With a victory roar to beat Lleyton Hewitt in his prime, Chumpy Pullin stormed to two wins from two boarder-X World Cups in two days at Argentina’s #1 resort Cerro Catedral last September. Snowaction’s Owain Price was ringside for the show.
Life doesn’t usually get much better than kicking back with a lunchtime cerveza on the sundeck at La Roca, the restaurant at the top of the main gondola at Cerro Catedral, after a big morning charging the awesome La Laguna terrain above and beyond. You sit there checking your tracks in the chutes behind, or the views out over two gorgeous lakes below.
But it did get better this day: I look up and who should go past but Aussie boardercross legends Chumpy Pullin and Cam Bolton!
They were just coming in from day one training for the first ever World Cup boardercross events to be held in Argentina. The two days of back to back races opened the World Cup season, and Australia’s talented men’s team was at full strength with Jarryd Hughes, Adam Lambert, Adam Dickson and Matt Thomas also here.
When the event was announced back in April 2017 I had got excited and contacted Belle Brockhoff, hoping to do a special feature with her around the event. But she stayed home recuperating from surgery on her mission to make it to Pyeongchang, so we had nobody in the women’s races.
The men’s team are a well-oiled machine, coaches and technicians all working super hard to give our guys an edge. In an individual knockout format sport of course you’re racing your mates, with no quarter asked or given. But allowing for that, Chumpy and Cam agreed that some of the mostly close-knit Aussie team do share tips to mutual advantage among themselves.
Cerro Catedral is Argentina’s top resort, and they had been building up to the World Cup for several seasons. Initially a training course was built for several international teams 5 years ago. It’s right below one of my favourite chairlifts, so it has been interesting to watch it grow and develop as they added permanent earthworks to smooth the course building process.
The investment for the event was a lazy $USD one million, so unfortunately it won’t be repeated for a while – as their Marketing Manager explained, there’s no way to see a return on that sort of investment – which is likely a similar equation for Aussie resorts, unless some big-paying sponsors can be roped in.
For the Catedral World Cups the course construction was amazing to see, as the expert pisten-bully drivers went to work sculpting the track with precision. At the top I met Kiwi legend course builder Todd Main, who was in charge of the international crew flown in for the task and the locals assigned to help them. He did an awesome job, and everyone from the athletes to the FIS delegate were impressed. The weather cooperated too, with the perfect early September combination of winter snow conditions and spring sunshine.
Chumpy certainly liked it.
“The course and the snow was just terrific. I don’t think it really gets much better than this. It’s unreal to start the season with a course like this here in the southern winter. It’s really nice. Perfect for me to put down two really good races back to back, I’m really happy with that because it’s such a good track.”
The World Cup tour is long and arduous, taking in some well known and some out of the way ski resorts around the globe. Apart from the minor detail of the Olympics in Korea, the boardercross athletes started in Argentina and continued through France, Austria, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain, Russia and Switzerland.
Taking nothing away from Erzurum in Turkey or Moscow, I’m betting they didn’t have a more enjoyable venue than these season openers at Cerro Catedral. I asked Chumpy what he thought of it.
“It’s a really great venue. Awesome to have such a good atmosphere with the people watching, the locals, everyone was out here making a really cool vibe for us. That was really great.”
“Chumpy do you like Argentina? Why?” yelled one of the TV guys at the final event presentation.
“I love it! The people are amazing, everyone is very happy, very excited. The snow is great. The mountains are huge. The views are spectacular. It’s pretty cool when we stand in the start gate and you’re getting nervous and feeling the energy come but you look out to the mountains and the lake and it takes your breath away.”
“It’s just a really incredible place to participate in a sport, it’s an incredible competition arena. I hope we get to keep coming back here because I love it.”
Chumpy was literally dragged away from the eager media straight after the briefest presentation ceremony as the Aussie crew were booked on connecting flights out of Bariloche to Buenos Aires that afternoon, and then home overnight. Shame – would have liked to show them some of the local secrets.
Cerro Catedral Snow-forecast (Bariloche)