My wife gave me a great item – what we once called a radio. I don’t know what you call it today, except that it comes over the air, has what seems like thousands of stations and that plays pop concert music. As I sit here at the computer, it seems to be playing a lot of the music that I used as background during early days when I was filming ski movies in Europe.
This was in the early 1950s before the resort owners in Switzerland and Austria came to the conclusion that the north slope across from their village offered the best snow to ski on. The south slope around which they built their pre-World War II business was full of tuberculosis sanitariums. Visitors would come up from the coal-smoke choked cities to breath clean pure mountain air and, as they used to say, “take the cure.” The south slopes of St. Moritz, Davos, and St. Anton had walking trails winding up those south slopes with benches to rest on every quarter of a mile or so.
Don’t forget, when I started making my first feature length ski movies there were only 15 chairlifts in North America. There are that many chairlifts at the Yellowstone Club alone. The big deal in Europe in those days was that you could ski down the back side of a ski resort mountain to a village miles away, have lunch and catch a train back to where you were staying.
It was with a bit of a surprise that I read about a ski resort at the tip of Tierra del Fuego where the southern tip of South America falls off into the Southern Ocean and does not reappear again for 750 miles of the most treacherous ocean in the world.
Tierra del Fuego is 2,000 miles or three and a half hours in a commercial jet south of Buenos Aires and not a place where you would expect to find a ski resort. Yet at the south end of Beaver Mountain there are nine ski lifts and 26 runs that are going full blast in their ski season. So far the developers have invested $29 million in the resort. If you want bragging rights at next winter’s cocktail party this is the place to go. You will be skiing further south than anyone else in the world if you coast out into the flat at the bottom of the hill. (The person I would like to meet is the promoter who sold the investors on building a ski resort this far away from people.) It is the last spot where people who are going to the Antarctic pick up their long list of forgotten survival supplies. It might be the same kind of location as if someone decided to build a ski resort 2,000miles north of Chicago. Just wait a few more years and someone will promote that one, too.
Beaver Mountain, by the way, was named for an entrepreneurial effort that introduced almost 50 pair of beavers to that part of the world 70 years ago. The hope was that it would be enough to start a beaver fur industry. Instead they had no predators, have multiplied and killed thousands of trees in that part of the world.
With its nine ski lifts and 26 ski runs the resort is gearing up for 2015 when it hosts Interski, the world’s largest symposium of ski instructors with representatives from 36 nations.
If this resort would have sprung up when I was making ski movies years ago I could have probably drummed up the resources and crew to expose the resort to the thousands of people who used to support my lifestyle by seeing my movies. But after 55 years of chasing the unique, the improbable and the impossible, I find that I really enjoy writing about the faraway places rather than wearing my body out traveling to and from them.
As I sit here at the computer, sometimes I think about the six or seven suitcases full of camera gear I used to have to haul around the world. I used to complain sometimes when I was dead tired and still had 300 miles to drive to get to the next resort. Looking back however, which I sometimes do, I don’t think I would trade a single day of making movies because every single one was a little better than the one before it.
I still do wonder what is just over the horizon. How long a trip will it be to get me to the Antarctic from a Tierra del Fuego ski resort? Might as well go all the way to the South Pole while I am that close? Why not? I have never been there yet.
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