¿Cómo se dice ‘ski bum’?

by Andrew Travers, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

You may consider yourself a committed daily skier or a “ski bum.” You may even have some “100 Day” pins to your name. But, sorry, Mauro Urra has you beat.
The Argentine ski patroller has skied nine months out of the year for the last 11 years, hemisphere-hopping and racking up 200-plus days on the mountain while skiing double winters and working resorts from South America and Europe.
Urra, 36, is working as a patroller on Aspen Mountain this winter, as part of a patrol exchange program with Aspen’s sister city of Bariloche, Argentina.
“This is my passion,” Urra said in Spanish, with fellow patroller Ed Colby helping to translate. “I consider it a privilege to spend all of my time in these mountains.”
Urra learned to ski at age 10, and soon decided to devote his life to the mountains.
“I consider this my career,” he said.
Aspen’s light, dry powder and calm winds have been a joy to ski, he said. But his co-workers here add that he’s a diligent patroller — even skiing with no poles when he’s on duty, so that he can do patrol work more efficiently.
He said he enjoys summer or spring weather for about two weeks a year, before he starts craving snow again.
Over the last decade, he’s worked on the mountain in Bariloche during the southern hemisphere winters and then moved to Andora, Spain for the other half of the year.
Aspen and Bariloche have officially been sister cities for the last 10 years. They’ve previously exchanged teachers, doctors and firemen, but this is their first ski patrol swap. Urra met local mountain guide and Sister Cities volunteer coordinator Griff Smith in Bariloche last year, and was then invited to Aspen.
He jumped at the chance.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
Argentinean exchange ski patroller Mauro Urra demonstrates his skills in carrying a sled on Friday afternoon on Aspen Mountain.

“I knew from the start that I wanted to do this,” he said. “Aspen is a legend.”
Bariloche, like Aspen, is a tourist hub with a robust ski industry. He hopes that more Aspenites will come visit Bariloche, which he describes as a “huge, beautiful, wonderful city.”
Tall, dark, handsome, long-haired and friendly, Urra is a natural to serve as a cultural ambassador on skis.
He also hopes the patrol exchange with Bariloche will become a permanent program, linking the cities. The Aspen Skiing Co. is looking to send a patroller to Bariloche this summer.
But the 150,000-resident city is a far different place than small and sheltered Aspen.
“There is a lot of poverty there that the tourists don’t see,” Urra explained. “Aspen doesn’t have those problems, everything is organized, everything works. We’re rule breakers in Bariloche.”
He added that he doesn’t miss the windy ski days of Patagonia.
“It’s snowing right now and there’s no wind,” he remarked. “In Aspen there is sun, powder, and privilege, and there’s no wind.”
While he’s in town, Urra is taking English classes at Colorado Mountain College, where he’s met other Spanish speakers. He’s also struck up friendships with some of Aspen’s sizable Argentine population, drinking mate (a South American tea), cooking and dancing salsa with his countrymen.
But skiing, as a sport and as a vocation, easily crosses language barriers. He said the patrol team has made Aspen Mountain feel like home.
“The patrol is like family,” he said. “From the first day here, they’ve been very welcoming and made me feel at home.”
After all, for Urra, home is where the powder is.

If you would like to nominate a candidate for the ski bum profile, email sack@aspendailynews.com.