The latest storm to hit the Andes brought a massive amount of snow to virtually all ski resorts in South America. Las Lenas near Malargue, Argentina was no exception. In fact, the ski resort received over a meter of snow at the base and several meters up high. Snow drifts are being reported at over 10 feet. It was an epic and has set the ski area up for a great August.
Reggie Crist was at the right place at the right time. As he digs out, he shares one of his past visits with skichile.net and defines the “A Factor”.
South American Flashback by Reggie Crist
When the snow melts in the northern hemisphere, most die hard skiers retreat into a summer hibernation but for the passionate few there is only one place to go… South… Way South!
I first started coming to South America in the late 80’s to train downhill with the US Ski Team and even though my ski racing years are far behind me I continue to return most every August to explore the Andes and enjoy the culture. It’s an easy trip that guarantees adventure. From most locations in the states you can catch a casual afternoon departure connecting with a red-eye flight to Santiago. With any luck, Delta will have managed to deliver on the promise of moving your bags from one plane to the next and you’ll be on your way up to the mountains, skiing by midday. Should you decide to go the extra mile over into Argentina, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts, especially if you embrace the ‘A factor.’
I knew about the A Factor long before I learned it had a name. In short, it’s the Argentine way of making decisions without the practical application of logical thinking. Resist the A Factor and it may cause undue anxiety, though it can just as easily play in your favor if you’re willing to slow down and dance to a different beat. If you decide to stay on the Chilean side, you’ll mingle with more rational minded people. You’ll have a more predictable and organized experience. A few too many Pisco Sours might leave you scrambled in the morning, but if you follow the condor into the mountains, you’ll find the path to memorable adventures. If you choose to make the hop over to Argentina you’ll be welcomed by an exotic culture of romantic people where the Malbec flows like water, the lomo is lean like the women and the snow lays down velvet fields of powder between dramatic granite spires.
Upon our arrival in Las Lenas we could see the tallest peaks flagging, indicating high winds at upper elevations. It’s a common sight in the Andes where the predominant northwest winds scour high ridge lines and deposit snow on the more protected leeward slopes. Directional sense is always challenging to calibrate here in the southern hemisphere. The sun moves from right to left over the northern sky – opposite our usual perspective at home. The Coriolis Effect swirls the toilet water in the other direction and the A Factor explains why the worlds greatest lift service, The Marte (top lift that access 90% of all the terrain), is sometimes closed on a perfect bluebird day for no apparent reason.
Such was the case our first morning in Lenas. Election day was reason enough for lift operators to excuse themselves from the arduous task of loading the Marte despite perfect conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I honor the right to vote, but I talked to several locals who managed to vote and ski all day – just not from the top of the Marte. Keep in mind, tranquility is the foundation of A factor behavior. Drawing on years of experience and a few key relationships (Claudio Margaride) we embraced this world of opposites and quickly negotiated our way into the back of a snowcat in route to the top of the mountain. As it turned out we stood on top of the resort on a perfect blue bird powder day while the Marte stood motionless. High in the Andes there are many elements at work though none more dynamic than the A Factor which can bring bitter disappointment and absolute stoke in a single day. With 5000 vertical feet of untracked powder below, I turned to my cohorts and declared, ‘Claudio for President!.’