Powder skiing at its finest | SierraSun.com

Powder skiing at its finest

Alex Close/Sierra SunTravis Ganong stands under the Olympic Rings below Squaw Valley's KT-22 last winter, putting into perspective his aspirations to become a world-class Alpine skier and freeskier. The North Tahoe local found some untracked powder in South America while on a U.S. Ski Team training trip recently.

Editor’s note: Travis Ganong is a North Tahoe native and member of the United States Skiing Association C Team. A four-event skier, he posted 19 top-10 finishes as a rookie on the National Development Team last season. Ganong recently attended a U.S. training camp in South America.

This is the start of the full-blown preparation period as a U.S. Ski Team athlete: A trip down south to Chile.

After about 15 hours of flying and another 10-hour bus ride, I arrived in Termas de Chillan, an amazing ski area located in Southern Chile.

The ski area rises out of a mossy, dense rain forest up to the base of some very active volcanoes ” spewing sulfuric gas the entire time ” along two amazing ridges.

The first few days we were able to load the lifts at 5:45 a.m. and had some amazing training before the public arrived.

The 25-gate Giant Slalom (GS) course was a perfect warm-up for the speed training that we were preparing for later in the camp. Then the wind picked up.

They were not able to spin the lifts on the top of the mountain for a few days, so we were stuck down in the rain forest and lower slopes skiing GS and relaxing in the hot springs.

That probably sounds pretty nice, but it was so frustrating just waiting out the wind, when all I wanted to do was go up and get some good turns in on the winter snow.

Then the storm arrived.

The clouds got dark, the wind picked up and the snow started falling. It reminded me of one of those amazing New Year’s storms we all love in Tahoe ” the huge flakes falling down through the trees, and the snow just piling up inch after inch.

Snow fell all night, through the next day and through that night.

Like always, I was getting jittery anticipating the upcoming powder day. On of my fellow teammates went ahead and hid one of my powder skis after dinner that night.

A great joke.

I dropped everything I was doing and looked so hard until I found the ski ” my top priority.

That next morning the clouds parted and we all rushed to the lifts. Somehow the patrollers thought we were just going training, getting our early load before the public as usual. But instead we had our own private, powder-filled ski area all to ourselves for three hours before the public arrived.

You could imagine how that was.

We took lap after lap off one of the ridges, dropping off this huge cornice and down these more technical lines with mandatory 20- to 40-footers.

It was amazing; we would just traverse to the next spine and down the ridge, run after run, and find amazing untouched snow.

Fifteen epic runs later, by the time the public was allowed up on the hill, the entire mountain had been destroyed by our tracks!!

An amazing summertime ski adventure in Chile.

So the beginning of the trip in Termas de Chillan found us losing a lot of training due to the winter weather, but the amazing powder skiing more than made up for the lost time.

Also, powder skiing is a great way to get balance back under the feet and get good touch on the snow. It’s great training in its own way, not to mention that it is really fun.

I feel ready and prepared for the intense, full-on DH and SG training coming up in Portillo.

But, before Portillo we are headed to the beach in Chile for a little surfing and rest.

Until next time …

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