By Scott McGee and Jim Shaw
First Tele Fest on the continent
In September, 2015, following Interski in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, Jim Shaw, Ross Matlock, Scott McGee, members of the PSIA Nordic Team, and frequently contracted manual and matrix videographer Vinnie Urgo, along with some other South American Tele’ers, traveled overland by car to Cerro Catedral in Bariloche – a three-day landscape-sampler odyssey. There, the team members delivered Telemark clinics that were the germinating event for what has now become the Patagonia Telemark Festival.
This year, the festival stretched for 8 days, with all levels of Telemark certification events, Telemark skills clinics and Cert Prep clinics as well as weekend clinics for the general public. The results: 7 Level 1, 6 Level 2 and 1 Level 3 certified Telemark instructors from 5 different countries, all under the auspices of PSIA/AASI-Rocky Mountain.
How it all began
Back in about 2012, Diego Allolio, a leading avalanche educator in Argentina, contacted PSIA/AASI Pool Supplier 22 Designs (now a festival sponsor) about getting some Tele expertise to Argentina. Chris Valiente of 22 Designs contacted McGee, and that was the beginning of a years-long discussion about how to make something happen in Bariloche. Diego was traveling annually to North American winter, and on his next trip, connected with current Team member Grant Bishop for his Tele Level 1, in Jackson, WY.
This year’s Patagonia Telemark Festival was organized with help from AADIDES (La Asociación Argentina de Instructores de Esquí y Snowboard), the RM Division and the PSIA National Office. The goal for AADIDES is to develop a Telemark Certification program of their own. This certification event and festival was the first step. And, it’s working!…there are now 10 newly certified Argentinian Telemark Instructors.
An International roster
In addition to the participating instructors from Argentina, Germany and Chile, there were 4 instructors from the PSIA-RM Division and 1 from the PSIA-IM Division who made the trek to Bariloche for the event. All 5 of these individuals recognized a unique opportunity in the instruction world and seized the moment. All made new friends and connections while enjoying some fantastic skiing and sharing of Telemark wisdom!
If the possibility of international travel, picking up or improving your Tele’ing, or off-season certification pique your interest, stay tuned – plans are in place to host the next Patagonia Telemark Festival again next September. There’s even discussion of offering events for other disciplines as well. Stay tuned!
Equipment, the great challenge
One of the toughest aspects of developing Tele in Argentina is the scarcity of equipment. The government, in an attempt to encourage industry in ARG, has instituted an import tax of 35% to 50% on new merchandise, whether shipped into the country or brought through customs in luggage. But especially for products with a per-size mold cost upwards of $100,000 per size, no one is jumping to start new boot companies in Argentina.
To this end, one day last May, McGee wiped out the Tele boot selection at the local Jackson, WY thrift store, and paid a hefty baggage fee to haul an extra duffle full of tele boots with him this trip. But 10 new pairs of boots (at $25-$75 prices at the Bariloche consignment store) in an equipment-starved country represents significant growth in the stockpile of available equipment for folks to give tele a try, and maybe become ‘core’ Tele’ers (Yesterday, Scotty scooped 6 pairs of free tele skis from a local ski swap, and the bindings from those will be traveling with him on his next voyage south). Says McGee, smuggling tele gear is no way to grow rich in this small sector of the industry, but it does feel great to know that you’re helping grow the sport in a place without easy access to gear.”
Macarena Correa Perez
Santiago Busch Frers
Hernan ‘Tito’ Franco