By now, everyone has heard of the monster storm slamming into central Chile at this moment. Snow Forecast called for nineteen-feet to hit Valle Nevado, with only slightly smaller amounts for the surrounding resorts. With the predicted El Niño taking its time to produce typical results, this is the storm everyone has been waiting for.
What's it like to be in a storm that drops three-meters of snow over a couple days? It's pretty intense.
Disclosure: I am still in the U.S., so this is not a live report. I had clients booked for this coming week and should have been landing in Santiago this morning. But they cancelled because they weren't optimistic about the snow. You don't know unless you go. So, I admit, as this storm pounds the Andes while I am still in flip-flops, I am a little jealous and feel like I am missing out. And then I think about what is really transpiring right now.
To experience an Andean storm is truly special. I guess it would be like witnessing a hurricane pass through or a tsunami, maybe. Storms of this magnitude are unbelievably powerful. To feel the wind and watch the snow pile up is amazing. To see buildings buried and chairlifts destroyed is incredible. It is so far from that fairy-tale, snow globe, picture we get on holiday greeting cards. Should every skier experience it? Definitely.
That said, right now, every skier in the Andes is inside. No one is out skiing. The visibility will be zero and the avalanche hazard is off the charts extreme. With a storm that is forecast to go on for two or three days, cabin fevers starts to set in. The first night everyone parties like rock stars because they know they get a rest day the next day. After that, it's just a waiting game, with everyone anticipating the clearing. It requires a ton of patience.
What will it be like to ski in nineteen-feet of powder? This is the real question. Occasionally, it is actually deep. This storm looks like it might work out that way. Most of the time there is so much wind involved that it doesn't ski that deep. It's still awesome, and it's fantastic that the rocks get covered, but it's not like snorkel deep pow. This is when the heli-skiers really get the best conditions. They can fly to the elevation band and aspects that are just right.
It will be fun to watch this storm play out. I know all my friends in the northern and central mountains are so excited, as it's been too long since they've seen a storm like this. I am very happy for the folks at Portillo who desperately needed snow and some good news. It's hard to miss out on this classic event. At the same time, it's nice to not go stir crazy while waiting it out. I will be there in a week, which will actually be perfect timing for my coming adventures. I'll be in Chile for ten-weeks this year and it looks like it will be an awesome season.
As I count the days until I leave, I am constantly telling myself to be patient. This is so appropriate as any good adventure in the Andes will require plenty of it. Wait for it...