Come for the Culture stay for the Skiiing
Just a long long long trip to get there
Bariloche – Cerro Catedral
You can tell a ski area with soul when you step outside of the car for the first time. Within the first few breaths. How do you know? I can’t really tell you. But, think about it. Some resorts are so “designed” that you feel the place was made by machines, for machines. So, when I pulled up in the dirt parking lot at Bariloche, something struck me deeply. Mountains towered above me, condors really do circle overhead at times, but it was the hodgepodge of new and old, heavy timbered structures with flashes of techno driven jumbo-trons blended with the multicultural effect of a country rich in variety of ethnicity and culture. Cerro Catedral…I will find out why it has that name. But I was instantly aware I was somewhere special. Oh goob...it means Cathedral Mountain and I can see why. My kind of religious icon - The Church of the Open Ski Slope.
You could say it was because I had been floating a river back home in Oregon only 48 hours earlier in the smack dab middle of the dog days of August. Transported almost painfully in a saga of airline overdose to this new world in Argentina. Well, new to me. People have been skiing in Bariloche for almost 100 years. The lucky ones live just down the valley along the shoreline of lago Nahuel Huapi, others make the pilgrimage from Buenos Aires for long weekend holidays or a weeklong family vacation. I was here to officiate ski races for the South American Cup (FIS) races and some national championship events.
The first lift I loaded was Condor 1, followed by Condor 2. We skipped Condor three to traverse into the next valley and snag a ride on a fairly modern Quad. They call their one six pack a Sextuple – yep sex to play. But, to give you the idea…Bariloche is a mix of new high speed lifts and a pile of European hand me down double chairs and t-bars. So when you read the resort has forty-four lifts realize that some of them mean you will be balancing your butt next to someone else who may just not be anywhere near the same height as you from butt to boot soles. Deal with it. Regardless of the transport method you will be wowed by the scenery at Bariloche.
Come here for the skiing, stay for the culture, and maybe even sneak in on some wild night life. I can sense it is possible, but my 7am lift ride each day for course inspection precluded that option.
I was housed at the memorable Knapp house…it took me a little bit of time to realize this was a reference to the von Trapp family ala the Sound of Music. Quality craftsmanship, euro style room configurations, and some goulash on the menu was the strongest hint of the reference. But, the beds were comfy, the showers hot, and the proximity to the lifts was a definite bonus.
The thing that strikes me about skiing in South America is that there is tons of laughter. Lots to be happy about in a place where simple fun reigns over keeping up with the Joneses. Old people here have deeply furrowed faces, but like James Buffet says…the wrinkles only go where the smiles have been.
Ski Bariloche and you will leave with more character lines than you arrived with.