. I grabbed my belongings, didn’t take the time to put my belt on, bolted for my terminal, and barely made my flight.

During my five-hour layover in HOTlanta, I got out of the airport and made it to Turner field to watch my Colorado Rockies take on the Atlanta Braves. The Rockies got crushed. When I returned to my gate, I met the rest of my crew, and we immediately began making fun of each other over a few beers. Between GVD, Durtchi, and me, there was never a dull moment from there on out. GVD is a legendary photgrapher from Jackson Hole who is constantly throwing out classic quotes like, “Let’s get outta here dude, one of our guys got scorped by his own rig and the other one is dinged” or “Look at that, it’s just peeeeling bro—ohhhh, that guy just took one on the top of his head.” We call them Geev’isms within the TGR fam. And then there’s Tim. Tim…well…. Tim is an idiot savant.

image-2We touched down in Santiago on the morning of August 2nd and were quickly whisked away to the mountains in vans with the other teams. Upon our arrival to La Parva, we were greeted with pisco-sours, which is the drink of choice in Chile. It’s pretty similar to a margarita—frothy, delicious, and full of booze. Perfect! Over the next week we became better friends within our own team and with the other teams as well. We shared dinner together nearly every single night, we drank fine wine alongside plates full of Chilean food and pan (bread, pronounced paan). One night we had fondue followed by the best karaoke night of my life. Judge Sherry McConky and the host of the “Eye of the Condor” Rodrigo Mendez started it off. By the end of the night, Drew Tabke was walking around with a fish bowl of jungle juice and plenty of straws, and everyone was chugging it in between choruses of “Like a Virgin” and “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”

And yeah, the skiing was great, too. During the first few days we let the idiot savant just point at rocks and say, “Step up!” or “Rock stall!” or “Hip jump!” One feature in particular (the “Step up!”) had a landing that was just FULL of rocks. Not to mention the trajectory barely split two much larger rocks. I’m not going to lie; I was not convinced this was a good idea. But after a bit of complaining we went to work and built ourselves a sketchy little landing on one side of the rocks and a wedge on the other. Tim went first, and he was right … it worked out just fine. The next day the sun came out to play, so we spent a glorious day going up and down a pretty big couloir that Phillipi spotted. Man, it felt good to be back in mountains covered with snow. And then… snowed!

Photo Credit 1 - Greg VonDoersten

The night before the word was out: “It’s supposed to snow, so let’s check out the discoteca,” said everybody in unison.

When I peeled my eyes open the next morning, I expected to see nothing but the rest of my crew as hung over as I was, and no snow on the railing. I was wrong about the second part. There was already a lot of snow on the railing, and it just kept duuuuuumpin’! The little Chilean village on the hill was draped in a couple feet of new, soft, dense snow. We took the lifts to the top and skied back down through the village and found a couple of sketchy urban features, did some work, and made some sparks. Tim was on his touring bindings because he left his other pair of skis just sitting around, so someone took them and likely sold them on eBay. Ha!

Photo: Greg Von Doersten


Photo Credit 2 - Greg VonDoersten


The final day of the competition started off bluebird, and we did what all skiers do on bluebird pow days—we slashed some pow, jumped off some cliffs, and hiked up to McConkey’s (named after the late and great Shane).

Photo: Greg Von Doersten

We relished the inside of the sunset that evening. By inside, I mean inside the orange clouds.


 Photo: Greg Von Doersten

It was a great place to spend the last evening in what had been our home for the past week.

The rest is basically history. We spent a night with everyone in Santiago. We then rented a car and went surfing for a few days before everyone went home. At that point I was solo guy. Hitchhiking and taking buses with all my gear, I made it to my friend Anton Sponar’s cat skiing operation called Ski Arpa. I enjoyed an incredible day there with views stretching from Aconcagua all the way to the ocean. After a bit more hitchhiking, I finally made it to Portillo, a place with magic in the air. The mountains were bigger, rockier, steeper, and there was this perfect lake right in the middle of it all.


Next to that lake was a classic, very romantic ski lodge and inside, the vibes were great. I wished I had spent more time there. At the bottom of my final run, I disrobed and dove into the magical Chilean agua. Naked, the same way I did into Snowmass Lake the day before I left Aspen, 17 days prior. A perfect ending to a fantastic adventure.

If you like what you saw here, follow Colter’s life in pictures on Instagram: @colterjh


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