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Drew Tabke Slays the Season of the Decade in Chile
Posted on September 10, 2015

Drew Tabke slashing down into La Ratonera with Aconcagua visible behind. Photo: Neumann

Drew Tabke has spent so much time skiing in South America, some would consider him akin to a seasonal expat expert on the topic of Southern Hemisphere shredding. Yet for the last seven years his SA seasons have been a bit thin, with a serious powder snow drought in the warming Andes. This year, however, was different with a six-foot storm hammering Chile and Argentina as he arrived for a trip to the big yellow cruise ship of Ski Portillo, a journey to the end of the road ruggedness of Ski Arpa and a week in residence in his home away from home, the Chilean ski town of Farellones. Between cat trips, touring missions and Powder Magazine stories, we tracked Tabke down for a report. —LYA Editor

Portillo—the cruise ship in the Andes—greeted us with suberb snow, and with one turn like this, the whole trip feels worthwhile. Photo: Neumann

Words by Drew Tabke, Images by Michael Neumann for

Chile, Chile lindo, goes the local saying. Chile, beautiful Chile. A simple sentiment, but contained therein is the explanation for why, after 10 years of coming to this country, I was back again this August. A great place to get a quick education this skinny county’s natural beauty is at the top of Valle el Arpa, the cat skiing operation owned and operated by Tony Sponar and his son Anton. Look west past the city of Los Andes and the lower coastal range of mountains and you’ll see the Pacific Ocean. Turn 180° and look east, and the highest point in the Western Hemisphere, Cerro Aconcagua, looks back at you. This mountains-to-sea theme is replicated for thousands of miles to the north and to the south – my childhood notebook version of paradise.

My three-week trip this year was broken into three parts. First (and covered here), a trip to ski at Portillo and Valle el Arpa with some German friends to work on their upcoming documentary about skiing in Chile. Next I went to the Farellones area (La Parva, El Colorado, Valle Nevado) to ski — training, ski touring, and having as much fun as possible with my local friends. And finally I met up with photographer Adam Clark and my Eddie Bauer First Ascent teammate Lynsey Dyer to work on an upcoming story for Powder Magazine.

On top again in Arpa's other machine, with Christian, Jonas, Tabke, Henne, and head guide Anton (L-R). Aconcagua stands watch over all on the back horizon Photo: Neumann


Chile has had a run of about seven winters with poor snow conditions in a row, and I’ve been there for all of them. This year was no different, and hopes that the developing El Niño in the Pacific Ocean would break the string of winter droughts seemed to be for naught. Nonetheless I booked my flight, and then watched joyously as a massive storm raged across Chile in the days before my departure. It was only the second snowstorm of the winter for Central Chile, but it left upwards of six feet of snow on the higher peaks, and set up absolutely perfect conditions for our arrival. Portillo gave us two days of wonderful skiing and hospitality. The Hotel Portillo is a unique experience – an all-inclusive ski + hotel + restaurant experience, high in the Andes. It’s the cruise ship of skiing in South America.

Our crew then relocated to Valle El Arpa, which is the complete other side of the Chilean ski panorama compared to the Portillo cruise ship. A long, rugged, winding road leads you to the isolated “resort.” There you find rustic stone buildings, no amenities, generator power, a couple of old snow cats, and a crew of dedicated guides who live there through the snowy season to take clients skiing in the shadow of Aconcagua. The vibe is excellent, as skiing is purely and simply the only reason to be there, and Anton and his father are incredible individuals, each of them so rich with ski-related experience to warrant biographies. Conditions were still excellent, though wind had started to blow some snow off the more exposed point, we still found great conditions on the area’s spectacularly long runs such as La Ratonera and Cornisas. After two days of skiing and filming there, it was time for me to say goodbye to the Germans and the Arpa crew and head to my summer home, Farellones—Chile’s ski town.

Eating grilled sausages in the warmest place at Arpa, the guide's common area. A chimney provides heat and dries skiboots, the people provide the stories. P: Neumann


Check out the Eddie Bauer First Ascent series of gear Tabke tested in the Andes at


Author: - Thursday, September 10th, 2015

  1. Jannelle Moore

    Ski season is just around the corner here in Colorado and I can’t wait. These photos are amazing and really made me miss my love. Summer is fun but winter is better when you get to ski 50+ days a year.

  2. Steffen Miller

    One of these days I will be staying in that big yellow cruise ship and laying some tracks in that wonderful looking Chilean powder. Right there next to Chamonix on the skiing bucket list.

  3. Dan K

    Yes, Steffen, we have that same vision.

  4. Dan K

    Yes, Jannelle, we can smell winter in the air and think 50 days is a solid season for sure.

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