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Valle El Arpa Skiing

Listed under Skiing in Santiago Metropolita, Chile.

  • Photo of Valle El Arpa Skiing
  • Photo of Valle El Arpa Skiing
Photo of Valle El Arpa Skiing
Photo by flickr user kyle simourd
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All I can say is WOW! The road to Arpa could be one of the craziest roads accessing a ski hill on the planet. Talk about a wild experience! We all could not believe the snow line. The access road to Arpa climbs out of the Aconcagua Valley starting around 2800 feet above sea level. The road winds through cacti and boulder hillsides and almost immediately snow was plastered onto the surrounding terrain. It is so surreal to see cacti caked with snow. This place is out there. Junctions to Arpa are marked with bullet riddled signs and Arpa written in a sharpie pen.

Our adventure revved up significantly as we negotiated the hairy switchbacks leading to the snow cat operation base, which consists solely of 2 stone bunkers built into the hillside. This road is a total mission. I cannot believe Anton Sponar drives this road on a daily basis from San Estaban, Chile. With 20cm of fresh coating the twisting dirt road and shoveled out wind drifts forming a luge like track with serious consequence. A couple of the turns were probably the most intense turns of the entire ski day.

OK, lets talk about Anton Sponar. This guy is 74 years old. Ski Arpa is his field of dreams. 5000 acres of high alpine Andean vastness. Anton is one of my biggest ski idols. He still rips and his passion for Arpa is undeniable.

We arrived in the parking lot accompanied by only 2 staff trucks, blue skies and 30cm of extremely light Andean POW blanketing Arpa’s immense terrain. As we motored up the cat track, Arpa’s terrain began to unveil itself to us. North facing slopes were incredibly smooth while the South facing slopes were rippled with powder drifts. Game On!!

Standing on the cat’s platform riding close to 3000 vertical feet up the valley to an 11,700foot knob, we all were giddy with excitement and the turns to come. For our first line of the day we center punched Avalanchas, one of Arpa’s marquee runs. Oh My!!!! We bounced down the mountain, blasting into the powder drifts. It was like skiing through the dunes of the Sahara. Shouting with joy our team was juiced with powderiffic vibes.

Once dropped off on the 3740-meter point, Francisco, Travis and myself slapped on the skins and went for a tour. As I mentioned the North Face of the Valley had incredibly smooth looking snow. We were drooling over this terrain on the cat rides up. I consulted with the master, Tony, and he said the snow was good to go in these 1000-meter couloirs. We traversed a long ridgeline with sweeping views into several other valleys. This terrain is so immense. With a little billygoating, reminding me of my home mountain Lone Peak (Moonlight Basin/Big Sky, let’s call it what it is) I found myself staring down a 3000-foot couloir filled with virgin powder. I was ahead of my partners and on a mission to climb up the cat road for one last run. I put in a ski cut, felt the snow out, and dropped in. Without stopping I stamped the couloir with my signature. The consistency of the snow was incredible. 3000 feet of cream cheese Andean powder. This was one of my most memorable runs of my life. We all agreed this was one of the most special lines we all had ever skied/snowboarded. I put back on my skins and started huffing it up to Punta Guanaco and in 1 hour 15 minutes reached the top again. I think the people in the cat who passed me were a little befuddled why this longhaired, bearded gringo was doing such a thing. Well I needed one more run for the day and the last cat was filled, so……… up I went. I stood on the peak at 4:20; solo, staring at the Aconcagua Valley lit up in the afternoon sun and the Pacific Ocean spreading out in the far horizon. I radioed down to my group that I was having a special moment and was preparing to descend. I traversed past Avalanchas and made my way into Ultimo Peso and another 3000 feet of glorious powder turns. This time I took the time to stop and pick out some variations in my line.

With a huge shit-eating grin I arrived at the stone bunkers to meet my group and say thank you to Tony. We were treated to one of the most spectacular days of skiing at the Valley of the Harp. Our adventure was not quite over though. Once again we were gripped for the luge like switchbacks. Tony followed us down in his Suzuki Samari, just another day at the office, the alpen glow illuminating the entire Valley and cacti silhouetted along the hillsides.

CASA Tours has also posted videos on its You Tube site @:

http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=CASATOURS

Written by  Dave Johnson.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Great write up!

Cream cheese, moment to yourself, 4:20 in the afternoon, nice work!

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