Cerro Catedral is not your typical ski hill, even for South America. Owned by the Argentinian military, a haphazard assortment of lifts rise from bamboo forests into the high alpine, converging and intersecting one another almost at random. There is a passenger-only tram and a t-bar up a 45 degree bowl that has never seen a passenger. There are also misty tree runs that see very little traffic and storm cycles not unlike those in the Pacific Northwest that can see three feet of powder dump overnight, only to be covered by rain, and re-deposited in another wave of moisture days later.
I recently spent 15 days at Catedral with the crew at South American Snow Sessions and experienced all that it had to offer. From early session knee deep pow in the bamboo to wind-scoured crust in the alpine, the mountain served up a varied menu to compliment the vast amounts of meat and potatoes on the dinner table every night. The top of the hill was shut down for several days before it rained to the top and turned the lower mountain into a mud patch, driving us to find amusement on a wall ride behind the admin building. Then it snowed hard, leaving the powder plentiful in the trees once again, ripping high-speed laps through a moss-blanketed deciduous forest.
Following a three-day hiatus thanks to a fever-inducing virus, the wind stopped blowing and the sun came out for my last day on the mountain, revealing a collection of chutes and cliffs amidst rust-colored walls in the sidecountry zone known as Lagunas, with a view back to the town of Bariloche and Lago Nahuel Huapi. This was where the mountain truly shined: out with a strong group of skiers and snowboarders, including in-house snow safety experts and Silverton, CO, guides Alex Hunt and Skylar Holgate and Teton Gravity Research athlete Dash Longe, the SASS crew got busy on the spines and spires of Lagunas.
After seeing what the alpine had to offer, leaving Bariloche was a bit harder the next day, but it was good to see all sides of this South American resort with its own unique flavor. Where else can you ski a bamboo forest and high alpine chutes in the same day?
Skier: Mauricio Cambilla
Photo: Colin Wiseman