Trip Report: Skiing Antarctica With Ice Axe Expeditions 2017

Miles Clark | | Trip ReportTrip Report
Stein slashing one on Nansen Island. image: Erich/Ice Axe
**All photos in this article are from Ice Axe Expeditions’ 2017 Antarctica trip.

Powder & Sunshine. 

Powder & Sunshine are what defined the October/November 2017 Ice Axe Expeditions Antarctica ski trip.  Crisp, dry powder skiing isn’t even thought to happen in Antarctica, we know.  But in late October 2017, we skied boot deep, dreamy powder on the Antarctic Peninsula.
Full on powder skiing at Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula. image: snowbrains
The rest of our trip was defined by sunshine.  That golden sunshine combined with a remarkable lack of wind and delivered corn snow, unlimited visibility, copious wildlife sightings, more smiles, more skiing.
97 clients and 24 mountain guides from 18 different countries set sail in the 331-foot newly remodeled (including 2 new more powerful, quieter Rolls Royce engines) from Ushuaia, Argentina (furthest south city on Earth) with Ice Axe Expeditions on October 29th, 2017.
Wow, just wow… image: snowbrains

It took less than 2-days to traverse the most notorious open ocean passage on Earth, the Drake Passage, to Antarctica.

It’s not easy to access the land of Antarctica.  The majority of land is guarded by 100-300′ ice cliffs that prevent any kind of access.  Every now and then, you find a ramp down to the shoreline and that’s what we use to access these mountainous islands and peninsulas.  Ramps are where the penguins access the land as well.  Nearly every time we land to ski, we’re dealing with penguins.  Sometimes hundreds of them.
Penguins in paradise. image: snowbrains

Crossing the notorious Drake passage was moderate on the voyage down with 50-70 knot winds and some solid rocking and rolling.  On the night of October 30th, winds got as high as 90 knots and it was a pretty darned rough.

The weather continued rough as we approached the South Shetland Islands.  Big waves were exploding off the bow of the boat with such spectacular sprays that we were getting faceshots 50-feet up on the upper deck.

Home. image: dawn

Conditions were too rough for skiing in the South Shetland Islands, so we continued on to the Antarctic Peninsula.

On the way down, we saw seals, whales, enormous amounts of birds including the largest flying bird on Earth, the enchanting Wandering Albatross.  One day while were were visiting a penguin rookery, we saw a pod of 20 or so killer whales roll through the icebergs and give us an incredible show.  One whale even swam straight at one of our inflatable boats and ducked underneath it at the last moment giving our clients and guides inside a unforgettable thrill.

Moonrise… image: snowbrains

This trip was by far the most fantastical ski trip I’ve been on in my life.  Skiing great lines down to a smooth as silk ocean full of icebergs that dwarfed our 331-foot ship was simply surreal.  The constant penguins, whales, seals, and birds only add to Antarctica’s already potent flourish.

Although I’d been on this trip twice before, for the first few days, the scenery just wouldn’t register in my brain.  It all looked like a photograph, like a postcard, like somewhere I’d never get to go, like a hallucination.  After 4 days of brilliant sunshine and sparkling icebergs, I began to fully understand exactly what I was taking in all around me all the time.  Once I finally gained some perspective, I was able to fully drink this place in and it tasted wild.

Guide Miles Clark on the horizon. image: ice axe

Good skiing, penguins everywhere, daunting ice-cliffs, yawning crevasses, powder snow, corn snow, scorching sunshine, flipping icebergs, loud cracking icebergs, crystal clear water, seals, killer whales, fin whales, a 5 star floating hotel, amazing meals, a raucous Halloween party, and the Polar Plunge made this trip almost too much to reasonably mentally digest.

During our six days on the Antarctic continent, we skied 4 different islands, touched down on the Antarctic Peninsula 2 different times, and visited one research station. 

Guide Shaun Krueger on the polar plunge! image: dawn




Map showing exactly where we landed and skied during the 2017 Ice Axe Expeditions Antarctica trip.
***Note:  Many other lines were skied and landing zones utilized on this trip.  In the report below, I only outline the skiing and riding that myself and my clients experience.


Day 1:  Charlotte Bay on Antarctic Peninsula & Cuverville Island


Charlotte Bay. Red Arrows = runs skied. Red Circle = landing site.
  • My group skied 2 runs above Charlotte Bay on the Antarctic Peninsula itself.  This was the one day on this trip where the weather wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t terrible either.  Overcast skies, temps around 32ºF, no wind, lower visibility, fairy tale snow lazily falling down throughout the day.
  • In the afternoon, the whole boat went over to the Cuverville Island Gentoo Penguin rookery and got to check out tons of penguins doing all sorts of hilarious things.  While on Cuverville we saw a pod of Orcas sneak by.  Some groups saw them up close including some extremely close encounters.


The Ocean Adventurer and the Gentoo penguin rookery on Culverville Island. image: Dawn


Day 2:  Paradise Bay on Antarctic Peninsula


Paradise Bay. Red Arrows = runs skied. Red Circle = landing site.
  • We awoke to new snow on the deck and reports of 4-6″ of fresh powder on land.  Our first run was straight up powder!  Our second run was in the same zone and was another terrific powder run.  Run #3 was from near start of Run #1, but better fall line and we took it all the way to the Chilean Base.  This was a VERY cool run.  I’ve never ever had a run like it.  Satin silk pillow hummocks separated uniformly by about three feet that exploded on impact.  Between the hummocks was the older, skied up snow that was stiff but soft and responsive.  We ripped down at near full speed hooting and hollering all the way down whilst harvesting as much powder as humanly possible.
  • Upon returning to the Chilean Base where we’d landed, I saw something that I thought was a strange wind line on the ocean.  At second glance, I realized that it was a Penguin River.  Thousands of Gentoo Penguins were lined up and flowing into the mini bay like a river.  Once they arrived, they were hucking themselves up onto the snow and then parading all together over towards the buildings of the base.  This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever witnessed.  They were jumping up to 5-feet out of the water with ease and appeared to be levitating.  Simply unreal to watch.  


  • After skiing, we cruised down the majestic Neumeyer Channel before slicing through the chute-like Lamaire Channel.  The vistas in these regions are difficult to understand.  Jagged peaks, heaving glaciers, gaping crevasses, glassy waters.  Our journey ended when we encountered fast sea ice before the end of the Lemaire channel.  Our captain allowed us to linger for bit before we began our journey north again, back to open waters.


  • Weather started out challenging with low clouds, snow, low to no vis.  Visibility improved as we climbed and filtered sunlight gave us great light and visibility.  Temp was 0C at 6am.  Moderate wind all day from the south.  Stiff wind kept things cool and snow good and continually buffed out the snow.  All day was filtered sunlight that rocked and was full on at times.


Day 3:  Ronge Island


Ronge Island. Red Arrows = runs skied. Red Circle = landing site.
  • To start the day, we climbed to the top of 2,111-foot peak in the middle of the island.  Impressive views from the summit.  Long, fun ski down through powder and some harder snow.  We then traveled to the north side of the island where there was some incredibility stunning views combined with steep skiing, via a long corny, sunny run.  We did two runs in this zone and it was a highlight of the trip.  The views here were mind-bending…  We just made the cut off time of being back on the ship by 6:30pm after having left the ship at 8am.  Terrific day with lots of penguins.  This day was clear, sunny, windy at times, dead still at times.  Hot at times.  Cold at times.  Sun all day.


  • Outdoor BBQ luau dinner was the ultimate aprés ski treat.  Glüg wine, a whole BBQ pig, and all the fixin’s while staring at some of the most sublime scenery on Earth.


  • The sunset this night was phenomenal.  Long.  Red.  Full moon.  Stunning.
Stunning image from Ronge Island. image: dawn


Day 4:  Nansen Island


Nansen Island. Red Arrows = runs skied. Red Circle = landing site.
  • Gorgeous, sunny, hot corny day.  Skinned to the summit of the island and skied down to the Shark’s Fin.  From the Shark’s Fin down to a large valley.  Climbed the valley up to a notch with terrific views back to our boat and some impossibly tall icebergs.


  • After skiing we took a boat ride over to a shipwreck from 1915 at Enterprise island.  Crystal clear water.
Dream life. Ronge Island.
image: snowbrains


Day 5:  Livingston Island


  • 2-3″ of new snow on harder, smooth snow underneath – cloudy in the morning with clearing in the afternoon with some sun.  We took a long skin to the top of main hill.  Great ski back down to the water.  Boat ride over to rugged south side of the island where we climbed a steep couloir with crampons and ice axes.  Ski down was crazy fun with the snow getting softer and better the further down we skied.
  • We headed over to Half Moon Island and the Chinstrap penguin rookery after skiing and saw some wildlife scenes straight out of the BBC’s Planet Earth series.  We saw the legendary “Kevin” – the Macaroni Penguin who has been seen chilling in the middle of a Chinstrap penguin rookery each of the past 5 seasons.  We also saw a Weddell seal pup nursing with his mom.  We even saw two Giant Southern Petrels kill and eat an injured penguin.  The whole scene at the Chinstrap rookery was intense and more fascinating than any wildlife show I’ve ever seen.
  • Amazing day. 
  • Halloween party this night was rowdy and fun



Day 6:  King George Island – Admiralty Bay


King George Island. Red Arrows = runs skied. Red Circle = landing site.
  • This was the perfect way to wrap up a spectacular trip.  Sunny, hot, not wind, up to 10ºC (50ºF).  I started the day with a guide scouting mission to landing B and checking out a few humpback whales.


  • We got permission to ski a non-glaciated zone that we’d never skied before.  This made our travel fast and fun.  No ropes were need here due to the lack of glaciated terrain.  The snow was in excellent corn condition and the skiing was terrific.  Wide open faces, chutes, and some very fun convoluted terrain marked the day.  You could hear skiers and riders hooting all over.  It was hot, fun in the sun spring skiing and everyone was in love with the day.


  • Many groups saw leopard seals this day from the inflatable boats.  We saw some crab easter seals on our boat ride.  We saw lots of glacier calving this day – likely due to the heat.
Guide Miles Clark slashing on King George Isle. image: Ice Axe




I can’t express how incredible, intense, luxurious, and unique this trip is.  Incredible views and skiing, in-your-face wildlife, ridiculous luxury anytime you’re in the ship, and a relentlessly unique experience .  There is simply nothing like Antarctica.  It truly is a world unto its own.

Ice Axe Expeditions will be cruising to Antarctica to ski again in November 2018.  I’ve been invited to guide the trip again and I’d love to share this experience with you and yours.

If interested, please email me here for the ski trip of a lifetime:


There’s really nothing more that I can convey to you in words about this place.  

I’ll let the 100+ photos below tell the rest of the story.  

Thanks to everyone.  

Such an unreal trip…


Steep. image: the crew
Leopard seal jaw. image: the crew
Stairway to heaven. image: the crew
Big spray! image: Ice Axe

Hucking penguins. image: the crew

Wow. image: the crew
It’s hard to sleep when views like this abound. image: snowbrains
Halloween with Greg from and guide Bill Barker. image: the crew
Kevin! image: the crew
“Hey guys!” Leopard Seal. image: the crew
Blue on blue. image: dawn
Pow pow. image: the crew
Chain gang. image: the crew
Guide Joe St. Onge. image: the crew
Fur seal. image: the crew
Hucking penguins. image: the crew
Reflections. image: snowbrains
BBQ hog! image: snowbrains
Sunsets go on forever here. image: snowbrains
Rimed up ship on the crossing. image: snowbrains
Stellar views. image: snowbrains
Sunset at 64ºS. image: snowbrains
Guide Jules Hanna and crew on Ronge Island. image: snowbrains
Leopard seals have big jaws. image: the crew
Enterprise island shipwreck. image: dawn
This is how we unload. image: dawn
Going up. image: dawn
Humpback whale. image: the crew
Great Southern Petrels eating a chinstrap peguin. image: the crew
Polar Plunge! image: the crew
Guide Miles Clark loving it. image: ice axe
‘Bergs. image: the crew
Guide Miles Clark slashing on King George Isle. image: Ice Axe
Fairy tale snow. image: the crew
Guide Glen Paulsen at Halloween party. image: the crew
Chain gang. image: the crew
Powder. image: the crew
Marching. image: the crew
Up. image: the crew
Shacked at 64ºS. image: the crew
Rock n penguin. image: snowbrains
Powder day in Paradise Bay. image: the crew
Weddell seal and pup and view. Half Moon Isle. image: snowbrains
Reflections. image: snowbrains
Perspective is everything. image: snowbrains
View from the room porthole. image: snowbrains
Glass… image: snowbrains
It’s hard to understand these views sometimes. image: snowbrains
Penguins in the wind. Ronge Island. image: snowbrains
Guide Mattias in the pow! image: snowbrains
Deck vistas. image: snowbrains
Krill, the basis of this underwater eco system. image: the crew
Guide Joe St. Onge, guide Miles Clark, and Stein! image: the crew
Killer underwater shot of a Leopard Seal. image: the crew
Culverville Island gentoo rookery. image: the crew
Party at the BBQ after an unreal ski day. Stunning image from Ronge Island. image: dawn
Jumping Gentoos! image: dawn
Rimed up ship on the crossing. image: snowbrains
Buried in snow drifts. image: snowbrains
Chinstrap! image: snowbrains
Wow. image: the crew
Geez… image: the crew
Chinstrap penguin on the move. image: snowbrains
Guide Miles Clark dropping in on King George Isle. image: Ice Axe
Ronge Island. image: the crew
Shimmer and shine. image: the crew
Guide Miles Clark back up for another. image: ice axe
Terrain. image: the crew
Ants. image: the crew
Kevin! image: the crew
More ants… image: the crew
Orca. image: Stephan Palm
Silhouette. image: Stephan Palm
Downward! image: Stephan Palm
Hucking penguins. image: snowbrains
“Hey guys!” Leopard Seal. image: the crew
Cheers at the BBQ! image: the crew
Chinstraps and Gentoo. image: the crew
Kevin! The one Macaroni penguin who hangs out in a chinstrap rookery on Half Moon Island. image: the crew
The Lemaire Channel. image: dawn
Icebergs at the end of Lemaire Channel. image: dawn
Icing up a bit during the crossing. image: dawn
This is where we saw the penguin river at Paradise Bay on the Antarctic Continent. image: Dawn
Orca. image: Stephan Palm
Guide Miles Clark loving it. image: ice axe

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