Author: Justin

Full service guided ski and snowboard tours in Patagonia, Argentina

Professional Outdoor Guide, specializing in backcountry skiing, heliskiing

Stomping grounds: Wasatch Range, Andes Mountains

One of the many beautiful plazas of Buenos Aires
One of the many beautiful plazas of Buenos Aires

After completing our 2011 ski season down in Patagonia, we returned to Argentina’s captivating capitol, Buenos Aires, to continue the adventure. This bustling metropolis of 11 million plus boasts all kinds of culture and entertainment, from afternoon strolls through the beautiful plazas and enjoying fine cuisine, to tango shows and late night fiestas. We always advise our guests to be sure to spend some time in Buenos Aires. No matter how long your stay is, it will never seem like enough, since this city has so much to offer.

Iconic colored buildings of Caminito, Photo SZW
Iconic colored buildings of Caminito, Photo SZW

Our latest Buenos Aires City Tour focused on two main areas: tango culture in La Boca and the party scene in San Isidro, a large suburb on the northern outskirts of downtown Buenos Aires. The tour began in our home neighborhood of Recoleta, in the center of the city. We hopped the 152 bus down to La Boca, and headed straight into the heart of tango culture, Caminito. We found ourselves, once again, taken away by the romance and passion of the sights and sounds, the dancing and the music of the tango. Born on the very cobblestone streets we walked, the essence of the tango could be felt all around us as we continued through Caminito.

Iglesia del Pilar in Plaza Francia
Iglesia del Pilar in Plaza Francia

We decided to stop for a quick lunch at our favorite spot in La Boca, El Paraiso. We ordered up a round of lomito completo sandwiches (thin cut steak, ham, cheese, fried egg, lettuce & tomato) and some agua con gas (mineral water) to fuel the remainder of our day. We continued through the streets of La Boca, enjoying the local art and culture, before returning to the bus stop to take the 152 back to Recoleta. After roaming the area around Plaza Francia, digesting our meal and visiting some local shops to buy gifts and souvenirs, we headed home for a quick siesta before getting ready for the night’s festivities.

The whole crew partying at Darwin
The whole crew partying at Darwin

The destination for the night was a formerly secret party, not-so-secret anymore, located at the horse track in San Isidro. It is called Darwin. This event is known to host as many as 5,000 people, and it has been a weekly favorite of ours for years. Luckily for us, we gained VIP access and entered immediately, thanks to our local connections, avoiding us the hour wait in line. Before we knew it, we were in the crowd of young Porteños, dancing to the booming beats of world DJs. The scene is huge, with a lot going on, people moving all around, several bars scattered throughout the venue with lights flashing, music bumping and dancing… lots of dancing. When it gets to be too much, one needs to only step outside onto the grandstand of the horse track and enjoy the cool late night air and the quiet serenity of the track. As always, we had a great time at Darwin, and we then returned to the city center to finish the night with a late night meal. So ended another night in the ‘Paris of the Americas’, and we gave our last farewells to our departing guests.

Buenos Aires has so much to offer, and we only hope that you, like us, may one day find yourself captivated with its romance.

Join us for a Buenos Aires City Tour!

Please view our latest post for updated information on the status of the Bariloche Airport

At the moment, the Bariloche Airport is not yet operating normally. Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN have cancelled all flights to Bariloche until at least September 15. This will likely be extended until the end of the month. That does not mean that the area is inaccessible. Several options exist for reaching your vacation destination in Patagonia, including air travel.

Both Aerolineas Argentinas and LAN are offering a special flight to Esquel (Airport code: EQS) with a bus transfer up to Bariloche, a distance of 283 km/176 miles – about a 4 hour drive. There are also several overland options, including bus travel, from Buenos Aires. Our preferred carrier is Via Bariloche. Many of our guests and guides have been using this option for years now. As listed in a previous post, it can be quite a nice ride, if you’ve got the time. The Puyehue Volcano continues to erupt, but it did not pose a problem to our ski tours in August. Thanks to the recent arrival of the Santa Rosa storm, the snow is deep and white, and it’s a great time to be in Bariloche. Please view our previous posts for a detailed report of the skiing and snowboarding conditions we experienced during our ski tours in Patagonia this past August.

Below, we have a first person account of the flight + bus transfer option offered by LAN. Thank you to our friend, Jon, for offering this information.

“… I booked a round trip ticket on cheapoair.com flying LAN to Esquel at a cost of about $400 plus tax. This option includes a 4 1/2-hour bus ride to Bariloche Airport – closed because of the Volcano.

Boarding LAN flight to Esquel from Jorge Newberry Airport (Aeroparque) in Buenos Aires
Boarding LAN flight to Esquel from Jorge Newberry Airport (Aeroparque) in Buenos Aires

All domestic flights in Argentina depart from and arrive into Jorge Newberry airport (Aeroparque?). I stayed one night in the Palermo section of B.A. and had an early flight to Esquel the next morning. Transportation to the airport from the AWAA Suites and Spa cost about 40 pesos and took roughly 15 minutes. I cut things a little close as far as arrival time at the airport. It’s a little more hectic at the domestic airport compared to B.A.’s Intl airport… I’d suggest arriving 90 minutes before departure. Flight time to Esquel is about 130 minutes.

Esquel Airport
Esquel Airport

Esquel is a TINY airport, lacking the amenities and security infrastructure of other airports. However, they make it work. Upon arriving, you collect your bags and load onto buses for the scenic drive to Bariloche. Advice: try to wait to load your stuff on a bus until after everyone else has… the buses fill up quickly and if you wait, you can get on a 1/2-full bus. For me, there was only about 10 people on the bus I rode on, which allowed me to move around freely and take pics.

The buses stop in El Bolson for 30 minutes after about two hours of driving time. After the stop, it’s about 2 hours to Bariloche Airport. From Bariloche Airport to the center of Bariloche via Remises it’s about 25 Pesos and takes 15 minutes.To Hostel Alaska it’s about 80 pesos and takes 30 minutes.

For my return to the states, I had the MEGA travel day +6, as I reversed my journey to Bariloche over roughly 30 hours, including a 7-hour layover in B.A. I will not do this again if I can help it and recommend staying a night in B.A.

I had roughly 7 hours to burn before my flight to Houston after arriving in B.A. from Esquel… not enough time to do anything. First, I had to get from Jorge Newberry Airport to the intl airport. I chose the bus option… yes, another bus. It took about 70 minutes on the bus (like a charter), which was EMPTY and very comfortable, at a cost of 60 Pesos. Much cheaper than the taxi or private car option, which can cost upwards of 200 Pesos.

All together, my airfare ran about 1,100 plus tax. It can be tricky finding the flight to Esquel from B.A. after arriving at a different airport… that’s why I recommend a night’s stay in B.A. on both legs of the trip.

— Jon K Rule

We will continue to keep you all updated on the status of the airports in Patagonia, including San Carlos de Bariloche and San Martin de Los Andes. As experts in the area, we can help with any and all travel and accommodation needs. Please feel free to contact us with any inquiries.

We were blessed with a wonderful bonus day at the end of our 2011 Backcountry Tour, offering us the chance to ski one last day at Cerro Catedral, before heading back to Buenos Aires. What a day it was!

Watching it snow on our deck in Bariloche
Watching it snow on our deck in Bariloche

We prepped our gear, watching the snow fall on our deck in Bariloche. We arose early and checked the latest report from Cerro Catedral: 40 cm of new snow! Following a quick breakfast, we loaded our gear into our driver’s remise and headed up to the mountain.

We arrived at Cerro Catedral just before opening and were greeted with beautiful white slopes all around us. We told Hugo, the driver, to meet us back at the parking lot at noon, so that we could get ready to catch our bus back to Buenos Aires at 3:00. We went straight to the Sextuple Express lift and were on one of the first chairs of the day.

Punta Nevada in prime form
Punta Nevada in prime form

As we neared the top, we noticed that the Nubes chair was not running. This was good news for us, as that is exactly where we had planned to go. We jumped onto the Punta Nevada quad, and headed toward the summit. After asking permission from ski patrol, we crossed the closure ropes and skinned up to the top of Punta Nevada (aka, ‘Nubes’). The morning views were absolutely incredible, with fresh white snow all around, beautiful blue skies above, and Lago Nahuel Huapi in the distance.

Justin skiing Punta Nevada
PatagoniaSkiTours.com Owner & Head Guide, Justin Lozier, skiing Punta Nevada

We were the first to reach the summit, but not by far. We noticed a few other people making their way up the peak, so we made haste. Our first run was right down the gut of the main face, marking our signatures on the pristine blankets of powder.

Needless to say, stoke levels were high, and we promptly returned to the Punta Nevada chair to make another lap. By this time, a few others had also skied the face, and a bootpack had been established. We followed the bootpack up to the summit once again and set our targets on the slightly lower-angled wide face near the Nubes lift line, as it was still untouched and ripe for the picking. This turned out to be an excellent choice. One at a time, we made high-speed GS turns all the way down the face, on perfectly spongy powder snow. We felt like condors soaring through the Andes, and wondered for a moment if we might take flight. This turned out to be the best run of the day… Zen.

Hugo loading gear
Our main man, Hugo, loading our gear into his vehicle

We noted the time, 11:25, and figured we had just enough time to make one final lap. We charged up the bootpack once again, this time dropping in a bit earlier, skiing the steep chutes on the north end of the peak. By this time, there were several people on the face, so we rallied down the run, straightlining through the bottom section. It was good fun, as it always is to mach down a clean face of powder snow. We continued down the mountain, hitting powder stashes along the way, until we had reached the parking lot at noon. Hugo was waiting for us, so we loaded up immediately and returned to Bariloche.

Celebratory beer with Javier
Sean and Justin enjoying a celebratory/farewell beer with Javier, atop a mountain of gear

We had just enough time for a quick lunch and a beer with our host, Javier, after we packed our ski bags. Hugo arrived right on time, at 2:00, and took us to the bus terminal to catch our 3:00 bus to Buenos Aires. We bid farewell to the town we love, as we watched it fade into the distance. Before we knew it, we were sipping wine on the bus, cruising across the Patagonian steppe, just as we had begun this adventure. Reclining in our Super Cama seats, sleep came easily, and we were in Buenos Aires by 10:00 the following morning. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.

Mil gracias a todos que nos ayudaron y saludos a todos nuestros amigos en Patagonia! Nos vemos a la vuelta, el año que viene! Chau!

Want to see more pictures? Click here to view our Facebook photo album from our Bonus Day at Cerro Catedral.

Justin & Sean with the new truck
Justin Lozier & Sean Zimmerman-Wall with the new PatagoniaSkiTours.com truck

We have just wrapped up our 2011 Backcountry Tour, after venturing south to Esquel and El Bolson. The 280 km/175 mile drive down to Esquel took us about three and a half hours in our new ride, a Volkswagen Amarok Turbo Diesel truck. Moments after arriving, we were skiing the huge alpine bowls of La Hoya. Conditions were variable, since the resort had been hammered by the infamous Patagonian wind. Most of the slopes in the upper elevation terrain were comprised of stout wind slabs and sastrugi, making the skiing rather challenging. Nonetheless, we were able to find the good wind-buffed snow in some protected couloirs on the leeward side of the cordillera. If it’s out there, we’ll find it. After the first day of skiing, we had developed a game plan for the next day and decided to spend the evening relaxing in town.

Our accommodations at Plaza Esquel were quite luxurious and our room had plenty of space for our mountain of gear. Settling into the mellow vibe of the town was easy, and we discovered a few great places to eat and drink. One thing is for sure of Argentina, the cuisine is as impressive as the natural surroundings. We dined on milanesas and hamburguesas completas, coupled with the quintessential Argentine beer, Quilmes Cristal.  Now that we had replenished the thousands of calories we  burned during the day, we headed back to the hotel to relax in the spa. Our weary bodies had taken a beating on this journey and it felt great to just chill out and reflect on the trip thus far.

Justin Lozier dropping into another steep line at La Hoya
Justin Lozier dropping into another steep line at La Hoya

The following morning, we loaded up the truck and headed back to La Hoya. We decided to return to the zone we had skied the day before and found equally good conditions. The sun also made an appearance, and we were treated to 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. The wind continued to blow, making it difficult to stand up straight on the ridge lines. Dropping into the steep, south-east facing slopes, the snow was fast and somewhat powdery. A labyrinth of rock pinnacles and towering buttresses made  for some very exciting skiing. For the remainder of the day we continued to lap the chair and found endless opportunities for shredding. The mountain scene at La Hoya is very distinct and much slower that what we are used too. It was nice to take our time and really enjoy the beauty of the grand landscape. After a full day of exploring, we returned to Esquel for a few local brews and some empanadas.

Sean floating through the pow in El Bolson
Sean Zimmerman-Wall floating through the pow in El Bolson

On Monday we said goodbye to Esquel and headed north to El Bolson. A torrent of wind, sleet and snow made the drive quite interesting. Arriving in El Bolson, we put our skins on our skis and headed up through the forest to a plateau at 1500 m/4900 ft. The skin up was very peaceful, and the fresh coat of 20 cm/8 in of snow filled our hearts with delight. It was a nice change from the wind slabs and sastrugi we had encountered previously. The top of the plateau was completely devoid of trees and the wind swept across the landscape like La Escoba de Dios, or The Broom of God. Cresting the horizon to the top of the plateau we stood in the shadows of massive glaciated peaks.

Atop the plateau high above El Bolson
Atop the plateau high above El Bolson

Our jaws dropped at the sight of these giant sentinels of snow and ice. Leaning into the wind, we snapped some photos and tried to suspend our disbelief long enough to prepare ourselves for the descent. Skiing off the plateau, the snow was quite wind-pressed near the top, but quickly changed over to fluffy powder once we reached the forest. It was sublime skiing through the perfectly spaced trees, and we could hardly contain our excitement. Reaching the bottom we opted to make another lap before heading back to San Carlos de Bariloche.

This ski tour of Northern Patagonia has been more than amazing and we have made a great deal of new friends and connections throughout the region. Our cultural experiences have been unbelievable and we can’t wait to return to this wonderful place next year. Chau for now, thanks for tuning in and sharing the adventure with us.  We hope you can join us in the future for the trip of a lifetime.

Check out our Vimeo video interview of PatagoniaSkiTours.com Owner & Head Guide, Justin Lozier, from La Hoya ski area:

Want to see more pictures? Click here to view our Facebook photo album from Esquel & La Hoya, Click here to view our Facebook photo album from El Bolson.

Refugio Frey
Refugio Frey - 1700m/5580'

Our Backcountry Tour continues, taking us out to a remote stone hut in the Andean wilderness. Refugio Frey is more like a chalet than a hut, featuring wonderful caretakers who serve you hot meals, cold beer, and good vibes. They also have a nice collection of wine and champagne to choose from. Of course, that’s not the only reason to make the trip. Other than offering some of the most breathtaking views of the iconic granite spires of Patagonia, the terrain surrounding the refugio is a skier’s paradise.

 

Justin Skiing Van Titter
Head Guide, Justin Lozier, setting our line into Valle Van Titter

We took opportunity of the small weather window we had to spend a night out at Frey between weather systems. Along with our guest, Jon, from New York, we departed from the Cerro Catedral ski resort and skied into the beautiful Valle Van Titter. After a 500-meter powder run into the bottom of the valley, we skinned up through the spooky forest to find a warm hut awaiting our arrival. Our host, Pastor, greeted us with a bowl of warm soup, followed by an amazing pizza and cold pints of locally made Berlina beer. Nighttime out at the hut is a magical time, offering incredible views of the starry Southern sky.

John crossing Arroyo Van Titter
Jon crossing the bridge over Arroyo Van Titter

Refugio Frey is surrounded by countless skiing opportunities, from mellow alpine bowls to steep couloirs. One could easily spend an entire month out at the hut, spending days on end skiing thousands of vertical feet of Patagonian powder. With the onset of a storm front, we had to leave our mountain paradise and head back to Bariloche. Unable to ascend via our original path, up Valle Van Titter, we were forced to head down the valley through a maze of bamboo forest and wooden bridges. After the long walk around the cordillera, we returned to where our journey began, the parking lot at Cerro Catedral. We bellied up at Jackson’s Bar and celebrated our victory with a well-deserved bottle of ice cold Quilmes.

As always, we had a wonderful time out at Refugio Frey, and it is certainly one of the greatest places on Earth. We’ll be back soon!

Looking out the window at Refugio Frey
Looking out the window at Refugio Frey

Want to see more pictures? Click here to view our Facebook photo album from Refugio Frey.

The Group Hiking La Laguna
Head Guide, Justin Lozier, leading Edoardo and Filippo up to La Laguna

After waking up to bluebird skies and perfect powder skiing conditions, we headed up to Cerro Catedral to begin a fine day of backcountry freeriding out of the resort. Our two Italian guests, Edoardo and Filippo, were captivated by the natural beauty of the Andes, and they were totally stoked on the terrain. We decided to ski the high south faces of La Laguna where the snow was cold and powdery. Arriving at the summit, we were treated to 360 degree views of Bariloche, Lago Nahuel Huapi, and the Cordillera de Los Andes. Standing atop the ridge, the Italian travelers marveled at the grand scale of our surroundings. After some celebratory high fives, we dropped in and made some great powder turns for the next 500 meters/1650 feet.

Fillipo skiing 'De Leo al Horno'
Filippo skiing 'De Leo al Horno'

The rest of the day consisted of skiing around the periphery of the resort searching for the best snow and simply enjoying the majesty of this place with our new friends.

 

Edoardo climbing up Punta Princesa
Edoardo performing some technical moves on Punta Princesa

The following day our objective was to hike to a steep south-facing couloir off the top of Punta Princesa, into the Van Titter Valley, behind the Cerro Catedral ski resort. The route finding to the top was interesting, and we encountered some pretty rowdy patches of rock and ice, which added to the excitement of the day. By eleven o’clock we were on top of the saddle and raring to go. A moment of silence ensued as we gazed upon the terrain before us. It was quite the contrast to have beautiful blue skies and pristine white snow laid out in front of our eyes. Looking north, the Puyehue Volcano loomed in the distance, spewing plumes of ash into the atmosphere. The volcano has not affected our tours or daily life in Bariloche, but it is continuing to erupt.

Looking down the couloir
Looking down the couloir

Once we had clicked in, Justin dropped onto the slope and performed a stability evaluation. It was immediately clear that the up slope winds had created a shallow slab, which heightened our level of precaution for the remainder of the tour. The snow in the couloir was variable, but still quite good. We regrouped at the bottom and then skied the massive apron to end of the valley. Along our skin back up to the ridge, we further evaluated the conditions and dug some hasty pits.  Our overall evaluation was that the south faces were generally stable, but that the wind slab on top could pose problems in the future.

It is truly a pleasure to share the Patagonia experience with others, and we will continue our mission of delivering the highest quality adventures for our guests. We are now expecting several days of unsettled weather and some moderate snow accumulations. As we monitor the conditions, our plans will change accordingly. The current plan is to head back into the Van Titter Valley and stay a night or two at Refugio Frey after the storm. After that, we are thinking of heading south to Esquel to scope out some new terrain for future tours. Thanks for checking in and we hope you enjoyed the show.

With a fresh snowfall just before the beginning of our Backcountry Tour, the skiing and snowboarding has been wonderful. We kicked off our Backcountry Tour yesterday, August 18, and skied some great lift-accessed backcountry at the Cerro Catedral ski resort. Check out this video of head guide, Justin Lozier, checking out the conditions on the back of Punta Princesa (It was good):

Backcountry Tour 2011 – Day One from Justin Lozier on Vimeo.

Assistant Guide & Photographer, Sean Zimmerman-Wall, deep in the snowpit
Assistant Guide & Photographer, Sean Zimmerman-Wall, deep in the snowpit

We dug a full-depth snowpit and did a snow stability analysis, and we were quite pleased with our findings. The snow is pretty well consolidated, giving us stable conditions. In the area where we did our snow profile, the snow was over 2.5 meters/8 feet deep, and it is beautiful bright white from top to bottom, without a single trace of volcanic ash.

Our adventures will continue over the next two weeks, and we will keep you all posted as things develop. We still have a few spots available for next week, for those of you that would like to join us. Click here to view our Backcountry Tour 2011 page – it is not necessary to sign up for the whole two weeks, we can add you for however many days you would like. Click here to be taken to our reservations page, and we can get you set up.

We will be back with more soon. Saludos!

Please view our latest post for updated information on the status of the Bariloche Airport

The snow continues to fall in Patagonia, ushering in excellent skiing and snowboarding conditions at local ski resorts. See our previous post for more info and photos of this most recent dump. Check out this video of powder skiing at Cerro Catedral yesterday from our friends at UnofficialNetworks.com:

Catedral Storm Day 8/6/2011 from UnofficialNetworks.com on Vimeo.

Cerro Catedral is running all of its chair lifts today and reports a 110 cm base at Punta Princesa – click here for their daily report. Cerro Bayo is running most of its chairs today and reports a 80 cm base at 1500 meters – click here for their daily report. Chapelco is running all of its chairs, with the exception of the Villa Mahuida chair, and reports a 90 cm base on the peak – click here for their daily report. La Hoya is running all of its chairs and reports a 100 cm base on top of the mountain – click here for their daily report. The snow looks to continue, with about another 100 cm (1 meter) of snow forecasted to fall this week! It looks like we are going to have perfect timing for our upcoming Backcountry Tour, starting August 18. Click here to book your seat today and join us!

Ski resorts across Patagonia are reporting ‘Polvo Profunda’ (Deep Powder) conditions, after receiving 40-50 cm of snow in the past 24 hours. Many resorts in the area have just passed a major milestone, reaching a 100 cm (1 meter) base! This is great news for our current Resort Tour and Backcountry Tour later this month.

Check out these photos from Cerro Catedral and Chapelco:

Dumping at Cerro Catedral
Dumping at Cerro Catedral
Deep powder in the Chapelco Backcountry
Deep powder in the Chapelco Backcountry

We are looking to receive another good storm next week. Now is the time to ski and snowboard in Patagonia! Join us!

Our 2011 Resort Tour is underway, and there have been excellent skiing conditions reported from Cerro Catedral. The backcountry skiing has been spectacular. Check out this video from our friends at UnofficialNetworks.com:

Bariloche Nirvana – July 30th, 2011 from UnofficialNetworks.com on Vimeo.

Today, all of the lifts at Cerro Catedral are open, including Nubes! 80 cm reported at the top of Punta Princesa and powder snow conditions above 1400 meters. We are looking to receive a good storm starting Thursday, possibly lasting through the weekend.

Airport Update: Apparently, Andes Airlines operated over the weekend, completing six flights to Bariloche, with Brazilian tourists from the Brazilian tourism company CVC. At the moment, Andes Airlines is the only operator flying into Bariloche. A great deal of pressure has been put on the national airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, to resume flights to the region. Currently, they are flying guests to Esquel and shuttling them up to Bariloche (283 km/176 miles).

A charter flight organized by the tourism company Badino Turismo, Cumbres del Chapelco y Cynsa, landed today at 12:55 pm local time at the Chapelco Airport, in San Martín de Los Andes, Argentina. The flight departed from the Ezeiza International Airport, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with 140 tourists, bound for San Martín de Los Andes. Several of these tourists continued on to their final destination, San Carlos de Bariloche, a journey of 262 km (163 miles). The arrival of this Leal Airlines MD83 aircraft, operated by Flying S.A, is the first flight to arrive to the area in over a month, due to volcanic ash complications from the June 4 eruption of the Puyehue Volcano. This would not have been possible without the hard work of many of the local citizens of San Martin de Los Andes, and other surrounding cities. Mil Gracias!

As stated in our previous post, a commercial jet also landed at the Bariloche International Airport last Monday. Let’s hope this trend continues, and more of the airports in Patagonia will soon return to normal operation.

Check out the YouTube video below of today’s flight arriving in Chapelco:

Andes Airlines lands in Bariloche
Andes Airlines lands in Bariloche

Today at 12:02 pm local time, a commercial jet landed at the Bariloche International Airport (BRC)! This is the first commercial aircraft to reach the town since the June 4 eruption of the Puyehue Volcano.

The Andes Airlines charter flight, run by the Brazilian tourism company CVC, departed from São Paulo, Brazil, with 120 tourists, bound for Esquel, Argentina. This was supposed to be another of the special flights they have been running on the weekends, flying tourists to Esquel, then shuttling them to Bariloche by bus. The presence of thick cloud cover prevented them from landing in Esquel, and the air traffic controllers in Bariloche gave the pilot authorization to land at the Bariloche airport instead. The flight landed just past noon, without incident. This is the greatest news in local tourism since the closing of the airport, due to volcanic ash complications, 44 days ago.

Let’s hope this is a sign of things to come and that the airport will soon return to normal operation, receiving flights on a regular basis.