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Ambush In The Andes, Day 3: An army, a train, and the Hermannator

The 2008 South American Photo Challenge

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In case you missed

yesterday’s update

, Herr Hermannator and the Ausrtian Ski Team are training in Portillo. So far we’ve watched them

eat a lot of spaghetti

and crush my hopes of beating Pep Fujas at ping-pong. Fujas is a shifty bastard on the table and the man to beat. And just as I was climbing out of the five-point sewer I’d played myself into, another Austrian racer claimed I’d been using his personal ping-pong racket. He said he’d brought it from Austria and demanded I surrender it in the middle of my game. In the interest of geopolitical and bi-lateral diplomacy, I let it go. I got a different racket, the only one left. It had the structural rigidity of a salmon. Pep killed me.

Unlike his racket-hording teammate, the Hermannator is actually nice. Or so says photographer Jordan Manley. “I was shooting Chad for the creative angle shots and all of sudden we see the Hermannator ski down toward us,” he said. This gave Manley an idea for a shot in the ski culture category. Manley’s teammate, Chad Sayers, is a full head shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Maier.

“I made Chad stand back-to-back with the Hermannator,”

says Manley. When asked if he’d pose for a photo, not only did the Hermannator happily oblige, but he grilled Chad with genuine curiosity about “jumping zee cleefs unt shkiing ze powdah for ze camera.”

In the afternoon, we caught up with photographer Steve Lloyd and his teammate, Jason West. They were shooting their creative angle category in the mouth of an abandoned train tunnel dug into the side of a mountain. To get to the tunnel, we had to cross a Chilean military exercise held in the snow

(somehow they let us take pictures)

, get to the highway at the

Chile-Argentina border

(we had to weave around the trucks), and hike up another 800 vertical feet. We skied a huge fan of corn and got to the tunnel. “I didn’t want to walk too far into the tunnel,” Lloyd told me, nervous about the

huge icicles hanging from the ceiling

. “See this ice debris down here? Those were stuck on the ceiling yesterday. I don’t want to get smoked by falling ice.”

Lloyd quickly rigged his flash set-up and West hucked. Unlike our version,

shown here

, the shot should look a lot different through the tunnel and through the lens of Lloyd. And by “different” I mean “way, way, way better.”

— — — —

The 2008 South American Photo Challenge, held at Chile’s Ski Portillo, is an invite-only, five-day event to determine who can shoot the best photography in five categories: air, powder, big mountain line, ski culture, and creative angle. The photo/athlete teams are Grant Gunderson shooting Pep Fujas, Adam Clark shooting Eric Roner, Steve Lloyd shooting Jason West, Jordan Manley shooting Chad Sayers, and Gene Dwarkin shooting Josh Van Jura. The winning shots will be published in the February issue of

Skiing magazine.

In the meantime, check

for daily updates.