I have a love/hate relationship with the summertime. Don't get me wrong, I'm not here to complain about the hot weather, lake time, road trips, festivals, hiking, biking, paddling, BBQs and various other awesome activities that warm weather allows for. It's just that for those of us who live to play in the fluffy white stuff it can be hard to endure five or six consecutive months without a single pow turn. We are now well into the summer season; the resorts have been closed for months, summer camps are over, and for most of us the gear has been packed away to make room for our bikes, kayaks, golf clubs, and inflatables. Hopefully we remembered to dry out our outerwear and throw away that piece of banana loaf that was in our jacket pocket from the springtime. For Sea-to-Sky locals who ride snowmobiles, the sleds have likely been serviced and parked in a friend's driveway (what a sucker…), and the dream of laying into a pow slash seems so far away that all we can do is push it out of our mind and try to focus on enjoying what summer has to offer.
But what if I told you about a place where you could find deep fluffy snow and endless boner-inducing sled-accessed terrain, in the middle of August? A place where first descents of long, steep big-mountain style lines are the norm, you'll likely never see another group, and a lot of zones have yet to be explored? A place where you can surf in the morning, ride powder all afternoon, and then relax in a natural hot spring in the evening? It may sound like a fairytale dreamland bullshit story but this place is as real as it gets.
Cristián Wehrhahn and a small tight-knit group of dedicated snowboarders are the pioneers of sled-shredding in Chile, exploring the Chilean backcountry for over a decade now. They brought some of the first snowmobiles into South America solely because they wanted to be able to explore these mountains and ride bigger terrain and better snow than what is available at the local ski resorts. Their operation, called Dos Tiempos, offers a variety of options for getting you up into the Andes backcountry, depending on your budget (all are very reasonably priced). After years of scouting zones all over Chile they set up their home base just outside of Santiago in Cajón del Maipo, just 5 minutes from the trailhead that accesses some of the biggest and best terrain in the southern hemisphere. Here, in a nice log-cabin style mining lodge they will make you fresh bread in the morning and Chilean style Asado (BBQ) dinner after a long day of riding. The guides here are just like you; they are here because they love snowboarding, and they will make you feel like you're a part of the crew rather than just another client. They're very friendly and speak English, which is helpful for gringos with limited Spanish, trust me when I say these guys can shred, so they'll make sure everyone is getting the goods.
Coming from the sled-shred mecca that is the whistler backcountry where we are spoiled with easy access to virtually endless terrain and abundant snowfall, and keeping in mind the slow start to the South American snow season, I had to go in to the day with low expectations of the quality of riding we would be doing. Resorts nearby were reporting 5cm overnight on top of a very thin snowpack, and the forecast called for sunshine all day. Cristián had assured me that the areas we could access would get quite a bit more than the resorts and that we would be able to find good snow, but as we left Santiago and drove up into the mountains that morning and I looked up at the bare rocky peaks surrounding us and my expectations became even lower. Regardless, it would be a good opportunity to get out in the Chilean Backcountry and enjoy the mountains, I thought to myself. At the very least I would be able to make my friends at home jealous, even if the conditions were less than ideal.
After getting geared up and having a quick cup of coffee at the lodge we hit the trail, which was fully crusted over and only a few inches thick. My expectations dropped further still, but it was a nice day and the Andes are insanely beautiful so I was happy to be out there anyways. Then, after my rental sled had an unfortunate encounter with a large boulder (oops, sorry Cristián) we started to ascend into the alpine and it became apparent that Cristián was in fact not bullshitting me, if anything he had understated the impossibly good conditions. It didn't make any sense, but I suddenly found myself sinking into about 3 feet of fresh and surrounded by unbelievable terrain, long steep lines loaded with cliffs, chutes, and wind features that had me drooling with anticipation. After a few attempts the guides put in a nice easy highway and we spent the rest of the day shuttling long fun laps that rival anything in the Whistler backcountry. We rode different lines every time, and barely scratched the surface of the massive zone which itself was just one of many in the areas accessible from the trailhead. It's no wonder that some of the biggest names in snowboarding frequent Chile to film and ride with Dos Tiempos (check out his Instagram account!). To top it all off, when the sun went behind the mountains we cruised back down into the valley below and spent an hour soaking our sore muscles in a natural hot spring, just a few kilometres from the trailhead. I can't imagine a better way to end a long satisfying day in the backcountry. If I had to guess, I'd say my goal of making my friends jealous was accomplished, and then some.
Sled-shredding with Cristián and Dos Tiempos far exceeded my expectations, to say the least. The snow, the terrain, the guides, and the overall experience were all absolutely unreal. I thought we were spoiled up in Whistler, but after seeing what the Chilean backcountry has to offer, it's hard not to be jealous of Cristián and his crew. If you are someone who suffers from a debilitating addiction to snowsports, or some sort of reverse seasonal depression disorder, I highly recommend you check out their website at dostiempos.cl for more info, like them on Facebook at 'Dos Tiempos Freeride the Andes', and follow on Instagram @dostiempos. This place is awesome. Huge thanks to our new friends and guides for the day, Cristián Wehrhahn, Juan Paulo Audisio and Jaime Venturelli. See you guys next year.