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Las Leñas - Post Numero Dose

It’s hard to believe how little skiing I’ve done on this trip as I come down to my last four days. But winter has been hitting the area hard, which is good for the area but tough on tourists with limited time. Like they say, pay your money, take your chances.

The big storm I described in my first post finally ended and the next day dawned perfect. Little wind and lots of sun. Oddly, and much to the dismay of the paying public, not much was going on to get the lifts running or get the upper mountain in shape so skiers could get up there. The cats were idle and so were the bombs. Curious.

No man's land up toward Marte liftIf you read the comments after the last post you’ll find what I assume to be a Las Leñas local or at least a regular who didn’t like my impression of things. I guess I’m just an entitled little shit. But it wasn’t me throwing the punches in the ticket line on this day and I didn’t hear any swearing in English. I was chillin’ on the skin track of my own making avoiding the scene altogether. But there was, in fact, some pissed off hombres pounding on the glass at the ticket office and throwing punches at the security guys. I guess some heat was finally called in. It seems that even the tranquillo Argentines were pissed off that the only lifts open were the two Poma lifts. It was odd for sure.

Yep, on this perfect day, that's all you get.To be fair, that kind of snowfall would put the dampers on any resort anywhere in the world. The lay out of the lifts here puts them in serious harm’s way from large slides higher on the mountain. There’s simply no way to get above it without putting patrollers at risk. That tram I dreamt of would alleviate this issue but I digress…

But the fresh snow remained ungroomed and unskied the whole day. The next day the wind came and much of that snow ended up a couple of counties over. The viz wasn’t horrible all day and, after a short tour, even had me standing in line. Like some sort of bad joke, the wind picked up again as soon as I got on and I spent 45 minutes on the chair as the safety governor stopped and started the chair the whole way up. It was quite the ride. I went back to my room.

Somewhere in here I had a birthday and my new friends, Nancy and Tony, were keen to celebrate with me over wine and dinner. We first had a drink with some of their new friends from BA, Brian and Anna. We took in the nicest hotel in the area, Piscis, and enjoyed a fine meal and even better Malbec. You see, Tony's brother is a sommelier so Tony has learned a thing or two through osmosis. He picked every night and never steered us wrong. In fine South American tradition, we closed the place down. Hell, we ate late even by Argentine standards, which is saying something.

The Piscis is another step above the rest

Birthday pork goodness

At least there was no singingYesterday was more of a nuke fest although the whole lower mountain was open and lots of folks were out in the flat light. Every time I thought about braving the lines, the wind would freight train over the hotel and I’d sit back down. It was impressive. As the light faded, so did the wind and the promise of a better day loomed.

The next day was glorious. Little wind and bright sun ahead. The light was flat to start with but the forecast was looking good after noon. I headed out on my little tour route to the south with no major plans. I simply wanted to see what all this weather had done to the snow and maybe get up high if things felt good.

After slaving through really deep snow several days ago, I decided to take my wider DPS Wailers. They’d also be best in funky conditions should I get to ski something. As I rounded the corner on this large lateral moraine that separates the resort from the valley to the south, I spied the very first line that caught my eye as I got off the bus the first day. I decided I needed to take a look. If the light stayed flat then the rock walls would provide that reflective contrast that would make things better.

The snow was definitely wind hammered in spots as I traversed to the base of the couloir. I hoped that the narrow corridor provided some protection. I was only worried about the upper snowfield at the top. The skinning was a mixed bag of everything but seemed like it would ski just fine. As I got into the business, the sun came out. It worried me a little as I was afraid of what that kind of solar might do to the big hanging entrance snowfield up high. But as I climbed, the temps dropped and my fears abated. The big patch at the top seemed bonded without being a slab. After about two hours, I was up.

With 3,200 feet of climbing behind me, I was pretty excited to ski. The top 400 feet or so was powdered joy. In the middle I found complex terrain and variable snow but it was all fun. I was able to work the contour of the lower slopes on the way out so that I never had to put skins on to get over the moraine. I was back at the hotel in 2:29. Rodrigo, one of the guys who manages the guests’ skis and boots, wanted to know all about it. He was stoked.

One selfie to prove I was thereAfter refueling in my room it occurred to me that another lap was in order. It wasn’t 4pm yet. I dumped some weight from my pack, grabbed my lighter Volkl BMT 95s and headed back up. It was easier with the track in and I brought along my B&D Ski Crampons to make the wind board less annoying. I love those things, even in winter.

The light was spectacular as it is in all mountains at dusk. I caught some sun at the top and made my way down in similar fashion to the first, spooning my tracks, preserving the resource. The lighter set up was obvious as I stopped the watch about 30 minutes faster. Best day yet and I never got on a lift. Someone please tell me why I spent $800 on a pass?? With the optimistic forecast, I’m hoping to find out tomorrow. Marte awaits.

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