Telemark skiers are hard to come by, especially in South America. Only a few stand out, like Diego Allolio, a telemark junkie spreading the stoke in Argentina’s Bariloche. Although he grew up in Buenos Aires his family had roots in the mountains. His father was a rock climber and mountaineer. Diego has photos of his father with skis, but the skis were just a tool for transportation to climb remote granite walls. Diego holds onto those wooden skis with pride. They’re mounted with an ancient freeheel binding and genuine seal skins to remind him of his heritage. It wasn’t until he turned 18 that Diego experienced a season of skiing in Bariloche.
After college, Diego decided to explore the mountains in the U.S. But with his funds running short, “ski bumming” became a necessity. Along with improving his snow skills, it gave Diego the chance to work on his English. He noticed the local telemark skiers and thought, “maybe I’ll try that sometime.”
For work, Diego became a NOLS instructor. This led to an awareness of the Leave No Trace program, sponsored by Patagonia. When he returned home, Diego established LNT programs in Chile, Columbia, Brazil, and Argentina. Locally the program is called No Deje Rastro. Diego wanted to train national park rangers on minimizing impact through Leave No Trace. When I asked Diego why he wanted to bring this system to Argentina he said, “I thought South America could learn from the Northern Hemisphere and then leap forward, not move slowly toward it.”
Free at last
In 2010, at age 42, Diego had yet to learn the art of the tele turn. His earliest memory was from a Patagonia catalog. The Fall/Winter edition from 1991 showed bearded men with round Julbo glasses, Hawaiian shirts, and jeans, crushing couloirs on skinny skis with free heels. Later, when Diego was living in Aspen he spotted a telemark skier from the lift. It was another Latino loco, Jorge “Tano” Dal Farra , a bariloco (Bariloche local). Jorge introduced him to Miguel Fuentes, yet another free heeling bariloco, who conspired with Diego to bring a telemark clinic to Bariloche. Miguel knew somebody that was a PSIA, Level 3 telemark instructor and the idea of improving their telemark skiing became a real possibility.
It was 2010, a little over a decade ago, that Diego and some bariloco freeheelers hosted David Heber to conduct a two-week tele clinic to certify the locals to Level 3. Heber had to pay his way to Bariloche, then Diego and his friends would take care of the rest. Eager to finally learn, Diego broke down and bought his first pair of telemark boots.
Trying to be proactive through resources in North America. Diego translated, on his own, the course textbooks for AIARE (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) into universal Spanish. At the time, the “loco” mountaineers said there were no avalanches in South America. But as more people got into backcountry skiing, accidents began to be reported. Along with translating the AIARE I, II, and III course books, Diego went on to translate and publish the Field Book.
“That was crucial,” he said, “for the first time, [locals] had something 100 percent tangible in Spanish.”
Besides the AIARE courses in Español, Diego helped create a Spanish interface for Mountain hub software. It was developed in Salt Lake City to share snow reports and conditions.
“It was a gamechanger for us,” Diego says.
Prior to that, there were no avalanche centers giving information about the snowpack. The app is now being used by the professional mountain guiding community in Chile and Argentina.
You may not find many Telemark skiers in Bariloche, but when you go, one way or another you’ll probably cross Diego’s tracks.