Aysén to host Patagonia Winter Games

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 Photo: Andino Patagonico Photo: Andino Patagonico
By Ignacio Palma
Translation by Taylor Ffitch
“Today, winter snow is a symbol of wealth, not poverty as it was in years past,” says Javier Aguilar, founder of the Club de Montaña Andino Patagónico de Aysén (Aysén Andean Patagonia Mountaineering Club). The 39-year-old from Coyhaique knows how to put his words into action. He is also the director of the Juegos Invernales de la Patagonia (Patagonia Winter Games), whose second version will begin July 28 in the Cerro Castillo National Reserve.
It hasn’t all been easy. In a region accustomed to making much of its revenue from tourist attractions and sporting events during the summer months, Aguilar wanted to break that pattern, organizing the region's first ice climbing competition in the winter of 2010. At first, people in Aysen thought he was crazy. But he was so sure of his project, that he knew exactly where he was going to do the project. He had known the ice falls since his childhood, when his grandfather took him to the peaks of diverse mountains in Aysén.
That event was so successful that it was repeated the two following years. In 2013, his biggest challenge came though with the first version of the Patagonia Winter Games, which was the first competition of its kind in southern Chile. However, budget problems kept it from occurring on a regular basis. They had to wait three more years for the next event that will begin this weekend, thanks to funding from the Aysén Regional Council (Core).
“We had to knock on a lot of doors. Now we don’t have to. They’ve recognized the common threads in this, which are sports, community, and tourism. It’s good for everyone, good for the region,” says Aguilar of the event, which currently has more than 150 people registered.
Ice climbing in Aysen. Photo: Andino PatagonicoIce climbing in Aysen. Photo: Andino PatagonicoSki mountaineering has been on the upswing in the region. Photo: Andino PatagonicoSki mountaineering has been on the upswing in the region. Photo: Andino Patagonico
The Patagonia Winter Games have five event categories: ice climbing, ski mountaineering, family sledding, freeride snowboarding and freeride skiing. The latter two are part of the world qualifying circuit for the Freeride World Tournament (FWT). It will be the first second round qualifier for 2016 in Chile and, because of its location, the southernmost ever. There are 50 spots available, for both men’s and women’s categories (for more information and registration, click here).
As for the rest of the categories, ice climbing, called the Ice Fest Patagónico, has the most local participants, in addition to being part of the national circuit. Likewise, Aguilar emphasizes that ski mountaineering is a sport that has been on the upswing, and in sledding they hope to develop an Aysén family tradition, awarding prizes for both design and speed. “Everything should be done in a non-competitive way. It’s not that we won’t be competing, but we’re going to do it with a spirit of fun,” says Aguilar.
Another of the mountaineer’s goals is to keep the event going without any breaks over the coming years. To that end, a new sport is planned: archery. Additionally, there are plans to create a paralympic date together with Teletón.
And if Aguilar is grateful for the economic support he has received for this year’s event, he will be calling on government officials to get their continued future collaboration. In particular, he is working with Conaf, Chile’s park service, to develop more activities at the site of the games, which they call Casa del Dragón Willinki de la Patagonia. In addition to the annual Patagonia Winter Games, they are planning  a downhill skiing school and other outdoor education programs on site. “This competition is beautiful, now we just need to put some wheels on it. And to do that we need to work with the government,” emphasizes Aguilar.
Patagonia Winter Games II Program:
Location: Sector Los Mallines, Cerro Castillo National Reserve. Located on the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7), 78 kilometers south of Coyhaique, and 20 kilometers north of Villa Cerro Castillo.
July 28 (3:00 PM): Inauguration
July 29 (10:00 AM): Ice Fest Patagónico, Intermediate men 
July 30 (10:00 AM): Ice Fest Patagónico, Expert men. Complementary activity: Rugby Seven on snow between teams from Chile and Argentina.
July 31 (10:00 AM): Ice Fest Patagónico, women
August 5 (10:00 AM): Ski Mountaineering, open event
August 6 (10:00 AM): Ski Mountaineering, expert category
August 7 (10:00 AM): Freeride skiing, Freeride snowboarding (both classified for FWT). Family sledding.

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