After two weeks in South America, daily reminders that I’ve been spoiled keep presenting themselves. But I had always thought that the skiing would be different. Trust me, after all that time I spent on vallenevado.com, many assuring thoughts entered my mind. The pictures on the site described not a resort, but a huge central lodge surrounded by mountains on all sides blanketed with powder, much like a volcano inside out (if you remember your 6th grade geometry). But after a rather frightening one and a half hour drive, which had more traverses than the Yankees have pennants, I was getting a bit skeptical. So as far as the actual skiing: I’ll quote Andy Roddick here: “It was horrible, it sucked. Otherwise it was great.” 

My point is the skiing here is not an exception to my spoiled points. The snow quality wasn’t great (I ski in Utah so that’s another world in itself), there was only one high speed lift, and to top it off it was extremely overcast which probably got me into a bad mood. But besides that, it was great. 

What I mean by this is the resort itself has great potential. First off, let me say Valle Nevado has a lot of terrain. South American ski resorts have a different mentality than the ones in the States and Canada — there are no rope lines. Everything out of the groomed runs are at your own risk, and that’s great. You don’t get your lift passes clipped from you, and most of the non-groomers end up at a lift, plus its a ghost town anywhere away from a groomed slope. But it’s not like you should stay away from the off-piste though, its amazing. Sadly we came too late (3 days after the storm) so we only found patches of the untracked stuff left. Here’s the video — bare with me on the on music…

But if you get bored with all the huge area that Valle Nevado offers, don’t worry — you have access to two other great resorts: La Parva and El Colorado — which border Nevado on both sides. So with a clear day and powder, you can have the day of your life here. And hopefully that’s what I am going to get in a matter of days — the weather man is calling for a meter of fresh snow. By that time I will be skiing in the famous Portillo resort, entirely in another direction. And hopefully then I will be able to see beyond a few feet in front of me. Well, we’re excited — I am writing this in the car smack dab in the center of Santiago our two hour pilgrimage to Portillo.

            After four more hours of flying after the Lima stop, I got the chance to rest in the Santiago, Chile airport for a few hours before hitting the sky again for another two hours to get to Montevideo, Uruguay. Not being as tired (I got a good three hours of sleep on the way back), I got to settle down and roam the Santiago airport. Chile is more relaxed and laid back than Peru, and there are English signs hanging (which there were none of in Lima). The people still look at me in udder disgust, but since there are considerably more Americans roaming around Santiago, I guess it’s not as unique to be here. But don’t get me wrong — Chile is beautiful. As I write and look out of the window from the airplane, you can see gigantic seaside mountains that tower above the clouds, completely covered with snow. The Andes range is truly the most beautiful I have ever seen, its towering presence so imposing but at the same time so beautiful you end up starting at its jagged peaks like you just saw a Bugatti. The sky is a beautiful dark blue, something I only get to experience when I go to Utah. I am definitely looking forward to skiing here in a week.

            As far as the airport, tourism is definitely a huge income. Walking down the narrow hallways, you are surrounded by tourist shops with everything from gummy bears to the Easter Island statues advertised. My mom was eventually lured into one, and I had to follow. You can see the pictures above. The entire shop was in English – even the magazines were all American. And the customers – well, you would think you were in California. My mom ended up buying some food and a few tourist items, and I bought a white cap with penguins on it reading: Pinguinos de Chile. Why? After officially becoming a tourist, I had to look the part. And to solidify I was American, I wore it backwards. 

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For the first time in my life it feels weird to be American. As a kid, I’ve always

‘thought of South America as a vast continent scattered with small towns comprised of tents and longhouses, and the cities would be much less than what we have in the states. Why the heck did I think that? Is it because I’m tired after a ten-hour flight, or is it because I’m American, and that’s what we’re supposed to think. I’d guess it’s both. So here I am in the capital of Peru’s airport during a 30-minute refueling break for a plane bound for Santiago, Chile. It’s a strange sensation; I can’t read or understand a word that’s spoken or written, and I’m fascinated by it. This is the first place I have ever been where I am the lone American, surrounded by South American people who don’t give a tomato that I speak English and walk around like a tropical parrot in the North Pole. In fact, everyone around me seems kind of disgusted. They’ve probably been through this drill before, and I can relate to that. Heck, whenever I’m trotting around the Los Angeles Airport, which is my home for the weekends, I’m disgusted to see foreigners speaking other languages and getting completely lost. I just want to shout: “Can’t you see the signs!” Gee, I’m so American.

So here I am, sitting in a Spanish smoking bar, music blaring all around me, my lungs half full with second-hand smoke, sitting in front of a computer that has free internet, but because I forgot almost all my Spanish from second grade, I can’t read a thing on the screen. I knew that was going to come back and haunt me. I’m in somewhere totally foreign to me, thousands of miles away from home, and – as an intense traveler — my worst dream has come true: I, the local, has become the tourist. I have lost the battle with myself to overcome being in such a different place and act like I live here. The only thing I am familiar with here is a Hannah Montana backpack worn by a 10 year old Disney fan sitting to my left. God, Disney’s marketing is genius. So, here I am, surrounded by Peruvian people, in a smoking bar in a South American airport. And it feels tiring, enraging, and good at the same time. I’ve only spent 10 minutes here, and Peru is unique.

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Note: Since I ended up being too stupid to even try to get internet, I typed this in Peru, but it will probably be published whenever I get internet, so don’t get freaked out because of the different times. And don’t tell me I’ve overlooked Peru, because I have…I’ve only visited the airport for a refueling stop. If you want a full review of a South American city, try to read my first impressions of Montevideo, Uruguay, which I’ll write when I arrive there later today. 

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