San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina – With the debut of the 2011 ski and snowboard season just two weeks away, the slopes surrounding the Argentinean resort communities of Bariloche and Villa la Angostura have been covered with volcanic ash instead of snow.
Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex, located near the Argentinean border 620 miles south of Santiago, began a massive eruption on Saturday for the first time since 1960, sending ash six miles into the sky. The ash plume was sufficiently massive to create its own lightning and thunderstorms and drifted as far east as Argentina’s Atlantic coastline before circling back across Chile over the weekend. Officials evacuated some 4,000 residents near the volcano, fearing the spread of toxic fumes and flash floods.
Airborne ash has canceled all flights between Buenos Aires and the ski resorts of Bariloche, Esquel and Chapelco until June 12. The ash rain in Bariloche ended on Sunday after causing numerous power outages. It is yet unknown what effect, if any, the eruption will have on the start of the ski and snowboard season in Bariloche, scheduled for June 17 at Cerro Catedral ski area.