E&I: Bariloche, Argentina September 2010
E&I: Bariloche, Argentina September 2010
Back from an awesome snowboard trip in Argentina. It was something I wanted to do for awhile now. While I’d like to say I didn’t hold expectations, the reality was this trip meant a lot to me, both personally and professionally. As mentioned in my previous E&I post, there were reasons behind this journey to South America in 2010. It was an exercise in “retro-acculturation” and “inter-acculturation.” And I was not disappointed. Best way to sum it all up, todo bien en Argentina!
What I saw and experienced got me more stoked then ever on snowboarding…Going to Bariloche represented my own “Gesamkunstwerk.” The raw and unscripted vibe of snowboarding in Argentina is exhilarating and intoxicating. It took me back to riding in the early nineties, and for once, really didn’t mind the idea of reliving the past. It definitely reignited a sense of nostalgia. Reminded me of why I made snow at night and ride all day. You can feel the love for snowboarding in Argentina.
The terrain at Cerro Catedral is jaw dropping with awe inspiring views. There were definitely moments where I felt apprehensive, specifically while descending into La Laguna after a short hike at the top of a really funny lift. Although, this mountain is no joke, you have to be aware of the surroundings at all times. Even while in bounds avalanche danger is high and the people colliding factor immense, especially on cat tracks. Gotta thank and give props to all the SASS folks for keeping everyone safe and having fun, including guides Brendan Drury, Vera Janssen, Craig Beaulieu, and Andrew Burns. You all helped make it memorable…Also want to say thanks to long time friend/supporter Luke Shelley as well. He was instrumental in helping me with the flip side of my Argentine adventure.
While the SASS crew & fellow VIP guests were great, it was important for me to ensure time was spent time with local Argentine riders. I was more than a visitor on this snowboard trip. As a bilingual resident of the lifestyle, I’m in a unique position to be a cultural expert into an emerging and unexplored world. My language (Spanish+Portuguese) abilities allowed me a once in a lifetime opportunity to hang and shred with the natives. After all, “history in the making” snowboard moments taking place down there right now.
Here is what the professor found out…some “wissenschaft” for you.
The snowboard scene in Argentina is challenging, yet inspiring and full of potential. From the moment I got off the plane, efforts were made to connect with anyone involved with Argentine snowboarding. I found the sport here on the road of progression, innovation, and creativity. There is a belief that this generation, 35 and under, are in a position to change the perceptions of snowboarding in Argentina, and throughout the Americas. Little by little it’s gaining acceptance and building momentum. Its a source of energy for combating the difficulty of life in this country. As the snowboard familia grows here so does aspiration to create something out of nothing. It left me feeling strongly there are parallel themes with the North American Latino youth market.
Guys like Mariano Gibert (Komunidad Snow) Richard Vecini (Epic Snow Company), and Thomas Finsterbunsch (Propaganda Magazine) are helping the sport evolve in Argentina, even with harsh market conditions in place. Its hard to be a snowboarder here. Like the United States, its expensive and access is limited. The import taxes on all consumer products is ridiculously high, and the mountains are a day away via bus. People live a relatively urban existence. Your lucky to get in 7 days of riding in a season. Still, people are out there making it happen. They believe in snowboarding that much. It was simply awesome to see and feel. It’s what life is all about, right? Argentine shredders refuse to let the economic conditions or accessibility barriers hinder them from finding the stoke. A “will to power” is guiding this generation of Argentine Millennials to progress, innovate, and create a unique Latin American snowboard scene.
The philosophy and approach of Epic Snow Company was something that caught my attention. While there’s definitely an individualistic component to snowboarding, what I found interesting is the sense of responsibility to lift the overall snowboard scene. A “we’re all coming along for the ride” mentality is there. It’s about having fun…
The athlete talent level is progressing very quickly, look no further than the films done by Bad Quality Productions. Their last film ‘Nimbus‘ shows the level of progression that’s taken place since 2005’s ‘Sargentos‘. Only a matter of time before a half-pipe gets built. When that happens we’ll start to see this talent trickle into international competitions. Everything takes longer in Argentina, but these riders are hungry!
Emerging snowboard scenes are popping up around the world. There aren’t many, but the will play a role at home. My theory in the fall of 2006 was that the acceleration of globalization via media technology would allow kids from around the world to catch up on youth in the United States. It would occur on every cultural level, education, art, culture, lifestyle, and economically. The youth market would fragment into cultural niches. Action sports would be no different, and indeed this has been the case. Surfing is experiencing it right now, and skate as well. Also check out the trailer to ‘Plank‘, which won Best International category at the inaugural LA Skate Film Festival. It’s the story of Nassim Guammaz, a young skate talent of Moroccan descent in the Netherlands. Snowboarding falls into this trend as well. Watch Blickenfreie’s documentary film trailer on Bulgarian snowboarding, ‘At Equilibrium’. The same DIY theme found here applies to what is happening in South America right now.
How does this affect the youth market in the United States? Well considering the diverse cultural backgrounds of the U.S. Millennial generation, and lack of ethnic snowboarder and surf athletes to inspire them, there is a strong connection. Its hard to imagine these sports, and sales, to grow without the aid of emerging global youth markets. What’s special about Latin American snowboard scene is its ability to culturally resonate with the biggest cohort within the U.S. urban youth market, Latinos. It’s going to be that first Argentine or Chilean rider in the X-Games or Olympics that will be the catalyst. While I’m cautious on throwing out a time frame, it IS only a matter of time in a world of hyper-change.
After hanging at with the riders, reps, media and retailers in Argentina I know there’s so much creative potential for this snowboard scene to influence the U.S. market. As Sal Masekela put it while speaking at the Action Sports Conference on Youth & Diversity, “its about exposure and opportunity.” Sharing global action sports stories is the future. Brands (manufacturer, resort, & media) that invest in the cultural intelligence will be the one’s that gain as a result. The imagery and lifestyle of snowboarding speaks for itself. My trip to Bariloche, Argentina has got me believing all of this more than ever.