Following the snow |

Following the snow

Chris Anthony
courtesy of Chris AnthonyA few snow shots of what you would have to look forward to on a ski trip to Portillo Chile.

Editor’s note: The following piece was written by Chris Anthony, professional extreme skier, a veteran of Warren Miller films and Vail Valley resident. Learn more about Chris Anthony at

As Earth tilts on her axis while rotating the sun, seasons migrate. Spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere and dissolves to summer, while in the south, winter is settling in.

Our planet is in a constant state of change while trying to maintain a balance. As she heats, she tries to cool. As she dampens, she tries to dry. It is a cycle civilizations have built themselves around and skiers study.

Warren Miller once said, “Somewhere on the planet, it is snowing right now.” Think about it. Or not. It might be a little too much to wrap the mind around.

Like a real estate investor who watches the stock market, those fanatics watch the Weather Channel religiously. My travels are based around the seasons. Through these journeys I have watched glaciers recede, temperatures rise. At the same time, I’ve watched record storms pound one region as droughts take to another. It seems that the microclimates have become more extreme. The more that moisture is put in the atmosphere from evaporation, the more it is falling to the ground somewhere else. The cycles are getting bigger. It feels a bit like our credit market at the moment. I just hope this means another season like the last for us here in Vail.

We are in the transition now. The Earth is tilting back and the jury is out on what winter will bring. If my travels this past season indicate anything for the upcoming season, it won’t be average. However, I’m not going to predict in what direction.

I put my skis back on the snow this summer in the Southern Hemisphere with fellow pros Chris Davenport, Shane McConkey, Wendy Fisher (in place of Ingrid Backstrom) and Mike Douglas. We stopped in Portillo, Chile, for “Skiing with the Superstars,” the Superstars being those willing to make the trek and show up for this weeklong steep skiing camp.

Our arrival into Santiago was preceded by a series of storms that pounded the Andes. The road leading up to Portillo was closed. Avalanches covered the road, leaving 30-foot debris piles in several places.

We sat and waited for the roads to be cleared and tried to stay calm. We remained confident that eventually we would arrive and the conditions would be amazing.

And they were. As I stepped out of the van under blue skies, I looked up at the first of two avalanches coming down on an area we have skied pretty consistently in years past. It was an amazing sight and one that I was happy to see. This is how the mountains clean themselves and we were at a safe distance watching it take place.

By the time we graced the mountain slopes, the snow stabilized to a certain degree and our steep skiing camp would be underway. It was the perfect introduction to the new arrivals about just how powerful Mother Nature can be.

Portillo Chile, located in the cradle of the Andes, is traditionally where numerous ski fanatics have swung through at one time or another. From beginners to the Austrians men’s team, complete with superstar Herman Maier, and the U.S. women’s team with overall World Cup Champion Lindsey Vonn, Portillo has something for everyone.

Even our rag-tag group of campers would eventually set ski tracks down every possible skiable descent over the week.

With five coaches and 28 clients, our group is as diverse was you can imagine, the youngest being 13 while the oldest crushes the 30-year-olds at age 62. Neither age nor gender matter down here. What matters is if you are you willing to take the skis off and hike beyond the reaches of the lifts or traverse beyond the trails. This is skiing the soulful way ” by earning your turns. It was the perfect summer break.

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