Black Diamond Athlete Angel Collinson Travels and Skiing in Chile

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This is a guest post originally published on September 25, 2012 in Black Diamond Journal. A big thanks to Black Diamond for allowing us to share this story.


Black Diamond athlete Angel Collinson rallied down to Chile this past August to enjoy a little slice of the South American ski season. To her surprise she enjoyed an experience far beyond her expectations. Below is her report that details her travels, skiing and experiences in Chile.

For the past six years, I’ve gone down to South America, but this year was the first time I’ve been down there and not competed. I was just there for fun. Well, not just for fun, I guess. I went to Chillan, Chile for a Smith Optics catalog shoot for the 2013 product. They just needed mostly lifestyle shots, some on the hill, some off. Instead of having to worry about competing, about pushing myself and training, like preparing for finals in school or something, I was just standing around while people took photos, and then shredding during the day. The whole experience was something totally new to me—we didn’t even need to get any action shots. I was running around in vacation mode with a bunch of Smith athletes, mostly snowboarders, including my idol Xavier De LaRue. Being with snowboarders is a very different atmosphere: a lot of goofing around, being playful with riding, and they look at the terrain totally different. So awesome, and so much fun! The skiers were Sage Catabrigga-Alosa, Mark Abma, and myself.

When we showed up, there was mostly dirt. A terrible ski season. It smelled like sulfur and spring thaw. The air was grey and overcast, we were surrounded by huge old growth trees (my favorite!), and it was unlike the Chile I’ve always experienced. In all the South American resorts, you’re above treeline and there’s no vegetation. Chillan is different. First of all, the mountain is a volcano. And the top of it is always steaming.

At the mountain’s base was our hotel. Big hot-spring pools were fed by pipes popping out of a ski run. The first couple days of the trip were marginal conditions with grey skies, but I was soaking up every minute of a relaxed ski trip with no pressure. The days were filled with skiing and pictures, while the early evenings were usually occupied by a long soak in the hot springs and socializing with the crew (rough life, right?).

Then the wind came in—80 mph… pretty sustained winds. I looked up from the pool on the evening of the 3rd day to see black skies. Then hail came. Then snow. And more snow. Until it dumped three-and-a-half feet overnight…

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At a music festival earlier this year, I was talking with this awesome guy about my recent trip to Alaska this past April, how it was a lifelong dream that actually manifested into reality. He smiled understandingly, and described it like a spiderweb that finally connects: the past and the future are the outlier strands, you can see them but they aren’t exactly tangible or within reach. At the center, is your dream. When those outlier strands connect to the center, the moment that happens, your dream becomes your present reality. He described it in a way I will never forget. He said “It’s like right then you’ve achieved a simple miracle on the planet, and for that moment, when those strands all connect, a rainbow forms over your head.”

I think the same thing can happen when everything comes together all at once, like on a trip when things start falling into place, those rare trips where you couldn’t plan for things to go any better.

We do these outdoor sports because of so many reasons: for being outside and enjoying nature, for exercising and keeping our bodies healthy and strong, for taking the time to get out of the city and quiet our minds…. And also, I think, we do it for the magic that happens when we spend raw time with the earth. Those instances when Mother Nature creates something so magnificent and awe-inspiring, it dwarfs anything we can create or think up as a human being, whether it is a temporary thing like a storm, or a permanent thing like Half Dome or the Matterhorn.

I think our passions are propelled by these magical moments. While we love the everyday practice of climbing, skiing, biking… the mystery of nature is alluring, when you are taken along for the ride, guided only by conditions and experiences that are mostly out of your control.

Those next couple days in Chillan, I had the best powder days/resort skiing I’ve had in four years. I can’t describe the feeling of heading out the door with Mark, Sage, and Xav, clicking into my skis and shredding with the best in the world—no filming, no competition, no expectations. Just pure, in the moment, bliss.

The snow was dense and covered the sharks, so we could send almost every cliff on the mountain and we felt like kids in a candy shop with no one around. Then, as if things weren’t already good enough, two days later we got a cat ride up to the top of the volcano. Something about volcanoes carries an out-of-this-world feeling, like you are standing on top of some portal to another dimension, steaming and sulfury. We took some time and walked around the crater, taking in the beauty, feeling on top of the world. So amazing. It was a seven-mile ski down the base of the mountain.

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Later on at that music festival, I came to find out rainbow man was the organizer and event planner of this festival, and the whole experience that we shared together (the music, the people, our conversation) was his dreamchild. In that moment, he was experiencing one of his dreams becoming reality. Maybe we were both under a giant rainbow as he said that.

I feel that as a person and skier, these types of experiences open the doors of possibility: that my past has propelled me forward, and my future seems to hold even more potential. That this constant flux we live in, the ever-changing present moment, can engulf more of the past and future. That the more we open ourselves up to possibility, allow ourselves to dream up more amazing things, more and more doors open in life. More spiderwebs connect. More rainbows form. Sometimes I feel over-privileged being a professional athlete, of living a life that so many people would dream to be able to live for just a day. To me, learning how to give love openly, to walk this world with kindness for all I meet, that is just as important as being a successful skier (if not more so). And it can also be more challenging. I think these doors that seem to be open are also showing me ways to grow more in life, not just in skiing. And I think we all share that part of life.

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At the top of that volcano, I could feel everyone’s awe. Inspired by nature. And when everyone looked at each other, it was deeper than, “Dude, what an epic week”. It was more like, “Wow, what an amazing thing this life and this world is.” Moments like that, where humans can connect so easily without speaking, those are just as precious and miraculous as a three-foot bluebird pow day.

So maybe, at the top of the volcano, when nature lined everything up better than I could have dreamed, we were under a rainbow. Who’s to say? But I do believe in the small miracles in life.

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