The Gaucho

Mauri and the Guachos, Quique and Adrian.

Ben Girardi – October 17, 2019

Originally posted in 2019 on Reposted by with permission.

Reputed to be brave, unruly and skilled horsemen the gaucho is a national symbol of Argentina, renowned in legends and folklore. However, the heyday of the gauchos has passed. But what does anybody do when their way of life starts to go the way of the dodo? They adapt, they change, they do what they can to remain relevant, and that is exactly what has happened at Mallin Alto.

The abuelo (the grandfather), as everybody refers to him, even those unrelated, is a 97-year-old gaucho. He owns a massive swatch of land that runs up an entire river valley and far into the mountains. While he is out less and less herding cattle and working the area, he does have many gauchos still working for him.

Two of his actual grandsons, one a gaucho, and the other who moved into the city and was introduced to skiing saw another option. The abuelo’s land included mountains, massive mountains, the perfect place for skiing. They decided to build a dome and then slowly build up around it, creating a compound of domes all interconnected at the bottom of 2200-meter tall mountains.

Being on a remote cattle ranch, there is minimal infrastructure. They have run a pump to a nearby lake to supply water and rely on the durability of trucks, ATVs and snowmobiles to make it to the zone.  They have created an area that attracts people to ski and shoot commercials from all over Argentina and the world.

Queue us, Mauri, Mauri’s ski clients, Daryll and Ron, and myself. Mauri grew up with the one grandson and had worked at and experienced Mallin Alto before and wanted to share it with us. While we got skunked on snow (windblown, icy, and flat light), we were able to experience the adventure of the place, and the hospitality from the gauchos working up there.

The road in crisscrossed back and forth across a river. I’m glad Mauri was driving, and I just got to sit in the back and bounce along.
Some of the sections of the river were deep, at one point a bit of water splashed in through the door at my feet.
First sighting of the domes when we rolled up.
Checking out the peaks that are accessible.
The woodshed.
As soon as we got to the domes, Quique and Adrian immediately got to work getting fires going and bringing in wood.
Mauri getting on of the wood stoves going to warm up the dome.
This wood stoke kept the dome incredibly warm, especially in the loft as the heat rose, barely needed a blanket to fall asleep.
The first day, we hiked to earn our turns.
The snow quality was far from amazing, but it was at least smooth, and when you could see, the runs were fun.
We took a few laps and came back in to warm up with some hot coffee.
Adrian opting for the much more traditional mate.
The complex.
The sun came out for a few minutes the entire day, and it just so happened to be at sunset.
Quique bringing out our rides on the second day. Say what you want about snowmobiles, they are an efficient tool to move in the backcountry.
Mauri working his way down a ridge.
We got way up on a ridge and were able to look at the next peaks back, it looked as wind-scoured as the zones we were trying to ride.
Finding a line among grass and rocks gave Mauri a better chance of being able to see some definition on the way down.
Called it a bit earlier as visibility was getting worse, and opted to chill by the fire for a bit with some beers.
Some of the local residents checking us out as we drove home.
The gates and fences to control cattle were few and far between giving them a vast area to roam.
With the rough roads and deep river crossing, horses are probably a far more efficient means of travel in these lands.
We met the Abuelo on our way down at his house at the start of the ranch. He was one of the happiest people I have met, surrounded by family and friends.

Thanks to Ben Girardi for sharing this. Please check out his website
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