Every year before I arrive to Chile, I lose a lot of sleep. By the time I am on my way, I have made a lot of promises to many people. And this makes me very, very nervous. To do business in Chile is the ultimate in trying to hit a moving target. There are just so many variables and every year is different. I always find myself wondering, "What will this year bring?"
Last year, just about this time, I wrote a blog post, which was very critical of some behavior I disagreed with in the area of Nevados de Chillan. As this season approached, I was more than a little nervous about the environment I would find when I returned.
What a difference a year can make – especially in a place like this. I just finished a trip where I guided two gentleman in the areas of Nevados de Chillan and Lonquimay. I want to take a minute to say how very impressed I am with the efforts being made.
The Nevados de Chillan area seems to have really embraced ski touring. And in my short time there, it looks like the players involved are finding a good balance.
The ski resort has created a backcountry and freeride department. They even have a little office at the bottom, managed by some really great folks. I stopped in to chat and they were more than welcoming. They spoke with me about the local policies, all of which make perfect sense. (If you go into the backcountry you should have a beacon, shovel and probe, etc.) They also take some emergency contact information, but they give you a number to call in case of an emergency. They will help you out, if you agree to not be a total dumbass. It's pretty awesome. On top of this, they are now selling single-ride lift tickets to help you skip over the lower part of the mountain and prevent uphill and downhill traffic issues. $20 gets you well over 2000-vertical feet. I will admit, we weren't 100% human-powered last week. And I liked it.
I did hear the helicopter buzzing around, but I never saw it land near where it would be possible for most people to ski tour to in a day. Maybe I was lucky; but I'll live in la-la land for a moment.
And the local guide service, BackChillan seems to be putting in a lot of hard work. They are trying to help people learn the sport properly and focus on safety. They were even able to come to my "rescue" with a pair of loaner crampons when my client broke his on a summit attempt. They are hosting an intro level course this weekend, and I kind of wish I could be there to help.
I am so happy for this area. I really hope it all works out and everyone succeeds. It wasn't long ago that the chairs were ripped off the cables because of local politics. And even last year, everyone seemed to want to say no to each other and take all they could for themselves. I am sure that for those that live there full time, they see how much more they would like to do. But as someone who visits from year to year, I am more than impressed by the strides taken.
Doing business in Chile is probably more of an adventure than skiing in Chile. The uncertainty of it all drives me bonkers; but it keeps me coming back as well. When I see things like I did recently, it makes me all the happier. In Chile, when someone is a good dude, or an event has a cool feeling to it, we say, "Buena onda," which literally means 'good waves,' or good vibes. The Nevados de Chillan area is certainly building some buena onda right now.