|ESPN.com: Freeskiing||[Print without images]|
|Chilean Chopo Diaz at Stevens Pass, Wash.|
Every year when summer rolls around, many of freeskiing's best athletes turn their attention to South America. The Andes offer mind-blowing summertime skiing, and now, the first two stops of the Freeskiing World Tour. Chile's Chopo Diaz seemingly came out of nowhere a few years ago and now he's often on the podium at FWT contests, including third place at the FWT Championships at Snowbird this season. We caught up with 28-year old Diaz to chat about the coming ski season in the southern hemisphere and what it's like to be Chile's most famous freeskier.
Where are you right now and where will you be skiing in Chile this year?
I'm down in Chile, going up and down constantly between Farellones and Santiago waiting for the snow that hasn't arrived yet. My favorite places to ski here are Valle Nevado and Pucón. The backcountry around Chillán is awesome (but the lift sucks), and Santa Teresa and Farellones.
What have you been up to recently?
I stayed in Chile this summer [northern hemisphere winter] for the first time in eight years, very charged and missing skiing. I went to the States for one month in March. I skied at Snowbird for 10 days, and then went to Washington to ski Stevens Pass. I love that place -- it is amazing.
How did you get into big-mountain skiing?
My parents were both ski instructors for like a thousand years, and we grew up skiing. My parents are retired but my [sister and brother, Soledad and Manuel] do things related to snow, and travel to the northern hemisphere for summers. Thanks to Dak Williams, ex-MSI director who came in 2008 [to inspect La Parva's terrain for a potential FWT stop], he invited me to participate in the FWT tour so I went. I participated once in El Dorado Freeride in Andorra in 2006 and that was my whole competition experience at that time.
What is it like being the most famous Chilean freeskier?
I am not famous at all. Nobody knows anything about skiing, everything here in Chile is about soccer. Snow is a small world down here, there is not many people to get information from, so I am familiar in local sport magazines, websites, and extreme sports TV shows.
How do you help promote big-mountain skiing in Chile?
I have my company Anden; we organize tons of events like the National Youth Tour, The Columbia Snow Challenge, 3 Montañas Crossing, the only stop of the World Rookie Fest in Valle Nevado, The College Ski and Snowboard Tour and some others. I also started a Mountain Ski Club three seasons ago and it's so much fun. We teach kids the love of skiing and full respect to the mountain, safety, freestyle and freeride.
If there was one thing you could change about skiing in Chile, what would that be?
To make it easier for people to go skiing. Of 7 million people in Santiago only 1 percent have had contact with snow, and only .1 percent practice snowsports during the season. It needs to be way cheaper, with open access to new areas. We live so close to the mountains, we need to promote them and motivate the people to go up there and explore it.
For skiers making travel plans to South America in the next few months, what kind of a winter do you think is coming?
Super awesome, probably the lifts and my town will disappear with that much snow. Bring your snorkel.