Dustin with some new snowboard friends at the top of Cerro Catedral.  Chris Coulter photo

As I write this, I have already made the tremendous journey back to the States.  I iat, staring out of the window of the plane, welcoming the transition from the never-ending plains of Texas, to the green silhouettes of my native Rocky Mountains.  Thoughts of my new, second home starting popping into my head.

It was snowing the morning that I left, how much did they get? Did Laguna get reset?  Is Burns going to build the first Laguna jump of the season?  When will they get out to Frey?

The questions stacked up in my mind.  I’m lucky to have spent three weeks in Argentina, but I just want more.  I sit like a restless junkie thinking about the next fix.  What I would do to stand atop an Andean peak, board strapped to my feet, vistas of lakes and snow-covered peaks as far as the eye can see… I get goose bumps just thinking about it.  It’s amazing to think about how such a simple thing – riding a board over frozen water – can elicit such strong feelings.  And to do it in Argentina, during my summer, with some of the best riders and coolest people in the world?  The feeling is unmatched.

Dustin and company performing beacon searches with guide intern Randall Stacy.  Chris Coulter photo

In Argentina, I learned many things.  Not just about backcountry safety, picking lines, and snowboarding, but also about fulfillment.  According to Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival, “We are the domestic pets of a human zoo we call civilization.”  Being with coaches and guides like Andrew Burns, Skylar Holgate, Chris Coulter, Nicki Slechta, and Michelle Parker, I was given the key out of my civilized enclosure.  I now have the knowledge to break free whenever I feel the need.  Being dependent solely on yourself and your friends for survival, and then pulling off the mission, is one of the greatest achievements in humanity.

In Argentina, I hiked four hours round-trip, way out into the backcountry for a single run.  Sure, here at home I can get up to thirty laps through the best terrain parks in the world in one day, but the sense of accomplishment is nothing compared to the one I felt after conquering Andean peaks rarely challenged by man.   I learned snowboarding’s not about dropping the biggest cliff or doing the most corks, it’s about breaking free of the chains of civilization and sharing a connection with the mountain.  It’s about working with the mountain and using its curves, drops, chutes, spines, and other natural features to create a personal masterpiece; a work of art so finite and glorious it can only be enjoyed in the present and never be recreated.  That’s the great thing about skiing and snowboarding – it’s only what you want it to be, nothing more, and nothing less.

Dustin on his first splitboarding mission.  Ben Girardi photo

When I was asked to write about my three weeks in Argentina, I had no idea where to start.  I assume the riding would be a logical place to start, but it would be hard for my words to do justice to the amount and quality of the riding I did.  Imagine a gigantic above alpine bowl, with scores of tree-filled gullies descending down to the base.  Now imagine that bowl filled with rocks, creating the ultimate alpine playground of cliffs, pillows, chutes, spines, wind lips… if you’ve ever imagined any of those things before, they can all actually be found in or around Cerro Catedral.  Also, besides the dozen or so proficient local freeriders and skiers, the powder fields are pretty much the sole property of SGT.  Cerro’s main business is entertaining the grupos that come from Buenos Aires and Brazil to marvel at the snow and throw snowballs.

Dustin flying out of Nubes.  Chris Coulter photo

Oh, but the riding is only a piece of the puzzle.  I told my friends, “The landscapes are amazing, the women beautiful, the food delicious, and the people are friendly.”  Most Argentineans speak enough English to converse with, so it is easy getting around.  And if you are old enough to experience the nightlife, you will never forget it… well…  remembering it may be the hardest part, but there is no doubt that you will enjoy the crazy, start-at-two AM club scene.

Getting the shot in the Gondola trees.  Ben Girardi photo

In Argentina, I learned about myself and snowboarding, experienced a beautiful country, its people and food, and did a hell of a lot of snowboarding in a hell of a lot of powder.  Looking back, it’s easy to see this as the end to a great journey.  In reality, it’s just the opposite.  Sure this individual trip ended, but it has also created many new opportunities for me.  It created new friendships that will last for who knows how long.  It gave me the knowledge to begin my own backcountry adventures.  And it gave me a yearning to try and make it back to Argentina every year that I have to live through a North American summer.  See you next summer Cerro Catedral, Argentina, and all of my friends at SASS Global Travel.  Thanks for the time of my life!

-Dustin Eldridge