Ganong, U.S. skiers have Chile adventure | SierraSun.com

Ganong, U.S. skiers have Chile adventure

Travis Ganong
Special to the Sun

So after missing the last two days of training in Termas De Chillan due to weather, I finally packed up my five ski bags and two duffels and we (U.S. Ski Team) loaded the charter bus for the 10-hour bus ride to Santiago and the beach.

With the muddy, winding mountain roads behind us, and the rain forest giving way to rolling green fields, we hopped on the freeway to Santiago. Or so we thought …

Every half an hour or so, the bus would pull off the side of the road, and to our amazement, two or three people would jump out of the luggage compartments under the bus. I guess our charted bus was running an underground public bus service.

This unfortunately added another few hours to the trip. We also made a nice half-hour detour to the bus driver’s family’s restaurant for lunch ” quite a business the bus company was running!

Arriving in Santiago, we dropped off the Spanish National Ski Team, which had hitched a ride with us. Then the bus driver got lost trying to leave the smoggy city, adding another half-hour to our trip.

Watching the sun go down, we were finally back on the road, and our hopes were up for actually seeing the ocean.

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But we got lost again.

You would think that a bus charter company would hire drivers who knew where they were going, or at least ones who own a map.

Coming up on hour 13 of the drive, we finally saw the huge, white sandy beaches of Renaca, Chile, our destination.

Everyone was absolutely exhausted but excited to see what the beach could offer. We had a late dinner of carne empanadas and happily fell asleep to the sounds of waves crashing on the smooth sand behind our hotel.

The morning greeted us with not a cloud in the sky and warm, summer-like temperatures at the beach.

We started the day off with a pretty intense beach workout consisting of 20 seconds of a strenuous activity followed by sprinting through an obstacle course of cones in the sand, balancing across a log with our eyes closed and then five-minute light jogs down the beach. After six sets of these, the work was over and we could enjoy the beach.

Paddle ball, football, soccer, body surfing; we did it all. We ended that day with a dusk surf mission at the north end of the beach.

We rented boards, full winter wetsuits and booties, and headed out into the huge surf. I have surfed a bit in places like Santa Cruz and around California, but this was crazy.

It was a mess out there, with sets of waves coming from all directions colliding and crashing together. I got destroyed, getting pummeled by wave after wave like I was in a washing machine.

But, near the end of the session, right when the red sun was disappearing over the horizon, I caught one little wave and stood up, making it all worth the effort.

If you have ever surfed, you know that amazing feeling when you drop into a wave and feel the power of the ocean behind your board.

Enjoying the comfort of sand between the toes was nice after two weeks in ski boots ” a perfect little break between training sessions high up in the Andes.

We spent the next morning strolling up and down the beach checking out the locals and enjoying the culture of South America.

Things are a little different down here.

People seem to move at a slower pace, and enjoy every second of every day just a little bit more. It’s not the hustle-and-bustle economic lifestyle of America; rather, it’s people just enjoying life with what they have and making do.

I like it down here.

As we load the bus ” we went through a different company, thankfully ” I’m happy and satisfied with everything at the beach. But like any mountain person, I can’t wait to get back on the road and climb back into the snowy white peaks I love.

The anticipation of Portillo, a ski resort 10,000 feet up in the Andes near the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, is circulating through the bus.

We are all ready to get on the slopes and resume training.

I can’t wait to click on the long boards and ski some downhill and super G.

Until then …

Travis Ganong is a North Tahoe local and member of the U.S. Ski Team’s C Team. He is is currently training in South America with the U.S. Ski Team.