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Friday, August 3, 2012
Updated: August 6, 2:06 PM ET
Eye of the Condor

I had said it every way I could come up with.

"It's a little thin."

"There's no fresh but the base is good."

"You probably don't need to bring your powder skis."

Emails and Facebook messages kept rolling into my inbox from friends in the States who knew I was already in Chile wondering about the conditions of snow at La Parva, Chile. Many of them were already committed, regardless of snow conditions, to coming to Chile from July 27 - August 4 for the Eye of the Condor 2 photo and video competition. Some were sitting on the fence, waiting for a big storm that would make the decision easy. In the end, no such miracle storm came, but regardless of the lackluster snowpack, four high-caliber teams of athletes and media professionals convened on La Parva as planned to work, ski and party all week.

Author Drew Tabke competing at this year's Eye of the Condor contest in Chile.

Since the snow could have been better, the creativity and motivation of the participating teams was put to the test. No gimme powder skiing shots, none of La Parva's trademark windily and cornice jumps, no fresh lines in the sidecountry. As a result, the teams ended up focusing on more creative, story-driven aspects of ski photography and filmmaking. Team Discrete, the eventual winner of the photo portion of the competition, went camping in a basin surrounded by high peaks behind the ski resort with a blazing, one-day-shy-of-full moon illuminating the mountainscape.

Team Chile arrived at La Parva on horses using an ancient, nearly-forgotten route from a completely different valley, camping along the way. The winning video by the all-girls Icelantic Team showed the indelible effect skiing has on the character of each team member. My team, Team WIDSIX, investigated a myth we heard of in the area about a woman who lost her son while skiing and disappeared into the fog while searching for him. We skied much of La Parva's terrain at night looking for their spirits.

Event judge and photographer Adam Clark said, "In addition to the winning photos of Team Discrete, I loved seeing Widsix photog Jordan Ingmire's images. Since he typically works with snowboarders his vision is strikingly different than that of a normal ski photographer. The same is true of Team Icelantic photographer Roberta Rebori's images, thanks to her background in fashion photography."

Making the most of the conditions at La Parva, Chile.

After a week up in the mountains at La Parva, the athletes, media, and organizers descended to a luxurious screening area at MallSport in Santiago for the awards ceremony and event celebration. This year's event was granted the distinction of being an iF3 event -- the Montreal, Canada-based International Freeskiing Film Festival -- the first of its kind in the southern hemisphere. After a screening of last year's iF3 winning film, "All.I.Can," the teams' video and photo submissions were shown on the massive LCD screen and the winners were announced. "iF3 Santiago is the perfect way to cap off the Eye of the Condor 2. Bringing the mountain spirit of the event to a bustling urban metropolis like Santiago is truly unique," said pro skier and La Parva marketing guru Griffin Post.

As the event ended, snowflakes finally began to appear in the long-term forecast for the Zona Central of the Andes. While most of the competitors headed directly home after the event, a few -- myself included -- are still here watching the skies with anticipation, hoping that the dry course of the winter turns more active. But, as the content produced by the Eye of the Condor proves, the richness of the ski experience here in Chile comes from much more than just snow totals.