There are seasonal snowboard guides, and then there are guides who eat, breath, and live for snowboarding year round. It’s a no-brainer that Skylar Holgate represents the latter, and in doing this he’s found a way to stay on snow during just about every month out of the year, including August where he has been the Head Guide at SASS Argentina for the past 15 years and is now the man in charge at SASS Chile. Between his adventures across the globe, we got a chance to catch up with Skylar on Argentina, Chile, snowmobiles, and more…
What year is this for you guiding in South America?
This is going to be my 14th season and my 13th at SASS Argentina.
After so many years in Argentina, what enticed you about heading across the border to shred in Chile?
I’ve always wanted to explore more in Chile, but once things really got rolling for us at SASS Argentina our seasons got really busy. I guess one problem was that I always thought the best shredding in Chile was based out of Santiago. I’m from a very small town and big cities intimidate me. There is shredding in the North at Portillo, but it’s all Alpine and that does not always mix well with the storms and wind that the Andes are known for. This was a big reason we moved from the high Alpine of Las Lenãs to Cerro Catedral in Patagonia. Having trees to ski during storms is key! A good friend of mine, Jerome Boulay, had been trying to get me to come visit the zone he was living in by Volcan Lonquimay in Chile for years. Finally in 2014 I had some time before our busy SASS Argentina season to visit the guys. Fellow guides Chris Coulter and Mauri Cambilla came with me. The set up at Sled Chile could not be better! It is like a Chilean version of my own operation back home at the Bonnie Belle cabin in Silverton, CO. The guys instantly became family and I am so excited to see this partnership grow.
As the head guide and the one in charge of on-mountain operations at SASS Chile, what are your responsibilities day to day?
There are a ton of logistics going into sled assisted shredding. Just leaving the compound in the morning all the machines need to be prepped for the day and if we are not heading off in the backyard zone, loaded up on the trailers. Once we are in the field minimizing risk is top priority from riding the machines to snow safety. We cover an enormous amount of terrain in a day, so that dynamic is always changing. Communication between all the guides is always going on and I’m kind of like the human repeater everything bounces off me first. A lot is going on each day. We can have a group touring up one of the volcanos, while another crew is building a jump, or hot lapping with the sleds. So it’s very important to our program to always have each other set up for success, and have backup if they need it so that our guest have an experience of a lifetime.
Snowmobile skiing can be a pain, what is it about the terrain that makes it so doable?
In Patagonia the vegetation is extremely thick. To be able to shred cool terrain you need to be in the old growth trees or be in a zone that has been cleared out, like the ski area at Cerro Catedral. The Lonquimay area is unique because when the volcano erupted it filled the two joining valleys with lava. The Lava flow covered all of the vegetation, leaving what what is like a glacier of rock. It is perfect for traveling via snow machine as you are able to access endless alpine and the old growth magical Araucaria trees. We scouted the Lonquimay area via sleds and helicopter and discovered the endless amount of easy access terrain.
How does your experience on snow machines help operations of SASS Chile?
Between myself, and guides Chris Coulter, Andrew Burns, Cesar Gibert and Carlos Leighton, there is well over 50 years of combined experience on snow machines. This allows us to teach proper technique to all our guests and to keep the level of risk low and the quality of the experience high.
What about SASS Chile are you most excited for this summer?
Sharing this amazing part of Patagonia with our guests, it’s all about the adventure! With the huge amount of early season snow the Andes have already received, this is going to be a season for the books for sure. The addition of a couple Timbersleds this year is going to allow us to explore even more terrain more quickly to find new routes for the sleds and figure out new zones for shred.
Ok… The age old question: Chile or Argentina?
Haha Both!! The best part about the region of the Andes we ride in with SASS is, when we are on top of peaks in Argentina you can see an ocean of mountains all the way to Chile. Then, when we’re in Chile, you can see the all the way to Argentina! As far as the cultures, both are so amazing. There is a huge amount of pride and value in family, friends, and love of the Mountains! This is usually celebrated by Asados (BBQ’s with huge amounts of meat), wine, Pisco (Chile), Fernet (Arg), laughter, and telling stories around the fire. I’ll let the locals of both countries tell you who is better at futbol haha!
Take it from Skylar, or take it from us, you don’t want to miss Argentina and Chile during the heart of the North American summer. Hit the links below to get more information on the best way to spend your August…