Stay an entire season I did. I first learned about
Chapa Verde at a Santiago tourist office that had many ski brochures.
One brochure was for Chapa, an area I had never heard of. Chapa
Verde in Spanish means 'green grass'. That may not be the most appropriate
name for a winter playground, but after reading some of the mountain
statistics that include much off-piste expert terrain and a 2500
foot vertical drop, I decided that the area merited a visit.
Little did I know on that early June day I visited
the tourist office that a ski instructing job offer I had at another
Chilean ski area, Villarrica Pucon, would at the last minute be
rescinded. I lost my job offer in the beginning of July-two months
into the Chilean ski season. Ski instructing work is not easy to
come by in Chile-especially so far into the season. After several
hasty phone calls to ski school directors at Chilean areas, I found
out that job prospects at Chapa looked the most promising. So to
Chapa I went.
My idea was to give Chapa a sort of 'test' before
I committed myself to working there. When it comes to skiing, I'm
somewhat demanding. If a ski area's terrain is not steep and varied,
I get bored with it quickly. Naturally the ski school director also
wanted to 'test' me before she offered me a job. I passed that test
and won a ski instructor job. Chapa also passed my test.
I arrived to the mountain by bus. I quickly found
the ski school director, a sweet woman named Heidi Neufeld. She
set me up with a lift ticket for the day and a ski instructor guide.
Even though I did not mention it, she knew intuitively that I would
be evaluating the mountain. She left my guide, Rodrigo, and me to
explore the mountain and promised to ski with me later during the
day. Rodrigo and I skied the groomed cruisers near the lifts. The
snow conditions were ideal and I just let the skis fly. That was
fun for a couple runs, but I was eager to ski off-trail. Rodrigo
led me along a ridge to the skier's right of the chairlift.
From that ridge, there is a spectacular view deep
into the Andes and its rugged peaks. I hoped the skiing would be
as challenging as the distant peaks were rugged. I was not disappointed.
Rodrigo and I descended a steep slope, and I was hooked on the skiing.
There was powder all the way to the base area. It had snowed four
days earlier, but I had fresh tracks all the way down. In spite
of some rocks I scraped at the lower part of the run, I enjoyed
the run immensely. I decided I could definitely spend a season at
Rodrigo, told me that beyond the ridge above the
triple chairlift, there is a peak that is not visible from the ski
trails. That is where the skiing was really supposed to be intense.
After Heidi offered me a job, Rodrigo and I made plans to climb
up to that peak the next day. We were both eager to hike up right
away because in three days Chilean children would begin their 3
week winter vacation, and we would be too busy teaching them how
to ski to be able to hike up to the summit.
The next day was perfect for a sojourn to the summit-blue
skies, temperatures in the mid 30's. The hike to the top took about
45 minutes from the top of the highest chair lift. We skied down
a long steep powder bowl. The five day old powder was knee-deep
and very dry all the way down. I loved it. At the bottom of the
bowl, I noticed many alternative ways down, including some extremely
steep chutes. The day before I knew I'd be happy at Chapa. Now I
was infatuated with the place.
Before Chapa closed for the season in September,
I made many trips up to the summit either hiking or riding a snow
cat. There was always powder or great spring snow, and those chutes
provided some incredible adrenaline rushes. Eventually Chapa will
install a chairlift to the summit. That chair will give it what
I think will be the best lift accessible skiing in Chile. The chair
will also potentially expand the season until November. Both Chilean
and gringo ski bums are very excited about Chapa. Probably anyone
who skis here would be.