Although skiing can be found on all seven continents, Antarctica is the most exclusive and remote destination. You won’t find any chairlifts there, but for around $30,000, companies such as Adventure Network International (ANI) will allow you to check Antarctica off your continental bucket list.
“The overall experience is something that tends to blow people away. The scenery is spectacular. Most of our guests have had great skiing elsewhere, but what they’ve never had is skiing in a setting like this,” said Nick Lewis, one of the partners of ANI.
“It really is remote. It’s real adventure. It’s probably the closest thing you can feel to the original explorers.”
Because the base camp and supplies must be flown in each Antarctic summer (November through January), skiing in Antarctica is not cheap. The logistics for such a remote location are quite complex. The chartered plane flight from Punta Arenas, Chile, to ANI’s Union Glacier Camp is about 4.5 hours long, longer than the flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Snowfall & Weather
The environment is certainly harsh, but not as cold as you might think with base camp temperatures usually in the 25F to 10F range. Granted, that’s in the summer. Although ANI offers a different expedition to see penguins on the coast, skiers shouldn’t expect to see any wildlife in the Antarctic interior. The environment is just too severe to support plants and animals.
Climate change is, of course, a big topic in the skiing world. In the past 15 years or so, changes have been a net positive for the quality of skiing in Antarctica. According to Lewis, increased snowfall patterns in recent years have turned what was once a trip mostly for the scenery into one for some legitimately good skiing.
Nonetheless, Antarctica is still a desert, so don’t expect chest-deep powder days. However, the snow that does fall stays dry and good for a really long time. The summer’s 24-hour daylight and stable temperature below the freezing mark eliminate any freeze-thaw cycle. Lewis said that his rule-of-thumb is one good day of skiing going forward for every inch that falls. The lack of lifts obviously means alpine touring (AT) ski gear is the norm.
Lewis said that the ANI 12-day alpine ski package could involve daily touring from the base-camp or multi-day expeditions from the main camp. The trips can be tailored for various skiing abilities, but ANI calls them “strenuous” with a good fitness level required. Other packages involving a ski traverse to the South Pole are labeled “extremely strenuous.”
The skiing in Antarctica may be getting better, but the next Whistler Blackcomb won’t be going up there anytime soon. For the select few who have an opportunity to ski there, that’s the beauty of it.
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