Second Patagonia Winter Games called success

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Text by Ignacio Palma and James Alfaro
Photos by James Alfaro
Translated by Graham Dane
The current drought in Chilean Patagonia was the "ghost at the feast" at the close of the Second Patagonia Winter Games.  On the final day, the organizers were expecting snowfall so as to increase the scant covering of accumulated snow and therefore permit the holding of world qualifiers for the Freeride World Tour. But it just rained, saturating the snowpack and forcing the cancellation of those events for safety reasons.
Nevertheless, the mood remained positive. The following day less demanding freeride trials were held. Although the levels of difficulty were not sufficient to count as part of the Second Freeride Qualifier, competitors from Chile and abroad took part, successfully ending the final portion of this year's event at the Cerro Castillo National Reserve in the Aysén region.
Turnout was high. There were two weekends when around 1500 spectators watched the competitions of ice climbing, rugby sevens, ski mountaineering, family sledding and ski and snowboard freeriding competitions. 
According to the director of the Patagonia Winter Games, Javier Aguilar, the event exceeded even his expectations, especially in the number of participants, which this year numbered more than fifty persons. “This second event was a collective effort. It was not just carried out by the organization but was a regional and individual effort," emphasized Aguilar, who is also founder of the Aysén Club de Montaña Andino Patagónico (Patagonian Andean Mountain Club).

On the Carretera Austral
There was widespread enthusiasm among everyone from the start to the close of the Games. Most participants arrived August 4 at Balmaceda airport, with their skis, boards and flags filling the quiet Patagonian town. From there they headed to Villa Cerro Castillo, where they would stay for the next four days. On the first day of the event, they went to the Los Mallines sector, in Portezuelo Ibañez, where the competitions took place. There was not a lot of snowfall, but there was more than enough motivation as for many it was the first time they had ever skied in Patagonia. 

Once the randonee teams were ready and safety precautions checked, the hike began to the amphitheatre area. The snow was wet and heavy, but the weather report promised at least 40 centimeters of more snow over the next few days. The existing snow base had between 80 and 100 centimeters, making it dangerous and unstable terrain, and raising the possibility of hitting many rocks and provoking avalanches. 

On August 6, the ski mountaineering competition was held, which consisted of a 16 km circuit, joining two valleys amongst the different cornices, chutes, and forests. The contest included randonee, shoulder ski and backpack ski, challenging the cunning of each competitor during the transitions into each type. In total, 20 persons participated.

Excitement was high throughout, getting to know the snow conditions and skiing along the side of the Carretera Austral is something only a privileged few have ever had a chance to know. What happens if a group of goes off course on the mountain? For sure, there will be jumps. Some Austrian skiers looked for rocks to jump and experienced a one-of-a-kind moment in Patagonia. It perhaps may have been the southernmost jump session in the world. 
Unique event in the world
“These games are the only ones which feature these disciplines in the southern cone of Americas. There is no other event of this magnitude," added Aguilar, who is already planning next year's event, which he hopes will, if conditions permit, once more feature a qualifiers round for the Freeride World Tour.
Paulina Retamal (23) from Concepción, who is studying ecotourism in Santiago, won third place in ice climbing. Although a skier since the age of 4, she said that she had never dared compete in freeride. However, at the last minute she gathered enough courage to enter the postponed trial and the result was gratifying: she finished first in the women’s event.
“I was thinking it was more difficult and more dangerous but now that I’ve done it I realize it isn’t really like that. I can’t wait for next year's event,” said Retamal, who also helped as a volunteer at the Patagonia Winter Games.
And she was not just satisfied with her performance. She also drew attention to the pleasant atmosphere which surrounded the competitors and the marvellous location for the games, at Los Mallines area in Portezuelo Ibáñez, whose natural features made it a unique experience in comparison to other areas of Chile where she has competed.
“In the climbing, I was really on an enormous frozen waterfall. The timetable of the competition had to be adjusted so that it was colder and chunks of ice didn’t fall off … And the route of the ski mountaineering race is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, because it went along whole valleys, with forest and rock formations I have never seen anywhere else," she said about the potential of this area for future events or ski activities.
At the least, the organization is clear about next steps. Together with CONAF, which manages Chile’s national parks, the Club de Montaña Andino Patagónico (Patagonian Andean Mountain Club) aims to establish a corporation in the place where the games are held, which they will call Casa del Dragón Willinki de la Patagonia. In this zoning area, apart from the annual competition, there are also plans for other activities, including a ski mountaineering school and outdoor education programs.

Winners of individual categories at the final weekend of the Second Patagonia Winter Games:

Men’s freeride ski:
1 Ismael Sepúlveda (Chile)
2 Raimundo de Andraca (Chile)
3 Borja Mir (Chile)

Women’s freeride ski:
1 Paulina Retamal (Chile)
2 Cynthia Jonnson (United States)
3 Francine Durot (Chile)

Snowboard freeride:
1 Ronald Vera (Chile)
2 Enrique Rosselot (Chile)
3 Ignacio Vergara (Chile)

Men’s ski mountaineering:
1 Sebastián Anguita Coxhead (Chile) Time: 1:49 hours.
2 Sebastián Rojas Schmidt (Chile) Time: 1:59 hours.
3 Paolo Costa (Chile) Tiempo: 2:02 hours.

Women’s ski mountaineering:
1 Claudia Aliaga (Chile) Time: 2:09 hours.
2 Cyntia Tommson (United States) Time: 3:59 hours.
2 Isidora Assler E. (Chile). Time: 3:59 hours.
* Cyntia and Isidora arrives simultaneously at the end of the trial

Family sledding:
1 Nathaniel and Abraham Aguilar
2 Alejandro and Tomás Vera
3 Pamela Oyarzún and Karina Millar

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