October may just be the only time when skiers from both hemispheres are thinking about snow. It is a month of frosts and the occasional storm for gringos, our prelude to colder weather, thicker frosts, and the coming season. Yet for skiing’s southern brethren, who are tired and tanned from the past four months, October brings closure, el finiquito de trabajo. It is a time when the last whites become browns, when winter’s nomads must fill the valleys, and when the only resort that matters (according to this blog) shuts its doors. So even as I travel northward, where snow fills my horizon, this October mind is reflective. It must naturally look backward and take the good season’s inventory.
My first criterion of a great winter is always high snowfall, preferably on the dry side. By that standard, Portillo did just fine. With over five meters total, we cruised through September like it was August – just blue skies and plenty of snow, the finest spring conditions that I can remember. But let’s go back to August, oh boy, and July too, when there were only storms. Search through past entries to glimpse the glory. It’s all there: powder more powder hikes everything’s covered las pistas groomed soft. From mid-July through August, all I remember is the road being closed, snow every weekend. But the people were happy because the good times in Portillo begin and end on the slopes.
While snow is the priority, let us not forget that whom you spend the winter with can almost be as important as the conditions. Portillo, as always, spent the 2011 season enjoying the company of ex-Presidents, Chilean celebrities, and skiing royalty. Our most recent VIPs were the Olympic teamers, who join us every spring to train on Roca Jack. The crowd favorite, however, was Chris Davenport and his humble gang (Mike Douglas, Ingrid Backstrom, Chris Anthony, Wendy Fisher), who provide big-mountain clinics each August. Finally, lured by Portillo’s steep and rocky terrain, there were the film and photo crews, which included Sweetgrass productions, Patagonia, and Mountain Hardware. Those groups aside, I also checked in families, couples, friends, and lone wanderers from all over the world. In reality, Portillo spent the winter with friends: the new, the old, and the very old. It was another year of memories and connections; another year of lunches at Tío Bob’s, aprés ski at the pool, and nights everywhere. At the big yellow hotel with its big blue lake, it was just another perfect year of bluebird powder days in the cordillera.
Thanks to everyone who read the blog this season. To those readers who I met personally, it was a pleasure. This is obviously the last entry until… next season? Portillo has twice been my summer home, so who knows. ¡Ojalá nos veamos luego!