Trip report by Native Eyewear Ambassador Christine Savage.

Summer is wonderful. It really is. Long days, warm temps, and a myriad of options to occupy those additional daylight hours.  Each year in Tahoe, I’m learning to appreciate and enjoy Summer and my time off of snow more. The Truckee River and numerous lakes (including Lake Tahoe of course) are right in our backyard, there are more beautiful hikes than I can even begin to check off, and recently I started mountain biking which is doing a great job at giving me a much-needed summer adrenaline rush. Yet even with all those incredible activities at my fingertips, for me, nothing can live up to the feeling of a deep powder slash, or the wind in your face as you straight-line down a steep pitch on perfectly groomed snow, grinning ear to ear.

After some time off my snowboard, nothing could keep this smile off my face. Photo by Mary Walsh

And that is why, thankfully, I go to Chile every Summer. Because as good as Summer gets, it will never be Winter. Usually, it’s not long after the dust settles from a busy 4th of July weekend in Tahoe that I’m starting to feel that snowboard itch. Luckily for me, it also wasn’t long after I started to feel the pangs of longing to be back on snow that it was time to pack my board bag and head south in search of colder weather, the snow beneath my feet—and fingers crossed, some pow turns. I was heading down south to coach/guide Beyond the Boundaries women’s snowboard camp and I could not have been more excited!

Winter sports are an especially fickle variety, as Mother Nature has the first and last word in how things turn out. I had been following the forecast before I left for the Southern Hemisphere and it wasn’t looking like Chile had been getting much snow so far this season. Of course, there is not much you can do about that. And I knew that no matter what conditions were thrown at us, we’d be rolling deep with a pack of rad, ripping ladies, and that it would be fun. We met up with the crew the morning after our redeye flight and spent the next four days covering as much snow-covered ground as we possibly could at the three resorts in the Farallones region: La Parva, El Colorado, and Valle Nevado. Although the resorts are relatively close to each other and on the same section of the massive Andes mountain range, each has its own unique character and vibe. If you’re ever in the Farallones region, I most definitely encourage you to visit all three to get the full experience! Mother Nature didn’t end up gracing us with any fresh snow on the trip (at this point in the winter Chile was experiencing a below-average snowpack), but our crew of ladies was so stoked to be back on our snowboards that it didn’t even begin to hamper our hype. It’s not everyday that you get to ride with a group of ten ripping women, let alone with the Andes sprawling as far as the eye can see. The vibe was so positive and motivating that whatever might have been lacking in snowpack was made up for in energy and stoke.

Epic crew, epic views. It’s hard not to be stoked with views like this! Photo by Mary Walsh

After our four days of riding and a quick pitstop for a night out in Santiago, we headed West to the coast to check out the rad street-art covered town of Valparaiso. We pounded the pavement and saw as much of the vibrant city and murals as we could in one day. The next morning we woke up and jetted North to the beach town of Con Con so the ladies could try their hand at surfing if they wanted. The skies were gray and drizzly, but the surf was mellow, consistent, and perfect for learning. After everyone had successfully caught a couple waves, we washed it all down with an incredible seafood lunch and a picso sour, then got back on the road to bring the crew to the airport so they could head back to the states. What a whirlwind tour it had been!

Surf check in Con Con. Photo by Mary Walsh

In typical Murphy’s Law fashion, we had seen that the forecast further South in Chile was calling for snow as soon as the Beyond the Boundaries trip was coming to an end. The ladies flights all departed from Santiago that evening, except for Jen and Christina, who were staying a few extra days with me, and Selina, who had made the last-minute decision to prolong her time in Chile in hopes of some powder. Ian said he’d be driving south directly from the airport if we were interested in trying to score some fresh snow. It was going to be a mission, but we knew it would be well worth it. This could be the exclamation point on an already awesome trip. Wasn’t that what we’d come there hoping to do, ride powder in the summer? Learning from past experiences, anytime you’re in this kind of situation you’ve just got to go and try. Worst case, there ends up being no snow and you get skunked. Best case, you score and it’s the cherry on top of it all. Either way, it’s always an adventure.

Of course we said yes to this adventure, so we dropped the ladies off at the airport and said our sad goodbyes, went to our friend Pedro’s house to swap cars, and hit the road again. It was past 8pm at this point, and our destination, Chillán, was more than six hours away without any stops or weather… it was going to be a long night. We drove (actually Ian drove) until our eyes could no longer stay open, found a cheap room for the night about an hour away from the resort, slept (or should I say napped) 2.5 hours without heat because we couldn’t figure out how to turn it on, got back in the car at the crack of dawn and beelined it to the resort. We arrived before the lifts started spinning, and there was about a foot of snow in the parking lot. Everything was worth it. It was going to be a good day.

iPhone photo of my seat situation on the 6+ hour drive. Worth it? 100%. Photo by Jen Chang

I don’t need to elaborate too much on the pow day we got in Chilan. No words ever do those kinds of days justice, anyway. It was deep, it was bluebird, and it was midweek so the mountain wasn’t crazy busy. If you ski or snowboard, you know these three things combined equal the kind of day dreams are made of. On top of that, we had an epic crew, which only made it better: Jen, Christina and Selina who had been part of the camp, but had added to their trip, and Ian from Steep-N-Deep along with our friend Pedro.

POW DAY! Photo by Jen Chang

Stoked would be an understatement. Photo by Jen Chang

Did I mention that Chillan is an active volcano? Photo by Jen Chang

When our pow day ended, it was time to hop back in the car again for the long hour drive back to Santiago, where Jen, Christina and I had an early morning flight to catch at 5:00 am. Adventures going how they go, it took us just short of forever to get back to Santiago, and we decided it was best to just repack our bags and go straight to the airport rather than sleep for two hours and risk being late for our flight. At 4:15 am Jen, Christina, and I boarded our plan with tired legs, extreme sleep deprivation, and full contentedness. We had gotten our pow day. Next stop: The Atacama Desert.

The Atacama Desert feels otherworldly. Photo by Jen Chang

The Atacama Desert is a 1000 km area of land in Northwest Chile. It is one of the driest places in the world, and the landscape there has at times been compared to Mars. We arrived with no real expectations besides to check out somewhere that we hadn’t been before. Within ten minutes of arrival we knew we had made the right decision. It was like nowhere we’d ever seen.

The next few days were filled with tours, hiking, sunrise geyser tours, midnight stargazing, many cute street dogs, a fair amount of pisco, some moderate improvement in our Spanish, and endless fun. I’ll let the photos do the talking here, but long story short, if you ever get the chance to book a flight, last minute or not, to the Atacama Desert, DO IT.

Do yourself a favor and the Atacama Desert to your bucket list immediately. Photo by Jen Chang

This year’s Chile trip was a mix of everything, really. And when it was all said and done, I wouldn’t have changed anything, even if it had meant more pow days. The way it panned out was perfect in it’s own way. It wasn’t what I’d hoped for or planned beforehand, but it was one heck of a great adventure.

Photo by Jen Chang

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