After he left Black Diamond, Thomas became the president of Avatech, a snow safety technology company in Park City. It’s tough to test digital avalanche probes during the Northern Hemisphere summer, so a trip to Chile was the best option. Thomas invited me along to help with testing, serve as a translator, and take pictures and videos of the whole program. He flew into Santiago, scooped me up off the side of the road in Chillan late one afternoon, and we made a bee-line for the snowy peaks that were an hour or two to our east.
It had been snowing for four or five days straight, with one clear day (the day we drove in) and lots more snow on the way. Our timing couldn’t have been better.
Also notable are the streams of super hot thermal water that trickle out of the side of the volcano at various points to form the aptly named Termas de Chillán. It just so happened that we were staying at a hotel situated right next to one of these glorious hot springs, about a quarter of the way up the mountain. Not too shabby!
We made it back to the hotel just in time to partake in the all-you-can-eat dinner buffet. Which consisted, naturally, of steak, crab claws, and fresh scallops among dozens of other things. It’s safe to say that there was a bit more selection than I’m used to on the Rascal. With full bellies, we had little option but to examine the offerings at the bar which were quite extensive and I got the opportunity to meet the owner of the resort and the manager of the mountain among other colorful characters.
We awoke to big flakes and some strong winds trying to push the hotel over. We slowly stumbled our way down to breakfast, where we found out that the lifts were closed due to the winds (which were slated to get even stronger the next day). Shucks. We obviously couldn’t let all of that pow go unskied, and there were some prototype probes that needed testing, so we slapped our skins on and went out for a little tour.
They'd all done some incredible traveling and had great stories to tell. They'd just been out surfing along the coastline and came up to Nevados de Chillan to catch a weather window that was expected in a few days. They were also curious to hear about the voyage of the Rascal and it was fun to share my story with them. There was a semi-frozen tub next to the hottest hot spring to go for the "polar plunge" effect and each evening we'd push it a little longer in the cold tub. By the end of the trip I managed seven or eight minutes!
And then, to our great delight, the wind stopped and the sun came out!