September 4, 2011

El Arpa

The Harp Valley above Los Andes, Chile is home for Ski Arpa, a uniquely Chilean cat ski operation.
In the shadow of Cerro Aconcaqua, Ski Arpa is located on a primitive road far from the grid.
Two Raptors on the Boulder (click to enlarge)
We travelled by van from Los Andes through San Esteban and Campos de Ahumada up to El Arpa, a high desert valley.  Frost on cacti is probably a common occurrence here, but none of our party had seen it before this trip.  Our driver, Polo, negotiated the primitive road with skill.

Rancho Avalanchas is a wood-heated, electricity-free operations base for Ski Arpa.

Arriving at Rancho Avalanchas on a frosty morning was like stepping into a Clint Eastwood western set in a ficticious high desert place.  The rancho refugio with its natural lighting is unique, as was the entire Ski Arpa experience. 

Everyone enjoyed the trip to El Arpa, guanaco grazing on the ridge, roosting eagles warming up in the morning sun, spectacular view of Cerro Aconcagua, the primitive refugio - and the skiing.
AK Jack with Cerro Aconcagua 25 years after summiting
Ski Arpa lived up to their catch phrase includes "skiing... in the shadow of Aconcagua".  Ski Arpa is a unique experience and our group was unanimous in our affirmative decision to go.  Guanaco grazing in the distance, clear views of Aconcagua... a unique place, but our luck with the snow was not the best.  The snow was skiable and enjoyable, but the prior snowfall was several days prior and the snowpack was modest. 
25 Years on Skis
Our Leader, Bob
End of the Trail
Ski Arpa was a fascinating experience.  It was worth a 5th run for an additional fee.  The guides saved the best for last regarding snow quality, but some clouds moved up the valley and made the lower 2/3 of the ski out a follow-the-leader exercise.  The guide knew the route and we arrived exactly where they planned.

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