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Thursday, August 26, 2010
Freeskiing World Tour heads to Argentina

[Editor's note: Freeskiing World Tour competitor Drew Tabke is reporting from the South American stops of the tour in Chile and Argentina. Last weekend, he placed fourth at El Colorado. This week, he'll be competing in rental boots.]

Here in Las Leņas, Argentina, athletes and organizers are all in place for tomorrow's big event, the second stop of the 2010-2011 Subaru North Face Freeskiing World Tour. The first stop took place last weekend at El Colorado, Chile. The normal format of a two-day competition has been shortened to just one day and one run -- taking place tomorrow. I'm writing this in the event center at the base of Las Leņas, and out the window, I can look up to Eduardo's, the venue for the competition.

From this vantage point, it's apparent that one important thing is missing: snow. It's been a dismal snow year here at Las Leņas, and the hills are more brown than white. Finding a good line down Eduardo's seems almost impossible.

Athletes walking to inspect the venue today in Las Leņas. Um, where's the snow?

But there's also something else missing: ski equipment. All of my gear (except for my skis), plus the equipment of organizers, judges, and two other competitors, Chopo Diaz and Jacqui Edgerly, is still on a truck in Chile, having been unable to clear Argentinean customs despite three days of effort. Out the window, a hilarious scene is taking place: world-class skiers walking around in jeans, rental boots and skis, borrowed backpacks and sunglasses under helmets. Also on that missing truck is virtually everything the organizers normally use to run these events, including radios, sponsor banners, generators and tents.

Author Drew Tabke on the finest rental gear Las Leņas has to offer.

But despite all of these causes for desperation, the event on Friday still looks to be an amazing display of competitive freeskiing, thanks to superhuman efforts from the Argentinean hosts, American organizers and committed athletes. Missing gear has been borrowed, rented, bought and scavenged. And the first flakes of tonight's forecasted two centimeters of snow are currently falling from the sky, which doesn't sound like much but after almost three weeks without a trace, it feels like a godsend.

The venue for Friday's competition, Eduardo's.

It looks like more is on the way, too. Sunny skies are expected for the competition on Friday, but on the weekend a large storm is forecasted. Around town there are guarded whispers that it could be the mythical Santa Rosa, a storm that arrives each year during the last week of August, bringing copious amounts of snow to these enormous mountains.

En route to Las Leņas: Drew Tabke, Soledad Diaz, Jacqui Edgerly, Chopo Diaz.

Some of the competitors head home immediately after the event with flights on Sunday out of Buenos Aires or Santiago. This could prove to be a consequential lack of foresight considering big parties in Las Leņas normally last until the sun comes up, and Friday's after party has been promised to be "the best time of our lives" by Argentine event organizer, Manuel Uranga.

Will it snow two centimeters? Will my rental boots perform to World Tour standards? Will I ever recover my gear or will I forever ski in jeans? I'll just have to wait to find out. Check back Saturday for a full recap of the event.