Last August was my second trip to Chile and frankly one that I just could not stay away from. I have a hard time differentiating between my first and second trips there and a hard time remembering when exactly I came to specific realizations along the way. I do know that collectively, these trips changed my life and gave me the confidence to pursue a life as a skier.
Before our wedding last summer, JJ and I decided we were FINALLY going to take a beach vacation together. It seems every chance we get we're chasing winter so we thought we'd look for a bit of a change of scenery. As August drew closer and our friends were making posts about heading down to Chile, I started to feel as though this was something he had to experience (a thin veil over the fact that I just couldn't stay away).
So we left a little sooner than we had planned and before heading to surf in Nicaragua, we made a quick little, 10-day, excursion down to Santiago and up into the mountains at Farellones for the Chilean Freeskiing Championships.
Since technically we were there to compete, we did the necessary trek over to inspect the venue and picked out a few skiable lines. That venue was harsh! I've learned my lesson about shallow, rocky landings so being the savvy snow-nerd (snerd) I've become, I thought I'd do a little handshear and check out the snowpack. Everyone just loves that feeling of encountering rock at 60cm depth. Haha - maybe surfing wasn't such a bad choice after all!
By this time I had grown accustomed to the idea that competition often happens in bizarre, less-than-ideal snow conditions…and if you are a good skier you are going to make it look heavenly regardless of the fact that there was more rock out there than snow. And we all just love it when that happens ;)
With a few days left before day 1 of the competition we had some time to sit around and pray for snow. Naturally, we prepared that evening by partying like rockstars until 5 am with the GoPro team at a local pub. It may have been our combined enthusiasm pouring good vibes out into the skies or the 3am, probably-made-up-on-the-spot snow chant led by none other than Travis Rice, but after at least 2 hours sleep we arose to about 45 cm of fresh, light pow!
Thankfully the competition venue looked like an entirely different world! Santa Tere is a permanently closed zone between the El Colorado ski area and the road that wraps around the mountain to Valle Nevado. There were no tracks and it was all for us!
This competition was my first ever visual-only inspection, which meant that the athletes weren't allowed on the face and we had to choose our lines by overlooking the venue from an adjacent run. Visual-only inspection makes it harder to choose an appropriate line (with fluid entrances and steep landings with deep snow) but it also makes for untouched snow and a better show (and more fun for the athletes). Also, being on the venue for a physical inspection means that you can identify landmarks and know in advance what the entrances to different features look like…that way you can visualize your line and feel comfortable that you are going in the right direction on competition day.
I'd love to say that I had the run of my life on day one…but I used the wrong entrance and missed every single feature I had intended to hit. Ultimately, I skied a fluid but very underwhelming line culminating in a kick-turn and small air at the bottom…not exactly representative of my style but I squeezed through to day two (for the first time!) based on raw technique and style (since I sure didn't rack up any points on features). Wahoo!
The amazing part of a less-than-desirable day one performance was that I was lined up to be first out of the start gate on a brand new and really exciting-looking day two venue (also full of untouched pow)! That meant that all of my landings were guaranteed to be untouched. And considering I was already at the back of the pack there was really no pressure of losing my position! I felt better than I'd ever felt in the start gate! Plus, I had lined up some of the bigger features I have ever hit and the conditions were perfect!
I had a really fun day two. Mind you, I did get a little aggressive in my line choice. I figured it didn't matter how fast I went into my first larger air since the cliff itself was only around 15 feet but I sent it without hesitation and probably landed about 30+ feet from my take off. I wasn't expecting that…nor was I quite prepared for how flat the landing was. It was a little disappointing to see my 2 skis ski away on me like that when all I wanted to do was ski pow and I still had 1 big feature left to hit! This POV makes me laugh to this day:
In case you don't know…if you lose your gear on your run your run doesn't count so I could have finished better. I have to say that this was absolutely the best I've ever felt about a competition. I learned so much about myself and competition strategy and I got to ski in deep snow just like at home. It was an absolute blast. Then my honey skied better than I've seen him ski since his injury and I got to hang out and celebrate in the sun with my friends.
You learn so much about your abilities in these comps; mentally and physically. Some days you get the results you are looking for and other days you let distractions get the best of you. I'm still learning my way but I have learned a lot about where my focus lies, what my goals are and where I want to take my skiing. I'm consistently inspired by experiencing new things and seeing what my friends can do at these events. The Chillean Freeskiing Championships allowed everyone involved to experience how good skiing can be. It was a blast to be there to see so many of my friend's lives change! After my second trip, Chile will always have special place in my heart and I will always credit it as the place that made me realize I could be a skier.