Training for Big Mountain Skiing in Portillo

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PC: Eric Sales

Photo: Eric Sales

By Andrew Rumph

I spent my fourth season ski instructing, coaching and freeskiing in the legendary Ski Portillo, Chile. It sits along the edge of La Lugana del Inca surrounded by jagged and awe inspiring 13,000-foot peaks.  The views are amazing and the skiing is even better. Portillo offers some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. There is everything from steep technical chutes to wide open bowls. With a little bit of hiking the possibilities are endless. Along with the world class off-piste skiing Portillo also has groomed runs from beginner up to advanced. There is something for everyone here.

The season started off with a bang with close to record snow in June and early July. Then the snow faucet shut off for around five weeks.  We still had a nice base so the steeps were open during the drought but the conditions were challenging to say the least. I still had a great time exploring some chutes I hadn’t skied before and had a great time pushing myself in bullet proof snow. In late August and early September, we had some big storms and some unreal powder days! Imagine a wide open steep slope with a few of your friends and a high speed five-person tow rope to whip you up the mountain as many times as your legs will let you! Skiing powder in Portillo is one of life’s best pleasures. After the storms in early September, it was warm and sunny for the last few weeks of the season. We ended the season skiing five-star corn and had a blast.

Portillo

Photo: Andrew Rumph

Portillo is the ideal Southern Hemisphere resort to train for Freeride competitions. With the high-speed tow ropes you are able to lap very steep and technical terrain super quickly. When I had time off from work I would ski those steep chutes over and over again. The first few runs I would start off slow and cautiously to make sure I knew where the rocks and mandatory airs were. After that I would pick up the pace and eventually ski the chute as fast as I possibly could. While doing this I was able to rewire my brain into thinking the lines are less scary and to believe they are totally doable. I would have not been able to mentally commit to skiing the run full throttle without easing into it. After finally skiing the line as fast and aggressive as possible, it helps me look at other lines differently after gaining confidence. I am hoping the confidence and skills I gained in Portillo this year are going to pay off this season while competing in the Subaru Freeride Series.

Teaching skiing in Portillo also helps me to be a better freeride competitor. Coaching my students on ski technique, tactics and risk management help me practice all those things myself. An example of this is when I am coaching my student about slowing down after dropping a rock in steep terrain with a fast runout. I teach my students to land solidly with their shins on the front of there boots and hands forward absorbing the landing with long legs then flexing to absorb. After absorbing and stomping the landing, I coach to take a split second to straight line in order to make sure they are balanced before the first turn, then extend both legs and stand a little taller; after that make a long, round and skidded turn with almost all of the weight balanced over the outside/downhill ski to shed speed and to continue skiing the line fluidly. This technique helps my students and I ski the line fast, fluidly and safely.

I’m already day dreaming about next season. Look me up if you are lucky enough to make a trip to magical Portillo.