After the powder drenched fun of our last expedition to Las Leñas, Argentina’s premier ski resort in Mendoza, we thought we’d go again a bit earlier in the season to beat the winter holiday crowds. We left as quickly as possible after getting back from a long stint at work and made it to a cheap hotel in La Rioja, giving us an easy push onto Mendoza the next day. We started early and caught a fantastic sunrise somewhere near Chepes.
Stopped in Mendoza to watch Argentina’s quarter final match against Germany in the World Cup. We found a great spot in a local pub to watch the game and were welcomed like family after showing that we could scream, jump and cry like everyone else. The resulting loss came as a huge blow for the Argies, the grief stricken occupants of the pub quickly left to find more private places, and we were left quickly skulling our beers with a mind to get out of the city ASAP before people had too many comisserational drinks.
We turned up at a little hostería that I had reserved on the internet, about 70ks from the LL resort, called El Sosneado. Turns out they didn’t have a computer and had never heard of the site I reserved from – luckily it appeared we were also the only ones staying there so the ‘reservation’ didn’t matter (glad I chose not to pay the deposit!). It was a great little place – we got a little cabin all to ourselves with home-cooked dinners (and Mendoza vino) all included for less than $50 Aus per night. (OK, so there was no water the first night, and the shower didn’t work the second, so we popped over to the owners cabin and they kindly let us use their bathroom. Great, nice and hot, but I couldn’t really look the husband in the eye afterwards since we were showering with his jocks hanging up next to our faces! Anyway great people and hey, the shower worked the third night!).
Anyway, we drove into a beautiful sunrise at Las Leñas the next day….
Unfortunately, the resort was kinda ‘falta nieve’ at the bottom particularly, and the wind was blowing pretty hard meaning that the spectacular high top lift, Marte, wasn’t open. So we contented ourselves with a few good runs down the packed pistes, Mick found a bit of powder after a hike above one of the other lifts, and we had a few more beers than usual….
The next day the wind dropped off, it must have been pushing ten degrees but the top lift opened! Yeah, 1st taste of Marte and it was spectacular! They’d had enogh big storms in the previous weeks to keep the top of the mountain pretty deep, even with some really nice powder. The run down takes up to 1/2 an hour (depending on how many times you stop to take photos), is over 5kms and over 1100m elevation difference from top to bottom – one of the longest runs in the world. I was totally stuffed after 5 runs. Mick told me he was going on a bit of a hike up this short slope to find some powder for a short run and I stayed at the top to take some photos of him … then he dissappeared behind a ridge and wasn’t to be seen again. After about 1/2 hour waiting on my arse in the snow I figured he’d gone down the other side of the mountain so I kept boarding but didn’t see him for almost 2 hours. Meanwhile, after dissappearing behind the ridge Mick met up with a crazy Argentinian guy who was working at the resort who convinced him that there was great snow down through the San Martin Couloir. Mick asked if it was steep, the guy replied ‘no, es muy facil’ so Mick and the fella went trudging up the 300m vertical to the very top of the peak (San Martin) of Las Leñas which apparently had some great views. Not such a good view down the couloir though, which ended up being +50 degrees inclination with crappy snow. Somehow Mick kept his pants clean and body intact and even managed a few turns on some better snow further down. Funny thing was that the Argie guy wasn’t any better. Moral – don’t trust crazy locals.
We decided to cut the boarding part of the trip a couple of days short as the snow/weather didn’t seem like it was going to get any better and after Marte, what was there to do? So we took a different road back home through the province of Cordoba which had some stunning mountain sunset/sunrise scenery. In the theme of the trip we stayed as the only guests in a luxury posada right on the top of the largest mountain range (Sierra Grande) for a fraction of the normal cost with gormet meals included. Yeah, we know how to travel in the low season!
PS. For other trips around the Mendoza area go to this page:
For our previous beer-soaked trip to Cordoba check out this page: