Charlie Donnelly

October 03 2019


Journey with FW Ambassador Cody Cirillo and his Gravity Haus amigos on an adventure south of the border.

I can barely make out a bamboo forest as I peek through the array of skis strapped to the outside of our gondola cabin. A low-lying fog has almost completely obscured our surroundings. Freddy Mercury serenades us from a blown-out iPhone speaker. Before long, we rise above the white abyss and enter a full-on winter wonderland—a magical kingdom perched upon the clouds. This is Cerro Catedral, the famed ski resort outside of Bariloche, Argentina.

I feel the sacred power of Patagonia the second I step out of the gondola and into the striking landscape. There's an unspoken gravity that exists; I'm taken aback by the enormity of the pure and unbridled terrain. It's my first trip "down South," and I don't know quite what to expect, but this is quite the welcome.

It's August, 2019 and I'm here on content-gathering mission with Gravity Haus, a new, social-focused hotel for the modern adventurer, based in Breckenridge, Colorado. Along with Gravity Haus team member, Zach Berman, and a group of Gravity Haus ambassadors, I'm looking forward to a full week of harvesting the fluffy white stuff.

The first morning feels like a complete haze: it's a mix of the clouded mountains, jet lag and potentially the lingering effects of fernet Coca Colas from last night's "cultural immersion" outing. Coffee and empanadas keep us going strong, however. After 30 hours of travel, we're finally going skiing.

We spend the day exploring the resort. It's massive. The mountains seem to roll on perpetually, and many of them are rooted in the gargantuan lakes below, providing a stunning blend of water, land and sky. Our eyes and minds explode with overstimulation and endless possibility. "It's going to be a great week," I say to the gang.

This sentiment proves to ring true, but not in the way I may have imagined. Over the following days, a substantial wind storm forces major lift closures. A cat driver sends us a cell phone video of a chair being blown back and forth like a wacky-waving wild-inflatable tube man. It's a sobering reminder that we're at the mercy of nature, especially here in Patagonia. This is the real wild.  

We spend our down days by getting our hands into anything and everything "cultural." We explore micro-breweries in Bariloche, befriend street dogs and sample the local massage parlors. The forecast is looking promising, though - 30 centimeters of fresh snow and calmer winds are set to arrive mid-week. We're frothing.

The storm delivers. Unfortunately for me, so does the stomach virus that has plagued the small resort town and Zach the night before. The 30cm's of straight nukage can too easily be compared to mine throughout the night. It sure was epic, unlike anything Bariloche had seen this season. You can't get too down though, the rest of our crew absolutely scored. It was a full on blower pow day up there, the kind you tell your kids about. It's the day we'll be chasing again and again, year after year.

Days later, after recovering, I enjoy some redemption amid a bluebird day. We venture high into the alpine. Our guide, Piers, takes us to a zone named Laguna; it's just a quick tour away the top of the resort and it's littered with snow features that allow for playful skiing: chutes, wall rides, cliff drops, pow turns and the lot. You could spend a whole season here and never get bored. Filled with excitement and the hunger that comes from missing out on epic pow, I find myself gleaming at the top. Not only was I out there in the fresh air, at last, but I'd earned these turns. Hoots and hollers all around, we ski the sh*t out of Laguna. It's a bittersweet last day on snow. We'll have to wait a few months until we're back chasing the storms in the Northern Hemisphere.

After skiing, we're invited into the asadero of a local guide, Mauri, for our final supper - it's a real Argentinian treat. The hard work and preparation that goes into a feast like this — made for complete strangers, no less — serves as a microcosm of the selflessness of the Argentinians we met throughout the week. We all share passion for beautiful places and sliding on snow, but find the truest value in the deep connections of what it means to be human. We celebrate our last night. It's been a hell of a trip.

Trips like these make you feel alive. They keep you present in every moment, whether it's mid-puke, mid-turn, or mid-flustered as you attempt to recollect the Spanish you'd learned in high school. They allow you to reconnect with the simple things, and to appreciate the highs and lows all the same.

I'm grateful for Gravity Haus and what became a little family during the trip. It wouldn't have been possible without our crew: Zach, Celia, Caite, Grady, Tommy. I'm already looking forward to a habitual South American summer ski.

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