One last late blooming powderday in South America. This is not how the day began, but it was how it ended.
I thought it was supposed to be spring down here in Argentina but Mother Nature had one more surprise for us yesterday at Cerro Catedral.
The Volcano Puyehue started pumping ash into the skies over Southern Chile and Argentina on June 3rd 2011 and hasn’t stopped. Just yesterday we were sucking ash, chewing grit, and coughing on walks to the grocery store here in Bariloche just 90 miles southeast of the volcano. We have been very lucky all season with most of the ash blowing to the north of the region, but we’ve still had a handful of days where its better not to go skiing.
The ash has devastated the local economy. The airport has been closed and the road over the mountains to Chile has also been impassable as a result of Puyehue. When the Volcano first blew its top Bariloche more closely resembled a post apocalyptic ghost town than a picturesque lake and mountain resort.
The long term effects of the continuing eruption are still to be seen and when the winds changes and the ash blows into Bariloche it’s a quick reminder that the cineza is still in the air… and on the ground… and in the lake. I spoke with a local fisherman (and skier) a few days ago on a chairlift, he was projecting a major fish die off in the region. The ash layer that settled to the bottom of the lake has created an inhospitable environment for fish eggs and there is concern that this years spawning might not produce many offspring.
The volcano has been downright lousy for the people and wildlife here. Tourism in Bariloche is down to %20 of normal, employees have been laid off, businesses have closed, confidence for the businesses that remain open is down, and not very many people are at the resort skiing. But Agentines really do have a way of brushing the dust off their shoulders and enjoying each day for what it’s worth. There have been a few ironically pleasant consequences of the ash. Notably, not very many people have been skiing. I’ve caught more than a few local riders fighting back smiles on that point.
The resort had been closed on Thursday because of ash in the air. But it seems like every time the ash blows in, it seeds the clouds for a storm. By Thursday night it was raining at lake level and when we woke up Friday morning there were potato chip flakes falling for a late spring dusting here in Argentina.
It felt like winter in the morning, with flat light, socked in clouds, wind, and snow. But by noon the storm started to blow over and the sun began to peak through.
By the next chair ride the skies had cleared.
The clouds do amazing things here. Crazy orographic effects or something.
Soupy on the right, sunny on the left.
Anyway, by the end of the day some of the best turns of the season could be had… Did I mention that nobody was out?