Training Camp in Chile (1/2 Valle Nevado)

What an amazing trip to South America! The past two weeks the US Paralympic Alpine National Team has been getting in some early season training in Chile. We visited two resorts, Valle Nevado, and Portillo.  The were both absolutely amazing, but let me start at the beginnig.

At the end of the season last year I had successfully, for the first time in my ski career, kept my skis for the whole season. This was also the first season I used Head Skis. They are a much stiffer ski from the ones I was previously using and as results would show, I had my best season so far. With the new season comes new skis and mid August seemed like a good time to buy. As I learned from all my teammates, order your skis at the end of the season and don't expect them in the mail until the new season starts. Unfortunately, I ended up only having Giant Slalom skis to take with me to Chile. On the bright side, it made my ski bag very light. Generally, I would travel with four pairs of skis. 

The flight was very nice. I flew from San Diego to Houston then the 12 hour leg from Houston to Santiago, Chile. Because of some complications, I ended up being a day behind the rest of my team. Luckily I wasn't the only one. My friend Andrew Kurka ended up on the same flight as me. Upon landing we had a van driver ans his significant other that took us to Valle Nevado to meet up with the rest of the team.

This is the road to Portillo, but you get the idea.

Uploaded by andy billington on 2016-07-30.

I learned that the Andes Mountains are jutting rock faces that explode straight out of the earth and soar at 17,783 feet above sea level. (Valle Nevado is a ski resort located on the El Plomo foothills in the Andes Mountains, ( This makes for spectacular cliff faces and ridiculous waterfalls. It also makes getting to this awesome ski resort a switchback road travel worthy of BBC's Top Gear sports cars.

Valle Nevado had a lot of great land area to ski. We had training sessions every morning from 8:00 am to noon. The snow was fairly solidly packed (not quite bulletproof), and wind buffeted against us. These conditions are great for training because the snow will hold up to multiple runs without breaking down and without large ruts forming. Valle Nevado has a couple high speed lifts but all the best terrain can only be reached by palma lifts. A palma lift is kind of like a rope tow that has disks you sit on and it pulls you up the hill. Being in a monoski makes this a little difficult. The way we adapt this is by attaching a rope loop to the front of our rigs and throwing it over the disk to let it pull us to the top of the run.

The hotel we stayed at was right at the ski hill and had beautiful views all the way down the valley up to the mountain peaks and across a giant canyon. People from all over South America come to Valle Nevado to sight-see and play in the snow. I met people from Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, and of course, Chile. Since this is one of the best destination ski slopes in Chile, or in the entire southern hemisphere for that matter, there were also teams training from Canada, Switzerland, Japan, the U.S., and a few others. It was great to see some of my foreign friends from the International Paralympic Committee Alpine Skiing World Cup Circuit hanging out and training at the same venue we were at. 

Well, I think I've gone on enough about Valle Nevado and this post is getting a little wordy so I will say good-bye for now and leave the second half of the trip, Portillo, for another day. Also, I am now working with one of my oldest friends, Seth, on my social media presence and finding sponsors. I would unofficially call him my manager. I think this is going to be great partnership to help get me on track and everyone else more in the know on my adventures and skiing career. Check out my new Facebook Fan page: