Arriving in Ushuaia is a little surreal. You land at an isolated airport right on the water front, looking across to a compact town situated below a range of formidable looking mountains.
The port of Ushuaia serves as South America’s gateway to Antartica. As a result, Argentina’s declared “most southern city” is a shipping town, first and foremost, and has only recently become known as a ski destination, with the construction of the Cerro Castor ski resort. This mismatch gives the place an interesting feel – industrial shipping port meets emerging ski town.
After a killer 40-hour, 4-flight, journey we arrived early on the Saturday morning, giving ourselves a day to explore the town and settle in. We spent the morning wandering up and down the main street in a half-conscious, somewhat jet lagged state, looking for currency exchange and good coffee spots.
The other teams seemed to be up on the hill or still arriving, so a tribe of black jackets with a rather obvious “New Zealand” written on the back, stood out for miles. I’m not sure what the locals thought of 17 official-looking black jackets sliding in and out of the casino at 11am in the morning though (no, we weren’t playing the slot machines – the casino had the best exchange rates).
The rest of the day was spent in meetings, organising schedules, putting the finishing touches on our indoor lectures, and catching up with friends from other counties. We finished up our first day in Ushuaia with a team dinner and a well-earned Argentinian steak – which has to be the largest steak I’ve ever eaten and damn tasty!
Here’s a wee stop-motion style video of our arrival day…
Our first day on snow began the following morning. After a substantial breakfast (Argentinians don’t seem to eat in small amounts it turns out) and a painfully slow bus ride up the hill (think we scored a dud on the bus transfer front this morning), we arrived in the World’s most southern ski resort Cerro Castor.
Built in the early 2000s, Cerro Castor is probably one of the newest ski resorts I have visited personally. Its base area has a Swiss or Austrian vibe to it, with log buildings lots of activity and music pumping. The ski resort itself is reasonably big, compared to NZ resorts, with a variety of terrain options and some pretty amazing backcountry access.
Team snowboard (plus our token telemarker Greg) spent a lot of the day checking out the resort while figuring out how we were going to slot it in behind the well-rehearsed NZSIA ski demo for the afternoon’s opening ceremony, where every country does a short lap in front of a few thousand spectators. We (being the snowboard side of the team) put together a basic demo run to make sure SBINZ had a presence on the opening day and showed support for the event. Snowboarders doing synchro!? Yeah we know, but when in Rome…
– Words and images/video by Keith Stubbs