Skiing in the Andes
A couple days ago marked my one month anniversary of arriving in Chile. Dang does time fly! This past month really did fly by, and I just wish it wasn’t true because it makes 5 months seem like such a short time. Also, this is only my third blog post, second since arriving in Chile which means I’ve been neglecting the MILLIONS of you out there waiting to hear from me. Sorry about that, I’m going to start posting more I promise. For now though I just want to tell one story from this past weekend and I’ll get to the more general stuff later. So here is my story:
Last Thursday, 6 of us from the IFSA-program decided to take a trip to Santiago to go skiing in the Andes. I could probably stop right there and it would be a great story. What a dream come true! Now don’t worry Mom, we didn’t miss any classes because Thursday was a national holiday in Chile and all the schools were closed. We left Wednesday night on a bus, stayed in a really cool little hostel in Santiago, and woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning to drive to the mountain. I was by far the least experienced skier in the group, and as usual drastically overestimated my own abilities. On one of my first runs I had a pretty embarrassing fall and bruised up my shoulder, but I pulled it together and by the middle of the day I was zooming down the steep, beautiful, treeless slopes fairly easily. I had never in my life skied on or even been on mountains that high or that beautiful, and it really takes your breath away, literally and figuratively because it’s also pretty hard to breath at such a high altitude.
Our magical day of skiing was all set up to end with a 4pm bus back to Santiago. We finished our lunch around 2:30 and decided to make a couple more big runs down the back-side of the mountain before leaving, and wouldn’t you know, we got ourselves a little lost. My friends and I found a cool little un-groomed slope that appeared to lead to the other side of the mountain and decided to explore. In hind-sight, it was a bad call. We ended up in the section of mountains that led to a completely different ski-resort, but we had no idea, and before we realized our predicament I decided to go back to the lodge on my own. My shoulder that I fell on in the beginning was in a good amount of pain at that point and I wasn’t feeling up to any kind of extreme off-roading, so I told my friends I would meet them back at the lodge and I took off. The extremely long, extremely fun trail that I then took in the completely wrong direction started the next adventure of the day: getting home. When I got the bottom and didn’t recognize anything around me, a trail map informed me just how far away and lost I was, and very nice man working the chair lift informed me that my ski pass wasn’t going to get me onto the chair lifts because they belonged to a completely different resort. And it was 3:30. Now I’ve never been one to panic, but in that moment, my heart was about to fall out of my chest. I was completely lost and everyone was still speaking Spanish.
Now obviously I made it home safely so nobody worry. It took a very stressful hour and a half of riding chair-lift after chair-lift and asking everybody and their mother for help in my sad gringa-Spanish. I got back to the lodge before my friends who had apparently done the exact same thing that I did, and found that our driver had waited for us which was such a relief. We all slept the whole way home. Looking back on that last hour and a half, I don’t think I could say that it was fun. I was exhausted and all alone, I was having trouble breathing because of the altitude, I was in pain and needed water, and I felt pretty helpless. I think I was probably on the verge of tears for most of it. In summary, it wasn’t exactly fun, but it was very memorable, and the interesting part is that when I look back on that experience I can only remember it fondly. Looking back, I don’t remember how much it hurt riding that tele-ski all the way up to the top of the mountain, I remember what it felt like to finally get back to the lodge, take off my helmet, shake my hair out, and take a long deep breath; and most of all I remember what it felt like to stand on top of the highest point in Valle Nevado surrounded by beautifulness, look down at the side of it that I recognized, and realize that it was all down hill from there. In that moment, it was like I had just crossed the Pacific Ocean in a paddleboat and stepped off into an undiscovered island oasis full of coconuts and sunshine all the other good things in life. Worth it. And then of course I still got to ski all the way down which will just never get old.
Being in Chile is like that a lot of the time. It’s not alway that fun. It’s not that fun when you have to spend 3 hours sitting in your room just to read a 5 page story for class and you think, “why didn’t I just go somewhere where I could take classes in English like everybody else.” And sometimes you get lost, and sometimes you can’t communicate at all, and sometimes you feel like a total idiot, but when you get to the top of the mountain, literally or figuratively, you forget about all of that. All you can think is, “WOW! How on earth did I get here, and how could I ever leave?” It’s incredible. And for that reason, and because I love to ski, I think last Thursday was one of my favorite days I’ve had in Chile so far. One of many favorites for sure, but one that I’ll always remember, and the fun days are always more fun when you get to tell the story afterwards.
Ok, that’s it for now. I’ll finish up with some pictures from our trip (even though they are pretty disappointing if you’ve ever seen the real thing) and I’ll post again really soon. Chao!