About two weeks ago Caroline Gleich, Carston Oliver and myself, Liz Daley, got the opportunity to switch out of summer and into winter and cross hemispheres into Chile to test the 2013/14 Patagonia snow line! We headed down with the Patagonia snow sports designer himself, Glen Morden and master of Marketing, Josh Nielsen. I was super excited because I'd never been to South America but a bit concerned before we left. I had been checking the conditions down there for a couple weeks before our departure and 7-20 inch resort bases, visible cacti and dusty looking mountains didn't seem too great for our product testing mission.
We arrived in Santiago and took rental vans down to Nevados de Chillan, about a five hour drive. I insisted that there was a girl car and a boy car because I know how boring long car rides with boys can be. The girl van included Caroline, Josh and myself. We chatted between rocking out to Daddy Yankee and some whompy dub step.
Everything was dry and brown. We had a super icy piste day at Nevados de Chillan and a muddy, foggy day the next. The only thing that was in here at the time were the hot springs and pisco sours so we decided to bounce and head to La Parva where it had just snowed 30cms!
I'd been hearing about the super dangerous drive up to La Parva especially in nasty conditions so I was stoked for an exciting drive! It started DUMPING snow and the vans had a hard time making it up the 50+ super steep switchbacks.
The next three days in La Parva were out of control. We got 70cms on top of the 30 they had already gotten. We had two storm days and a brilliant blue bird day, the kind of day dreams are made of. We shredded El Chiminea, a super narrow and steepish couloir seen from the town and rode down a miraculous ridge of blower pow during the most amazing sunset I've ever seen! La Parva is famous for it's sunsets and now I know why.
Portillo was next on our list and if you don't know about Portillo you're missing out! It was like being on a luxury cruise liner in the mountains. It is an all inclusive resort with a pool and hot tub overlooking the lake and the massive peaks beyond. You can see Aconcagua in the distance if you hike up. You have all your meals (fabulous food) in the dining room or cafeteria and there are activities scheduled around the clock like water aerobics, yoga, rock climbing, soccer, ski with the Portillo Ambassadors, movie nights and of course gettin down until 5am in the infamous disco. The same people are there all week so everyone is really friendly you get to know a lot of different folks.
The rugged mountains around the bright yellow hotel are massive and super steep jutting out straight from the lake into the sky. There are lift accessed runs where it seems like you're going to shred right into the lake. When the lake is frozen there is an incomprehensible amount of accessible backcountry right from the hotel.
Despite my initial apprehension about there being no snow it turned out to be a great trip and a really good time to test the new product. We worked closely with Glen about which products and featured worked the best and which weren't really working. We tried the entire line of product from super insulated jacket/pants set ups to very technical pieces meant for more ski mountaineering oriented ventures. We ended up getting a wide variety of weather and conditions appropriate for testing such products. We rode the resort, we hiked a ton in the side and backcountry, we had rainy days, powder days, super stormy and windy days and of course a couple epic blue bird days. Chile was great spot for testing these products because there are such contrasting conditions in such a short period of time. I feel like we saw every mountain/weather condition in the two weeks we were there.
Patagonia is really pushing their women's line development and this trip was an opportunity for Caroline and I to test these new pieces and give any input we can as professional mountain women to help push the product in a marketable direction. The new women's pieces have a much better fit and are more fashion forward with the same technical performance you can rely on with Patagonia products. I can definitely say the new line is better than ever and I can't wait to see the finished products!.
--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide