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Full service guided ski and snowboard tours in Patagonia, Argentina

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.

Join us!
Head Guide, Justin Lozier, welcomes you to join us for a ski tour in Patagonia.

The snow is piling up and ski resorts continue to open more skiing terrain in the Andes of Patagonia. With only two weeks remaining before the launch of our first ski tours of the 2011 ski season in Argentina, now is the time to reserve your seat in one of our guided ski tours.

For intermediate to advanced skiers & snowboarders, we have a Resort Tour (Aug. 1-14), which includes the famous Seven Lakes Tour. This is a great choice for families and couples. For expert skiers & snowboarders, particularly those with a love for untouched powder and uncrowded slopes, we have a Backcountry Tour (Aug. 18-31), which includes a Snow Safety Clinic and Snow Study Workshop led by one or our certified ski guides. Each tour includes all transportation and lodging, service of a certified, professional ski guide, as well as a guide to the cities, towns and nightlife attractions.

Join us this August for the adventure of a lifetime, exploring the beauty of Patagonia while skiing it’s magnificent mountains!

Ski resort update: All resorts are now open, with the exception of Cerro Bayo, and they have been opening more lifts and more terrain as conditions continue to improve. We will continue monitoring all resorts’ conditions, and we will keep you updated.

Bariloche airport update: The Bariloche airport is open, but not currently operating. Most flights have been re-scheduled, many others have been cancelled. Check the Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 website for the latest status of flights: http://www.aa2000.com.ar/, and check the Aerolineas Argentinas & LAN websites for their latest scheduled flights to Patagonia: http://www.aerolineas.com.arhttp://www.lan.com. They have been running flights to Esquel, accompanied by ground transport into Bariloche, while the Bariloche airport is closed. As stated in a previous post, many other overland options exist, including bus services, to reach your ski destination in Patagonia. We will keep you updated as this situation unfolds.

Thanks to large amounts of recent snowfall, Cerro Catedral will be opening for skiing tomorrow, July 16. They have just announced that they will be running the Sextuple Express lift and the Lynch and Punta Nevada quad chairs at the top of the mountain. For those that are willing to make the hike, there should be good skiing up in the Las Nubes area. The snow is still coming down and looks to continue through Saturday night. Vamos todavia!

Click on the trail map below to get an understanding of which areas of the mountain will be open this weekend.

Cerro Catedral Trail Map
Cerro Catedral Trail Map - click to enlarge

Nevada Bariloche 14/7
Base of Cerro Catedral covered in snow this morning Photo: Seba Martinez

Great news, everyone! A great snow storm has just dumped on Bariloche, bringing 15 cm of snow at the base of Cerro Catedral and over 40 cm up top! It’s looking good out there, and the mountain is scheduled to open for skiing this Saturday, July 16. It is not known yet which lifts will be running or which zones will be open. We’ll keep you posted. Cerro Bayo is also getting ready to open for skiing as more of the white stuff comes down from the heavens. The latest forecasts are showing the snow is expected to continue pretty heavily over the next two days and last until Saturday. This should be a great weekend to ski in Patagonia!

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

The Bariloche airport is open conditionally, but most commercial flights to the region are still suspended, due to complications with volcanic ash on the runways, as well as in gates and other associated equipment. There is also the more obvious problem of volcanic ash clouds in the atmosphere, creating extremely dangerous flying conditions, as this ash may cause flight instruments to malfunction or fail. Check out the Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 website for flight status updates: http://www.aa2000.com.ar/.

There was news of a private jet arriving at the airport in Bariloche last Wednesday, but experts say that those types of aircraft with air filtration systems are less vulnerable to the volcanic ash than a commercial jet.

At this point, we can only wish for the best and hope that the airport can return to normal operation soon. Our ski tours will be starting in three weeks, so let’s hope that this situation improves before then. As stated in our previous post, other overland transportation options exist to reach your ski destination in Patagonia.

There is a bit of good news in the way of snow. The latest forecasts are showing the possibility of 22-28″ of snow falling this week at Cerro Catedral and surrounding areas. The heaviest part of the storm looks to be coming down Wednesday night. Let’s hope this storm system hits hard, covers our slopes with snow, and pushes the ash clouds out of Patagonia!