Aysén Challenge raises sustainability awareness through sport

The race, a biking-kayaking-hiking triathlon, takes participants through the regions stunning natural beauty — and helps them connect to it.


Even though the weather is starting to warm up, preparations are well underway for a frigid winter race that takes brave participants over rivers, around lakes and down frozen roads in Chile’s Aysén Region.

Organizers are currently planning the 2014 Aysén Winter Challenge, after having just completed its 2013 iteration in August. The Aysén Challenge, which is divided into a summer and winter race each year, is a biking-kayaking-hiking triathlon. The races are run by two-person teams which are divided up into two categories: the Adventurer category, for amateurs, and the Expert category for athletes seeking a true challenge.

The Aysén Region is Chile’s least populous region, and a top destination for travelers looking to take in some of the country’s breathtaking natural sights. Located between the Lakes Region to the north and the Magallanes Region to the south, Aysén is a beautiful transitional zone as the Patagonian lakes and rivers begin to give way to the many islands and archipelagos that make up the Andean nation’s extreme south.

The 2013 event was the sixth Aysén Challenge since the first summer race in 2011. It was started by a Chilean man named Francisco Vio and has now evolved into 40 volunteers working closely with organizations like the Army, the Chilean National Forest Service (CONAF) and a handful of municipal governments in the region. It has developed into a  grueling undertaking that took the latest winning team just more than 39 hours to complete.

Focused on promoting both sustainable development and a sustainable and healthy lifestyles, the Aysén Challenge organization cites the legend of the Native American god Kokopelli as inspiration.

Once revered by the native peoples in what is now the southwestern United States, Kokopelli was known as the god of both human and natural fertility. Often depicted as a flute-playing traveler, his visits meant the changing of seasons, the flourishing of crops or the birth of a new family member. A Hopi version of his image has become a common symbol across the region and is often used to represent the hope for a cleaner, more fertile world.

The race has been a key motivator of tourism to the Aysén Region, according to an official from the government’s tourism department (Sernatur).

“This has a tremendous importance in showing Aysén as a destination,” Andrea Foessel, the department’s director, said in a press release. “We have a great lens that helps us to show the best side of what [Chile] has to offer.”

For more information about the Aysén Challenge, visit the website.