August 12, 2006

Sunshine and free skiing

This morning we had a reasonably late start, buses at 10 and 11 rather than 8.15. Today was a free skiing day, though we could meet with Ivan and Mercedes at lunch and ski with them in the afternoon if we wanted. As expected, it was snowing down at the hotel this morning but it had stopped by 10ish, though it remained cloudy.

The lake beside the hotel looked strangely enchanted this morning, what with the snow on the pier and the grey skies and snow.

MorningAtElRetorno.jpg

The roads to Cerro Catedral were reasonably clear this morning which meant that the snow chains weren't really necessary and just added noise and vibration to the journey. The chains on our van seem to be a bit of a Heath Robinson affair; like all the best things in the world they appear to be mostly held together with duct tape. Whilst this makes them interesting to look at it has the added effect of allowing bits of the chain to slap the sides of the van in a rhythmic, staccato fashion. During the journey we began to see snatches of blue sky and by the time we reached the base at Catedral we had sunshine and reasonably clear skies.

SunshineAtCatedralBase.jpg

Of course there was still some cloud, but as we rode up in the gondola we rose above most of it and we could see further than we had been able to for almost a week.

RisingAboveTheClouds.jpg

The visibility was good, the snow was great; much drier than the last time we skied and reasonably compacted. Mostly it was choppy, boot deep powder that occasionally went up to knee deep. This was ego snow compared to what we've been skiing recently and everyone had a great time blasting through the powder with the confidence that comes from being able to see and having been skiing in much harder conditions for days. Since today was a free skiing day we formed up into small groups and skied whatever and wherever we felt like. I finally started to feel that I knew how to navigate the mountain and I actually looked at a piste map at one point! It was a nice change from flying around the mountain at high speed following Tano or Ivan. Not having to think or try too hard was pleasant too and worked well as I relaxed into the skiing and just did what was needed...

We stopped for lunch at the usual place and the roof clearly demonstrated how the wind affects snow accumulation. Note the increased snow deposited on the leeward side of the ridge; the wind had been blowing from right to left in the picture below.

WindDepositOnTheLeewardSide.jpg

After lunch we skied down to Condor II and did a run down under the lift before heading across towards the off piste above the restaurant. Condor II had been dug out of the snow which rose up around the lift pylons and was almost higher than the first pylon and the thigh high metal fence was completely buried in places.

Condor2DugOut.jpg

After skiing back down to the sextuple chair we took the quad to the top.

TopOfTheWorld.jpg

We intended to ski down to the gondola and then head back up and do one final run down Amankay before finishing but in the end the run down to the base was hard work enough for us and we decided to call it a day. Neil, Joe and I all decided to put our skis in for a service tonight, mine are still running quite nicely but they look pretty dry in places and they picked up a few gouges and edge burrs last week before the snow arrived. Given a full service is only 30 pesos (£6) it seems rude not to.

The snow is expected to return tonight and last through until Tuesday, hopefully after that we'll have more days like today. The lower slopes are now in great shape and, if you pick your route carefully, it's possible to ski powder all the way down.

Today was a great day and seems to have really boosted the confidence of everyone I've spoken to. It certainly dealt with the slight confidence issues that I'd developed with my sequential falls in the heavy powder of a couple of dats ago. Tomorrow is a rest day, so I expect that means that tonight we'll party... It's a hard life, but I'm not expecting any sympathy... :)


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Posted by Len at August 12, 2006 06:01 PM | Categories: Argentina 06 , Argentina 06 - Photo Album , Argentina 06 - Ski Days
Comments

Very cool photos of the lake / snow. I really like your content.

Regards - Dave

Ski Colorado

Posted by: David at August 15, 2006 09:43 PM
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