5 Reasons why snowboarders love Argentina

By user41563, 21 May '14 at 11:38

When talking about snowboarding destinations, Argentina doesn’t necessarily spring to mind. Most keen snowboarders will have travelled to Europe’s famous snowboard meccas (Mayrhofen, Avoriaz & Laax) and some may have made it as far afield as Canada, the US and Japan. The Andes Mountains are a relatively hidden gem that very few Brits find the time or imagination to visit on a snowboard adventure.

For the past 13 years Peak Leaders have been running snowboard instructor courses down in South America’s most popular ski town, San Carlos de Bariloche. Bariloche sits on the shores of the beautiful Lago Nahuel Huapi and is one of the biggest cities in Patagonia. It is a thriving resort town with lots of hotels, bars and nightclubs, and has an airport that offers daily flights to Buenos Aires. From Bariloche it’s just a short drive, or bus ride, to Cerro Catedral, which is South America’s largest ski resort and has over 30 lifts offering 1000m of vertical, which is comparable with many resorts in Canada and the US.


Having spent so much time down in Patagonia the team at Peak Leaders believe it’s the perfect destination for snowboarders out there who fancy embarking on a snowboarding adventure with a difference, and here’s why:

The Spirit of Adventure



Snowboarding in Argentina isn’t like snowboarding in Europe, North America, New Zealand or Japan…….it’s definitely got its own vibe. Although the flight down to Buenos Aires is quite long, 13 hours, that’s only a couple of extra hours more than flying to Tokyo and 3 ½ hours more than flying to Vancouver……..and 10 hours less than flying to New Zealand!

Before a short connection flight to Bariloche you’ll land in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, which sits on the east coast of the country. Buenos Aires is HUGE and has an awesome feel to it, a very vague description would be European architecture and heritage meets Latin American flair. Not only is it a bustling and exciting city, full of the best and worst of Argentina, but it’s also home to some of the best restaurants and nightclubs you’re ever likely to visit.



It’s important to remember that the Argentinians do things a little differently to us Brits. To begin with you won’t head out to a restaurant until 11pm, back home you’d be struggling to keep your eyes open by this time! After a delicious meal of the biggest tastiest steak you’ve ever consumed and a few glasses of Mendozan Red Wine, you’ll clear the palate with a couple of shots of Fernet. By the time you leave for a nightclub it will be around 3am and you’ll still arrive early enough to avoid queuing! The rest of the night/morning will be a haze of beautiful people, cocktails and, unavoidably, some Reggaeton for the locals to twerk to.

There is a lot more to Argentina than fantastic nightlife and delicious food. The landscape, nature and people in Argentina make it a very rich country culturally. To see it all, from the glaciers of the Andes to the Yunga Rainforests and Patagonian Desert, you’d need more than a couple of weeks away. Thankfully, much of the fantastic scenery is close to Bariloche and with just a short drive you can visit snow-capped peaks, lush forests, deep glacial lakes and the arid Patagonian Desert.

No trip down to Argentina is complete without a horseback ride with the local Gaucho’s. ‘Gaucho’ is the Argentine name for a cowboy and there are many small communities of Gauchos living around the foothills of the Andes and in the Patagonian Steppe.

Every year the Peak Leaders crew travel to a small Gaucho Community in the Nahuel Huapi National Park called Cuyin Manzano. This small farming village is a collection of small houses, a church and lots of wooden shacks, nestled in a beautiful arid valley. To get there you need to drive along dirt tracks and through rivers and once there it’s like travelling back in time. After a few miles of riding through the mountains on horseback it’s time for a traditional Argentine BBQ, which is known as an Asado. An Asado normally involves half a cow, a wood fire, lots of Chimichurri (a popular South American condiment) and a freshly brewed gourd of Mate.

Horse Riding in the Patagonian Steppe from Peak Leaders on Vimeo.



Cat-Boarding



Aside from splitboarding with experienced guides, and a few helicopter operations around Bariloche and Mendoza, which are quite pricey, the best value way to experience the Alpine wilderness of the Andes is through Cat-Boarding. Bariloche’s only Cat-Boarding operation lies an hour drive south of the city in a private mountain reserve called Baguales.

Baguales is a huge 10,000 hectare private reserve that can only be accessed by a private road. Due to its position on the eastern edge of the Andes, close to Lake Nahuel Huapi and the Patagonian Steppe, it benefits from great snow conditions and cooler temperatures throughout the winter. Simply getting to the refuge where the cat departs from is a mission in its self. You’ll cross rivers and navigate some seriously treacherous roads in a 4x4 before being taken the last couple of miles up to the refuge on a skidoo. The refuge is a large wooden building with a log fire in the centre, sheep skin rugs, and incredible vistas over the surrounding landscape. After a hearty breakfast its time to jump in the ‘Cat’, a brand new Pisten Bully with a large carriage on the back, and ascend the surrounding peaks.

It’s fair to say that the incredible views, fantastic terrain, and remoteness make the whole day a very individual experience. With just twelve people and 10,000 hectares of terrain you are guaranteed to get fresh lines all day long. Combine the amazing riding with first class hosting from the team of guides and caterers at Baguales and you have an experience that rivals anything you’ll find in Canada or Europe.


Fun terrain & powder!



The terrain at Cerro Catedral, and some of the smaller resorts close by, is a lot of fun. At times the terrain is steep and rocky, especially if you head out of bounds. The backcountry consists of deep powder clad mountain faces littered with cliffs, couloirs and boulders, which makes for great freeride terrain and some amazing kicker spots. Coincidentally the backcountry around Cerro Catedral is a popular filming destination for snowboard film crews.

From the top of Cerro Catedral you’ll be able to see the Tronador Glacier, the Patagonian Desert and the huge glacial lake ‘Nahuel Huapi’. Not only that but you’re likely to have a Condor, or two, fly over your head while you’re sat on a chairlift. The Andean Condor is one of the largest birds in the world, with a wingspan of over 10ft, and the granite spires around Cerro Catedral provide perfect shelter for their nests.


Within the bounds of the resort the terrain is varied, easily accessible and there are plenty of features. At Cerro Catedral you can find cliff drops and cornices with perfect landings, and first class tree runs, where the trees and bamboo are perfectly spaced and the snow is deep. The pistes are wide with plenty of natural jumps on the side and rollers to fly off, and there is a great deal of steeper terrain which is accessible from the top of the Nubes chairlift and La Laguna drag lift.

For those that enjoy the park: the facilities at Cerro Catedral are never going to match the likes of Mayrhofen or Breckenridge but once again the key word here is ‘fun’. Nothing at Cerro Catedral is too intimidating; there is always a decent jump line with kicker tabletops ranging from 5m to 15m, and there are a good array of rails and boxes that can be hit in the same run as the jumps.


With upwards of 6m of snow falling on the upper slopes of Cerro Catedral during a season there are plenty of powder days. This is more than any ski resort in New Zealand or Australia.The beauty of Cerro Catedral is that, unlike many European and North American resorts, many of the off piste areas remain untracked for relatively long periods of time after a snowfall. Unlike resorts in the US, Canada and Japan, the best runs are easily accessible and aren’t closed to the public. That said: the Argentinian lifties do tend to be a little slower at getting the resort open in the morning!

If you want to shred powder on your trip to the southern hemisphere then Argentina and some of the resorts across the border in Chile can’t be beaten. If you’re looking to ride some seriously light and fluffy powder then your best bet is to head up to Las Lenas, a short flight or long car journey north. Las Lenas has almost 20,000 hectares of skiable terrain, with the base of the resort starting at a higher altitude than the top of Cerro Catedral and lifts reaching as high as 3,400m. Although the annual snowfall is similar to Cerro Catedral it has been known for up to 2 metres of snow to fall in one night at Las Lenas and the lifts to be buried!


Amazing People



Argentina, and especially Patagonia, is full of lovely people. Argentinians by their very nature are caring people whose lives revolve around their family and friends. Similarly to people living in Southern Europe the Argentinians are passionate about food and love nothing more than a long lunch in the sun with a glass of wine, surrounded by their extended family.


By night the Argentinians know how to party. Rather than focusing their efforts on how drunk they can get, they focus on eating well and having as much fun as possible, which normally involves dancing until the sun comes up. Unlike a trendy London nightclub, in Argentina nobody is ashamed of tangoing with a complete stranger in the middle of a nightclub dance floor. The Argentinians have buckets full of South American flair and aren’t ashamed to show it!

Argentina is affordable



It’s no secret that Argentina’s economy is struggling. Recent economic policies from the government have meant that the Argentine Pesos is at a 10-year low against the UK Pound and the US Dollar. Nevertheless, you won’t get a favourable rate from cash machine withdrawals, credit card payments or currency exchange booths.

In Argentina today it seems there are two currencies that are being used, the Pesos and the US Dollar. Due to failing confidence in the Pesos many Argentinians are buying-up US Dollars, as this is a more stable currency. This grey market trading of currency is referred to as ‘the Blue Dollar’ and can give visiting tourists up to 30% more Pesos for their money.

Even without using the Blue Dollar Argentina is not an expensive country to visit but adding an extra 30% to the value of your money will allow you to live like a king. To put this into context: a 3 course meal and bottle of wine at a highly regarded Steak Restaurant, like Alberto’s in Bariloche, will cost you around £20.


From more information about snowboarding in Argentina click here!

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