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Full service guided ski and snowboard tours in Patagonia, Argentina

Avalauncher Punta Nevada Catedral Alta Patagonia
Cerro Catedral's new Avalauncher perched on the Punta Nevada ridgeline, in the Nubes zone of the mountain

The world of skiing in South America is about to change for the better. Argentine ski resort, Cerro Catedral has just announced the successful installation of its first Avalauncher (View their post translated to English). This powerful snow safety tool will allow the ski patrol at Catedral-Alta Patagonia to perform avalanche control work around the Nubes area. Steep alpine slopes with high elevation Northeast through Southeast facing starting zones characterize the terrain surrounding the Nubes chair. The use of an avalauncher, built by Avalanche Mitigation Services in the United States, keeps patrollers off the slope and enables them to create many smaller avalanches from a safe distance. These measures ensure that the slopes never develop enough of a slab to create monster avalanches later on that could potentially destroy property or injure skiers. It will also play a huge role in keeping the upper mountain open after a sizable storm, which means more powder skiing for everyone.

A bit of history on the avalauncher:

Atwater Avalauncher
Monty Atwater demonstrating the original Mark 10 Avalauncher at Squaw Valley, California in 1962. Photo: Monty Atwater, Jr.

Avalanche hunters of the 1960’s were looking for a way to mitigate the ever-present danger of snow slides in and around ski areas. The destructive forces of avalanches were well known by then, and there needed to be a way to bring them down from a safe distance. Artillery was already being employed at this time, thanks to the hard work of a man named Monty Atwater. His position as a snow ranger at Alta Ski Area in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, USA kept him in a constant battle with the snowy torrents. The use of artillery was effective, but also very expensive. It could also only be used on long distance targets (greater than 1000 meters away). The development of an air powered weapon that was capable of launching a 2Lb (4KG) explosive projectile promised to solve that problem. Atwater became aware of a pneumatic baseball-pitching machine for Major League Baseball and contacted its inventor, Frank Parsoneault. Under further direction from Atwater, Parsoneault began creating prototypes of what was soon deemed the Avalauncher. It has also lived under the name of the “Soup Gun” because its original projectiles were tin soup cans filled with explosives. After some unsuccessful attempts and thousands of cans of soup, the creators finally realized that a stabilized canister was necessary for controlled shooting. The accuracy of the avalauncher improved with the implementation of fin-stabilized rounds, and distance started approaching 1000 feet. After the prototypes proved their effectiveness, the proliferation of the avalauncher began across North America. The compressed nitrogen-powered device is now used in many countries throughout the world and has become a valuable item in the avalanche hunter’s arsenal.

Avalauncher Snowbird
Snowbird Ski Patrol putting their Avalauncher to good use. Photo: Sean Zimmerman-Wall

Additional Information: Evolution of the Avalauncher by John Brennan

The acquisition of this device marks a sea change for the resort community of Patagonia. It also illustrates the resort’s commitment to a comprehensive snow safety plan. The ability to keep terrain open and safe is a critical job of the ski patrol and it will translate into economic benefits for Cerro Catedral. We look forward to meeting up with the patrollers this winter to see them fire this machine and slay the white dragons that lurk in the mountainous terrain of the Southern Andes.

Opening dates have been released by ski resorts in Argentina for the 2012 South American ski season! There is snow on the ground, and there’s more in the forecast: check out our Weather & Snow Page for the latest forecasts of the resorts we frequent. It’s looking like the austral winter is coming in like a lion this year. Let us take you on a full-service guided tour of the finest ski resorts in Patagonia. Book your Resort Tour today!

The opening dates are as follows, in order of opening:

Las Lenas OPEN! Las Leñas: June 20

Cerro Castor

Cerro Castor: June 22 OPEN!

 

Catedral Alta Patagonia

OPEN! Cerro Catedral: June 24

 

PenitentesPenitentes: June 28  OPEN!

 

Chapelco

OPEN! Chapelco: June 29

 

Cerro BayoCerro Bayo: June 30  OPEN!

 

Cerro Perito MorenoOPEN! Cerro Perito Moreno: June 30

 

CaviahueCaviahue: July 4  OPEN!

 

La HoyaOPEN! La Hoya: July 6

 

Cerro Batea Mahuida

Cerro Batea Mahuida: TBA

 

 

 

We will add to this list as more information becomes available, and we will keep it updated in the case that dates change. We hope to see you this summer (winter) in Argentina! Visit our Reservations page or Contact Us to book your trip today!

Two of Argentina’s major ski resorts, Las Leñas and Cerro Bayo, have recently completed the construction of brand-new lifts and other upgrades to start the 2012 South American ski season.

Construction of the new Minerva high-speed quad chairlift at Las Leñas
Construction of the new Minerva high-speed quad chairlift at Las Leñas

Las Leñas has upgraded their old Minerva fixed double chairlift to a new Doppelmayr high-speed quad lift, featuring a modern system for entering the lift which allows comfortable access and reduces waiting time. Prior to ascent, the skiers and snowboarders slide over a moving mat, which propels them up to the right speed so that they can sit on the chair in a smooth and effortless manner. This is similar to the Supreme chair at Alta, for those who are familiar.

Las Leñas Trail Map/Mapa de Pistas
Las Leñas Trail Map/Mapa de Pistas

Along with the nearby lifts TS Caris and TK Minerva, the new Minerva high-speed quad will increase the uphill capacity in the Minerva zone to 4,320 people per hour, tripling current capacity. The new cable was hung and loaded with chairs last week, ready to receive snow riders from around the world this upcoming ski season.

Construction of the new Telcabina Jean Pierre gondola at Cerro Bayo
Construction of the new Telcabina Jean Pierre gondola at Cerro Bayo

During the 80th Anniversary celebrations of the small Patagonian town of Villa La Angostura earlier this month, Cerro Bayo inaugurated their brand-new 6-passenger gondola, Telecabina Jean Pierre, offering rapid access to mid-mountain. This new gondola is the first of many advancements from a 2008 plan to turn this small gem into one of the finest ski resorts in South America.

Cerro Bayo Trail Map/Mapa de Pistas
Cerro Bayo Trail Map/Mapa de Pistas

Construction of a second gondola is set to take place during the summer of 2012 to allow access to the Cota 1500 peak, expanding Cerro Bayo’s skiable terrain to include the Las Provinciales zone, making Cerro Bayo the third-largest ski resort in Argentina.

The new gondola at Cerro Bayo, Telecabina Jean Pierre
The new gondola at Cerro Bayo, Telecabina Jean Pierre

In addition to the construction of these new gondolas, the resort is expanding its parking, building new ticket windows, and upgrading several on-mountain restaurants. It will be very exciting to witness Cerro Bayo’s growth over the next few years. Join us this summer for a Resort Tour to see it (and ski it) for yourself! There are still some spots available for our 2012 Guided Ski Tours. Visit our Reservations page to book yours today!

Refugio Agostino Rocca en Paso de Las Nubes
Refugio Agostino Rocca on Paso de Las Nubes, between Puerto Frias and Pampa Linda, Argentina. Photo: ANB

Club Andino Bariloche (CAB) is happy to announce the recent completion of the construction of their newest backcountry hut, Refugio Agostino Rocca. The grand opening will be held this weekend, starting on April 28, but the facility will remain closed to regular visitors until next summer. This new high mountain refuge is located on Paso de Las Nubes, between Puerto Frías and Pampa Linda near Bariloche, and features a capacity of 80 people, divided into 8 rooms of 10, a spacious living room, family room, kitchen, bathrooms, infirmary, radio room, warehouse and office for staff, all distributed over two floors with a total area of over 300 square meters (3,229 square feet).

This new fully-equipped refugio was constructed with the help of the Fundación Hermanos Agustín y Enrique Rocca, in memory of the late Agostino Rocca, mountaineer and president of the Techint firm, who passed away in a tragic plane crash along with climber Jose Luis Fonrouge, journalist Germán Sopeña, and several others on April 28, 2001. The date of the grand opening of Refugio Agostino Rocca marks the 11th anniversary of their accident. CAB representatives expressed their great pride in the completion of this project, stating that it “represents a milestone in regards to services for visitors to the mountains and to environmental care.”

We are excited to visit Refugio Agostino Rocca next summer, and we are working on plans to incorporate it into our tours. For more information about the grand opening festivities, please visit the Club Andino Bariloche website (clubandino.org).

Just when everyone was getting into the spring groove of mountain biking, rock climbing, golfing, and skiing the spring slush, winter made its triumphant return on the morning of Good Friday, with temperatures in the teens and a foot of fresh snow from the peaks to the valley floor. We must admit, we were a bit surprised to see 2-3 inches of snow in the Salt Lake Valley, when only 3-5 inches were expected to fall in the mountains. Inspired by the sudden change from spring warmth to a winter wonderland, we took to the hills for some ski touring in the Cottonwood Canyons.

Brian splitboarding up Cardiff Pass at Alta
Our dear friend, Brian McKenna, starting up the skin track on his splitboard at the Cardiff Pass trail head in the Town of Alta.

We were delighted to see about a foot of fresh snow on the ground and cars covered with huge snow drifts upon our arrival at the Cardiff Pass trail head in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Visibility was quite poor, due to the still overcast conditions and moderate rate of snowfall, so we elected to ski a few laps in the south-facing Cardiff Bowl above the Town of Alta. Despite the frozen spring snowpack lurking beneath the fresh layer of cold, dry snow, we enjoyed some excellent floaty powder turns in the bowl.

This photo says it all, really:

 

Brian shredding the Easter powder
Brian shredding the Easter powder. Yeah, it was good out there.
View of Little Cottonwood Canyon from Sitzmark Club Alta, Utah
View of Little Cottonwood Canyon from the Sitzmark Lodge in Alta, Utah

We celebrated the surprise powder day at our favorite local establishment, the Sitzmark Club at the Alta Lodge. Just as we sat down to enjoy our aprés ski whiskey, the clouds lifted, and we enjoyed the incredible down canyon view. Good Friday was good, indeed. The sun’s late appearance meant there was more good skiing to be had the following day, before the big warm-up.

 

Justin skiing Little Superior Buttress April 7, 2012
PatagoniaSkiTours.com Head Guide, Justin Lozier, skiing Little Superior Buttress in Cardiff Fork

Early this morning, we headed back up to Cardiff Pass under the light of the pre-dawn moon in search of more of what we got yesterday. With clear skies and cold temperatures, we continued up the Cottonwood Divide to Little Superior Buttress on the lower East shoulder of Mount Superior. We skied great snow on the Northeast face into Cardiff Fork and headed back up for more.

 

Our tracks on Little Superior Buttress April 7, 2012
Looking back at our tracks on the way back to Alta

After another lap in Cardiff Fork, we skied warm schmoo powder on the sunny southern slopes back into Alta under a bluebird sky. We finished early, at about noon, just as the snow was beginning to become unsafe.

The past two days have been a wonderful surprise, a blessing. Another stronger storm system is forecasted to hit the region mid-week. Here’s hoping for another great couple days of powder skiing…

Visit our Facebook Page to see all of our photos from our Easter snow storm adventures and more.

Happy Easter, everyone!

After several days of high pressure, the Wasatch Range has just received 35″ of new snow in the past two nights of March 18 & 19.

Alta Atwater snow stake over 30 inches of new snow March 18-March 19, 2012
The Atwater snow stake at Alta, showing over 30 inches of new snow March 18-March 19, 2012. Photo: UAC

With the heliski season coming to a close, PatagoniaSkiTours.com Owner & Head Guide, Justin Lozier, has spent the past two days ski touring the latest storm. On Monday, he joined Tyson Bradley of Utah Mountain Adventures for a day of guiding some strong clients skinning and skiing the Argenta slide path in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The Argenta slide path is a 3000 vertical foot avalanche path that drops from the top of Kessler Peak down to the Big Cottonwood road below. By the end of the day, Justin and the rest of the touring party had climbed and skied over 6000 vertical feet of incredible untouched snow. Below is a short video clip of one of the clients skiing the middle section of the run.

Several of our splitboard buddies from Vail, Colorado drove out to ride the storm, so they joined Justin the following day for a ski tour up in Days Fork. The snow was blower and stoke levels were high. We’ll let this short edit tell the story…

A high pressure ridge is bringing some rapid warming to the area, which will affect the snow greatly. We will continue searching for the goods, as we ride out the remainder of the Utah ski season, before heading back into winter in Argentina. We’ll keep you posted. Check out our Facebook Page for the latest news between web posts. Stay safe and have fun out there!

After receiving over 40 inches of new snow in the core of the Wasatch Range, the skiing and snowboarding conditions in Utah have been excellent. We have just experienced the best days of the year so far, and we were all once again reminded how wonderful it is to ski powder in Utah. Since the weather conditions were not conducive to flying helicopters, our Head Guide, Justin Lozier, joined his partner and Assistant Guide, Sean Zimmerman-Wall, and the rest of the Snowbird Snow Safety team to run some avalanche control routes at Snowbird before opening the resort to the public. Due to the closure of the Little Cottonwood Road for avalanche danger, the entire team spent the night up in the canyon, watching the snow dump from the heavens. Justin had the privilege of riding up the early morning tram with the Snowbird Ski Patrol just before dawn. After the route plan was delivered, the team took to the slopes and experienced one of the greatest mornings of skiing in recent memory. Smooth, untouched slopes covered in blankets of low-density powder were all around, and the sound of hand charges and artillery filled the air.

Justin skiing fresh powder at Snowbird during avalanche control routes
Justin skiing fresh powder in the Gad II area of Snowbird during avalanche control routes with Snowbird Ski Patrol

Along with this blessing of new snow came heightened avalanche hazard across the entire state. Over 70 different avalanches have been reported to the Utah Avalanche Center since the onset of the storm on February 29. Widespread natural avalanches occurred during the storm, as strong winds transported snow, loading the eastern leeward slopes. Avalanche hazard has been high across the Wasatch Range and has only continued to rise with the recent rapid warming after the storm. Temperatures are looking to cool down with the entrance of another small storm tomorrow. We will see how things play out with the snow and avalanche hazard. In the meantime, be smart and stay safe out there.

On the heels of the latest storm that brought 15″ to the Wasatch Range in the past 24 hours, another fast moving winter storm is set to arrive in Utah late tomorrow morning/afternoon and last until Friday. Most forecasts are agreeing on a total storm snow quantity of over 20 inches to fall in the mountains. The Cottonwood Canyons Forecast is forecasting 14-28″  with strong winds (up to 65 mph gusts out of the Southwest). The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Warning for a “MAJOR WINTER STORM TO IMPACT MUCH OF THE AREA”: click here for the full text. An Avalanche Watch has also been issued by the Utah Avalanche Center, click here for their latest Avalanche Advisory, and please heed their warnings.

MM5 Snow Accumulation Model 2.28.2012
The latest MM5 Snow Accumulation Model showing 25-30" to fall in the Central Wasatch Range between Wednesday, February 29, and Friday, March 2.

We had some great skiing this morning at Snowbird, and one can only imagine that the next few days will be even better! Have fun and be safe out there!

 

Mapa 4 Refugios - Map 4 Refugios
Route Map of the 4 Refugios Adventure Race in Bariloche, Argentina

Tomorrow, February 25, 2012, marks the beginning of the 7th Edition of the 4 Refugios Personal 2012 “Copa Makalu” Adventure Race in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. Hosted by Club Andino Bariloche, this two-day adventure race covers some 80 km/50 miles of mountain trails through the Andean wilderness of Argentine Patagonia, stopping by four of the classic refugios (backcountry huts) of the region: Frey, Jakob, Lopez, and Laguna Negra (aka ‘Italia’). The event’s record number of 330 participants will be crossing the starting gate Saturday morning, departing from the Cerro Catedral ski resort, en route to Colonia Suiza via Refugio Frey and Refugio Jakob. The second day of the race will begin the following day, Sunday, February 26, starting and finishing in Colonia Suiza, after running up to Refugio Lopez and traversing the cordillera to Refugio Laguna Negra.

For more details, visit Club Andino Bariloche’s 4 Refugios website (translated to English): click here. Check out their promo video below:

Snowy mountains above the Town of Alta, Utah
Great skiing conditions in the mountains above the Town of Alta, Utah.

Thanks to recent snow storms, the ski and snowboard conditions are improving in Utah. So far we have received 200 inches of snow this season, around half of what we had at this time last year (380 inches).  It looks like we will be having some more unsettled weather in the coming weeks, which should bring some more snow to the Wasatch. Backcountry skiing and snowboarding conditions have been quite good as of late, although the avalanche hazard remains high in most of the upper elevation terrain. Wasatch Powderbird Guides has been heliskiing all over the range, from the Bountiful Sessions Mountains down to the Cascade Mountains above Provo, finding high quality powder snow. Keep checking our Facebook profile for new photos, video and snow forecasts of the 2011-2012 Utah ski season.

It looks like all of our hopes and prayers for snow are about to be answered, starting tomorrow morning. Current weather models are forecasting a major winter storm to hit Northern Utah on Wednesday morning, as a wet Westerly flow enters the area. I found the MM5 snow accumulation forecast model to be particularly exciting, showing 40 inches to fall in the Wasatch Range between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening, and it looks to continue through the weekend! The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Storm Watch for the area from Wednesday afternoon through Friday afternoon, containing the text: “STORM TOTAL ACCUMULATIONS OF 24 TO 36 INCHES … LOCALLY GREATER AMOUNTS POSSIBLE.” – click here for the complete text. Our friends over at WasatchSnowForecast.com have also released a forecasted snow total of 18-30″ for this week’s storm, with another 10-20″ over the weekend! This storm cycle appears to be the beginning of a major weather pattern change for our area, ushering in a series of storms, as the jetstream dips down and ‘opens the door’ for a major storm track.

 

MM5 Snow Accumulation Model 1.16.2012
The latest MM5 Snow Accumulation Model showing 40" to fall in the Wasatch Range from Wednesday morning to Thursday evening

This week’s storm cycle will likely be accompanied by our first major avalanche cycle of the season, as the wet, heavy snow begins to load our weak, thin snowpack. Please pay close attention to your local Avalanche Advisory, available on the Utah Avalanche Center website. They have already issued a preemptive Avalanche Watch for this week’s storm. Backcountry travel is not advised during this time. We would recommend everyone skiing or snowboarding during this time to use extreme caution, even if you will be riding at the ski resorts. Stick to marked trails, and observe all warnings. Be safe and have fun out there!