Skiers Provide Aid in Chile

The ski industry does its part in the Chile earthquake relief mission.
Skier gets big air at Valle Nevado, Chile

As they prepare for a summer of skiing in South America, ski groups have more than fresh powder on their minds. In response to the earthquake that devastated Chile in late February, several ski companies have joined forces with non-profit organizations to help the country rebuild.

Every summer, international ski camps, race teams, and tour groups flock to resorts in the Andes to hone their skills on skis and boards. Chile’s southern hemisphere winter runs from June to August, making it possible for the luckiest skiers to hit the slopes all year long.

On June 7th, the North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) issued a press release announcing the continuation of their camp this August in Portillo, Chile. They stressed the importance of business as usual, and stated that financial support is the best way to help Chile’s economy. Chile relies on tourism for 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product, and grossed nearly 10 billion dollars from the industry in 2009 alone. A decline in tourism could cause economic depression throughout the country.

In addition to continuing their training camp and presence in the country, NASTC plans to donate jackets and blankets to the people of Chile whose homes have been destroyed, and possessions lost or damaged.

Evolve Chile, a travel camp for high school-age skiers and snowboarders, partnered with Level 1 Productions to design a limited edition, co-branded Tall T, which they sell online. 100% of the profits go to Un Techo Para Chile, an NGO devoted to eliminating homelessness in Chile, and Evolve Chile’s own “Give Back” program.

“We’ve been doing a lot of fundraising throughout the year,” said Daniel Rinzer, director and founder of Evolve Chile. “[We do community service] not just in earthquake torn areas, but in the village [of Las Trancas] where we are based.”

In addition to the their work with Level 1, Evolve Chile’s recent partnership with Alpine Initiatives provides an avenue for more community service. Alpine Initiatives is a nonprofit organization that provides the snow sports community with an opportunity to have a positive impact on the world around them. Evolve Chile and Alpine Initiatives have not yet announced their upcoming projects, but hope to have a plan in action in the coming months.

While 2010 could have been Evolve Chile’s biggest year yet, Rinzler said he doesn’t believe that the earthquake has dampened business too much.

“Immediately after the earthquake about a dozen campers withdrew,” he said, “Understandably, they were concerned about the danger in Chile.” However, mountain towns like Las Trancas are far inland from the quake’s epicenter, and remained virtually undisturbed by the quake.

“Unluckily, so many people were affected by this, but we’re lucky to not be among them,” he said, “Chile is rolling.”

Ski camps are not the only ones looking to help. Powderquest Tours, a ski touring company that leads trips in Chile, Argentina and Canada, partnered with Save the Waves: Chile Earthquake Fund to provide relief. They pledged to donate $100 from every Chile ski tour booked between March 25 and September 15, 2010 to the cause.

No doubt echoing the thoughts of many, NASTC co-director Jenny Fellows voiced the close connection that NASTC feels with the Chilean people. “We are happy to provide our support to a country that we consider our second home and that has welcomed us year after year," she said.


Portillo, Chile

Inside Line: Portillo, Chile

At Portillo, there’s a good chance you’ll share a Poma with Seth Morrison or Daron Rahlves. It’s the off-season training spot for the pros. It’s no wonder why. All above treeline, the terrain is point-and-go, from rock-lined chutes to wide-open bowls to impeccably groomed cruisers. Laps are punctuated by boots-off, white-tablecloth lunches, hot-tub soaks, Ping-Pong with the locals, and thumping disco. Stay at the all-inclusive, European-style Portillo Lodge, where ski history seeps from wooden walls decorated with trophies from the first World Cup races. Thanks to overnight flights from the U.S. and a two-hour drive from the Santiago airport, you can even ski the day you arrive.

Ingrid Backstrom on lower El Estadio in Portillo, Chile

Portillo Unchanged

Welcome to Portillo, Chile, where gringos trade flip-flops for ski boots, racers and freeriders mingle, and pisco flows like carménère. The vibe is unabashedly old-school, and Portillo’s diehards wouldn’t have it any other way.

Portillo Photo Challenge

Portillo, Chile

Thanks to overnight flights from the U.S. and a two-hour drive from the Santiago airport, you can ski Portillo the day you arrive.