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Argentina’s Ski Season Off to a Volcanic Start

  
  
  

The headlines make it sound pretty grim:
“Chile volcano ruins Argentina ski season”

A National Geographic photo collection shows the apocalyptic scenes following the June 5 eruption of the Puyehe volcano.

At Cerro Bayo, a ski area near Bariloche, a meter of ash was reported - ash skiing anyone? 

The photos make it look pretty hopeless - grey, ash covered streets where pristine winter whiteness should be.  Some ski areas have delayed opening indefinitely.  

This YouTube clip shows a woman walking out of a café in Bariloche, one of the most famous ski areas in the southern hemisphere, into a blizzard of ash.  She says: “I thought it was snow, but it appears to be some kind of sand storm.  It’s four in the afternoon and it’s pretty much pitch black.”



The Epicski blogs hold depressing questions like: “Anybody have news on how much ash is being dumped on Las Lenas or Bariloche?  I fear this season could be a bust. :(  Can you ski Vancouver in July or August?“

Others are more optimistic, with skiers posting hopeful comments about the cloud-seeding effects of ash in the atmosphere and anecdotal evidence of big ski seasons following big volcanic eruptions – but nobody knows.

south america-volcano-hiking

However, in this era of real-time on-location reporting from anyone with a camera and an internet connection, things are often worst than they appear.  Las Leñas web cams show a perfectly white ski area.  The slopes look a little bony in early season, but there is no sign of ash.  The Cerro Catedral webcam, trained on the upper slopes of the resort above Bariloche, one of the worst ash hit areas, shows slopes that are covered with white goodness, albeit not enough to ski on just yet.

It is perhaps a stroke of luck for the Argentine ski industry that they have not yet received much snowfall this season so the ash fell on dry ground in many places rather than on the snow.  Had the volcano erupted six weeks later, after the snowpack was in place, the ski season might have been truly ruined.  My best guess is that new snow will fall over the ash and within a few big storms even the worst hit ski areas should be up and running.

Any CMH heliskiers on a ski trip in South America who can share more firsthand information?

Comments

Great post, How are things for Skiing in Argentina now?
Posted @ Thursday, July 14, 2011 11:53 AM by Ibrahim from Total Heliski
Cerro Catedral, at Bariloche, is open but only running 2 of 39 lifts. With storms, the season should be on - but probably not quite ski conditions like Interior British Columbia in December!
Posted @ Thursday, July 14, 2011 2:26 PM by Topher Donahue
The latest I have heard is that the airports in Bariloche, San Martin de Los Andes, Neuquen and even Santa Rosa, La Pampa are closed.  You can get to the lakes district by flying to Esquel, where you can ski at La Hoya or take free 4 hour bus to Bariloche.  The only other option I can think of is to take a bus from BA, which is long but surprisingly comfortable. 
As far as Mendoza area resorts, Las Leñas is open, but does not appear to have a lot of snow.  Typical of that resort, there is no snow report or lift ticket price info on their website.  
I would fly into Mendoza via Santiago (and thus avoid the immigration fee if you are from the US, Canada or Australia ) and then you have the option of skiing Mendoza or the Chilean resorts.  To get to the Lakes District resorts it is a bit of a bus trip, but might be worth it. 
Caviahue seems to have the most snow, but I have never skied there so I cannot comment on the terrain. 
For more information: Update on Ski Conditions in Argentina
Posted @ Thursday, July 21, 2011 3:06 PM by ian stone
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