I sat in the passenger seat of the van on the way to the urgent care in Chillán, Chile with one eye open and the other in good amount of pain accompanied by uncontrollable tears. I smelled like a rotten potato left in a basement and realized that my last shower was well over a week ago. Our rental van that we had named “Pepé” was very vocal this morning with the horn getting stuck on for a few seconds after each bump we hit. Comical yes, but not to the locals walking the streets who continually show their dislike for non-locals.
It was our last day in Chile searching for fresh snow and after two weeks of living in a van colorfully painted with the words “peyote style”, Byron’s semi-clean thumbnail had come full force into my eyeball the night before while he was trying to cook dinner in the howling wind and telling a very animated story.
We had set out on this adventure with the intention to ride powder until our legs were jello as Chile had been receiving a large amount of snow prior to us arriving. Upon our arrival we found WiFi and looked at the Facebook page of Nevados de Chillán to find that they had posted a photo just 6 hours earlier of the mountain and everything off-piste was filled in and ready to ride. Splitboarding would be easy access and we made the decision to head south as soon as we got our rental van from Wicked Campers in Santiago.
Wicked Campers provide some truly unique camper vans that can sleep up to 6 people with a pop-up tent attached to the roof. Their loud graffiti art on the sides of the van turn heads in more than one way and caused lots of questions from the gas pump attendees during our trip. The van came equipped with two gas stoves, cooking and dining utensils and an interior space that can be converted from transportation mode to dining table to sleeping quarters. The small van proved that the “shuffle is real” with our three board bags, backcountry packs, camera gear and personal backpacks that had to constantly be shuffled each night and morning. Once we had crammed all our gear into the van I input the coordinates of the resort into our Garmin Montana 680t and headed south for several hours. Without a GPS in Chile it would have been extremely difficult if not impossible to navigate through the busy cities. Signage and way-finding is nothing like we have in the US.
The darkness of the night and volcano engulfed us as we rolled into the parking lot and set up the pop-up tent for the night. In the morning our flame of excitement of riding powder was quickly extinguished as we looked at the mountains for the first time and saw nothing but rock and runnels in the patches of snow. It looked nothing like the photo that had been posted the day prior. In speaking with a few people we learned it hadn’t snowed in weeks and had been getting a fair amount of rain. We had been fooled by a marketing ploy to bring people to the mountain during one of Chile’s biggest holiday weeks.
For the next two weeks we constantly monitored the storms trying to predict where it might actually snow and stay cold for a while. We were skunked on the weather all but one time and managed to get one day of riding powder in just outside Valle Nevado before the sun cooked it. The rest of the time we sat in the van while it rained and drank instant coffee, Escudos or Cristals and stared at the beautiful country that was blanketed in a layer of trash. We logged 2200 miles total this trip driving south to Chillán, north to Portillo, south to Farellones and then even further south to Corralco and then to Chillán again where I sat trying to explain to the nurse with Google translate on my phone what had happened to my eye or “ojo”. $75 later I had been through the urgent care, was seen by an optometrist and given medication drops to get me by until I landed state side again. As I left the hospital a local gentleman noticed I was wearing snowboard pants and in broken English said “Many snow fall tonight. Big storm!”. How “eye-ronic” was it that on the last day the weather was allegedly going to change.
Check out Brock’s Garmin VIRB video