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Ski Pirigallo Fingers, Termas de Chillan

Listed under Skiing in Biobío, Chile.

Photo of Ski Pirigallo Fingers, Termas de Chillan
Photo by flickr user _parzifal_
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Arriving at Termas de Chillan’s upper parking lot, tunnel vision sets in and one is immediately directed to the Pirigallo Fingers. In full display above the cafeteria, the ‘fingers’ beg to be tattooed with tracks. After a fresh Andean storm while riding the Don Otto chairlift one cannot avoid gazing at the chutes thinking; “those need to be tagged” and for first-timers “how do I get there”. Of course many think we are out of our minds, but I am willing to accept that criticism, those of you who “know” want to go.

In my snow junky delusional mind I usually feel the necessity to be the first party to put my mark on them. They are just too aesthetically tempting to not put your turn hieroglyphic on them first. Getting to the Fingers means passing by an abundance of enticing lines and requires a long traverse of Pirigallo Valley’s north face, which is certainly friendlier on skis. On intense sun filled days timing is critical when crossing this north face while other days lapping this terrain is the agenda.

After passing a series of granite spires riders reach the upper west face bench and are presented with 10 distinct fingers with steady 40+ degree pitches and complete with knuckles and other topographically pleasing variables. Time to put on a show for all those kicking back on the deck at Termas’ day lodge, drinking an Escudo and salivating on a beef shish kabob.

Envisioning standing on the backside of the hands just above the knuckles where the fingers roll over, one has an epic view of Pirigallo Valley’s wicked south face, the dense green Las Trancas valley, and the fumarole spewing, exposed mustard yellow and burnt orange stone shoulder separating Pirigallo from Valle Hermoso. The ‘pinky’ chutes offer the mellowest lines with no threat of sending yourself into a jagged rock, steam-venting fumerole. The index finger and thumb chutes offer the most invigorating descents but could become ugly if one took a non-stopping tumble into the fumaroles below. My finger fetish is strong and choosing which digit I want to ski usually absorbs my attention throughout the entire approach. Each phalange chute has its distinctive features, including aspect, steepness, terrain variety, snow quality, and length and I cannot definitively say my favorite. Once through the fingers, the right hand flips over giving riders a bonus 500 vertical foot palm while the left hand dips into a gulley.

Finger riders’ shouts of joy echo from the mountain and reach the sun deck before their faces glowing with adrenalin- laced smiles arrive. Admiring your work from the sun deck many a times is only for a brief moment as getting back to the Don Otto for another lap is the mission. For the next 22 minutes you have plenty of time to relive your run and deliberate which finger will ensue. And other times it is time to aprËs and revel in your glory while basking in the Andean sun, Escudo or Cristal in hand.

Written by  Dave Johnson.

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