**All photos in this article are from Ice Axe Expeditions’ 2016 Antarctica trip.
The November 2016 Ice Axe Expeditions Antarctica ski trip experienced full blown sunshine nearly every single day. That golden sunshine combined with an incredible lack of wind translated to corn snow, amazing visibility, easier everything, more wildlife sightings, more fun, more smiles, and more skiing. I heard one of the senior guides who’s been on this trip 7 times say that he thought we’d gotten in more vertical on this trip than any other Antarctica trip he’d been on…
83 clients and 22 mountain guides from 16 different countries set sail in the 331-foot Sea Adventurer from Ushuaia, Argentina (furthest south city on Earth) for the Antarctic Peninsula with Ice Axe Expeditions on November 8th, 2014. It took 2 days to traverse the 600-miles of open ocean in the notorious Drake Passage to the Antarctica.
Sunny skies, calm winds, glassy seas, and corny snow made for one helluva smooth trip. We were able to go where we wanted, ski what we wanted, and stay out late everyday.
Living on a luxury cruise ship, taking inflatable boats to rugged shores, and skiing right down to a water line full of penguins is an experience like no other.
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.
Crossing the notorious Drake passage was generally uneventful on the way down as well as the way back. Both voyages delivered 10-foot seas with 10-30mph winds. Hundreds of birds followed us as we crossed the Drake each way including the largest wingspan bird on Earth (11ft, 6in), the mighty Wandering Albatross.
On they way down, we saw over 100 fin whales (2nd largest whale on Earth) from the boats decks in one day. Many came right up to the ship and we were able to see them blow, gawk at their fins, and watch their smooth backs as they lolled and rolled in the nearby waves. One day while we were skiing, a pack of 20 or so killer whales made an up close and personal appearance and blew peoples minds.
This trip was by far the most epic 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, and seals only add to Antarctica’s flourish.
Although I’d been on this trip 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 dream. After about 4 days of brilliant sunshine and sparkling icebergs, I began to fully understand exactly what I was observing all around me. Once I finally gained some perspective, I was able to fully drink this place in and it tasted wild.
Good skiing, penguins everywhere, daunting ice-cliffs, yawning crevasses, corn snow, scorching sunshine, powder snow, flipping icebergs, crystal clear water, seals, killer whales, fin whales, a 5 star floating hotel, amazing meals, a vicious Black and White party, and the Polar Plunge made this trip almost too much to reasonably psychologically digest.
During our six days on the Antarctic continent, we skied 7 different islands, touched down on the Antarctic Peninsula 4 different times, and visited one research station.
2016 ANTARCTICA TRIP SKIING DETAILS:
***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: Half Moon Island & Livingston Island
- My group skied 3 runs on Half Moon Island along with a few other groups. A handful of groups went over to Livingston Island and skied some bigger, longer terrain. Skiing was good on smooth, crunchy, edge-able snow. Visited a Gentoo Penguin rookery with hundred of Gentoo Penguins and one confused Macaroni Penguin. Saw some seals. Saw penguins swimming and jumping. Light winds, mostly cloudy, temperature: 37ºF.
Day 2: Half Moon Island + Deception Island
- Big wind shut down landing Livingston Island this morning so we all skied a few mellow laps on Half Moon Island in crunchy, edge-able snow. Cloudy, windy, 31ºF.
- Moved the ship 4 hours to Deception Island and the sun came out and wind completely halted. Deception island is the caldera of an active volcano (last known eruption: August 13, 1970) with an old whaling station dating back to 1906. Very cool old ships and buildings and tanks in the area. Excellent corn snow skiing here this day. 1,000-vertical-foot laps. My group cranked out two of these 1,000′ foot laps and we were screaming and laughing. The skiing was excellent. Soft, perfect corn snow. Sunny skies, zero wind, warm temperatures as high as 50ºF. We were climbing in only our base layers.
Day 3: Nansen Island
- Steep climb to get onto the island, then wide open terrain with stunning views on this day. Sunny, warm, cloudless, windless day with temps 32ºF and above. Skied one run on big wide open terrain off one of the high ridges then skied over to the “mini-Matterhorn” and cranked 3 laps in exquisite corn snow on its flanks. Big smiles, high fives, and great skiing. Long traversing ski back to the landing where we belayed clients down a short, 15′, steep section leading back to the shoreline.
Day 4: Ronge Island + Artowski Peninsula of Antarctic Peninsula
- This was my favorite day. We skied four 600-vertical-foot laps in perfect corn on the east side of Ronge Island. Sunny, warm, no wind, gorgeous. A breeze out in the channel blew sea ice into the small bay we were skiing above making it nearly unnavigable for our inflatable boats. The Expedition Leader closed our landing site and we hoped in an inflatable boat and pushed our way through the ice back to the ship. Our boat driver let us know that they had seen about 20 killer whales roll through the zone while we were skiing…
- We returned to the ship, dropped off some clients and guides and noticed that Chris Davenport and crew were headed back out. One of my clients and I decided to cruise out again immediately. We followed rock star guide Stefan Palm over to the Artowski peninsula and the guy found true powder snow on a south facing slope on top of cold glacier below an intimidatingly beautiful mountain cirque. We skied one lap with him then got a boat ride over to where Davenport and crew had skied an aesthetic, steep line on the Artowski. We climbed up in boots with ice axes out and got about two-thirds of the way up the steep face before dropping in and skiing steep, firm snow back to the beach. Absolutely exhilarating.
Day 5: Charlotte Bay + Bluff Island
- Gorgeous, sunny day with no wind and spectacular views into Charlotte Bay. 2 fun runs. 1st run hard up top, but softer down low. 2nd run powder up top.
- Bluff island was a gem with powder skiing right in front. We did 2 laps in the 3″ deep pow and had a hoot. Beautiful sunny weather and amazing views.
Day 6: King George Island + Artowski Research Base
- King George Island was the final ski destination of our trip and we didn’t waste it. The clouds finally returned on this day and we skied under cloudy skis with wind and firm snow. We skied a firm run that got softer as we went down then a long, fun glacier run – then, later in the afternoon, the sun came back! We finished the trip skiing 3 steep, corn laps in the brilliant sunshine.
- We quickly visited Poland’s Artowski research base on King George Island after skiing and just before beginning our sail back to South America. Cookies, cakes, tea and more is available in the Artowski for free. Tons of history to soak in and trinkets to buy. Gentoo penguin colony near the Artowski as well as a major whale cemetery with enormous whale bones strewn about everyone.
I can’t express how incredible, intense, luxurious, and unique this trip was. Incredible views and skiing, intense wildlife, luxurious anytime you were in the ship, and a relentlessly unique experience . There is simply nothing like Antarctica. It truly is a world unto it’s own.
Ice Axe Expeditions will be cruising to Antarctica to ski again in November 2017. 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.
ANTARCTICA PHOTO TOUR: