28 August 2008
El Roca Jack
Spent last Saturday on the slopes of Portillo. Though probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing places for a ski resort it's location seems like an impossibility. Set at the bottom of a very narrow and very steep valley, the hotel/lodge sits at a rare flat spot and the lifts go straight up (and down) from there.
The resort is situated on the International Highway that links Chile directly to Argentina and commercially to most of the rest of southern South America: Uruguay, Paraguay, and southern Bolivia and Brazil. It also sits at the top of the famous Portillo curves. A shot of them on a flat, gray day:
Va et Vient lifts, the most famous of which is the Roca Jack. The Va et Vient lifts (literally "come and go," or colloquially "slingshots") are made specifically for Portillo by the Poma company in France. Because pretty much all of Portillo is prone to avalanches and because many of the avalanche paths (a.k.a. alluvial fans) make for great ski runs, a basic system of cables and pulleys were installed at the top of a few of these fans. Avalanches, alluvial fans, and probably the very young and ever-shifting Andes mountain chain in general don't make for very secure or supportable lift tower locations. The Va et Vient lifts take care of that issue and provide a few more thrills not associated with your typical ride up a slope.
angle of repose theory. This pretty much means that when creatures heading upslope with skis on their feet stop, gravity immediately insists that they return downslope. Backward. So at the end of the brief journey up there is always a bit of miscommunication; fallen, turned, and twisted bodies; clacked skis; laughter; and relief that everyone made it to the top and no one is slipping all the way back down.
(Picture not included.)
It's not for the faint of heart. But the skiing is fun.
Thank you Laura for the last two pictures.