#sendandreturn: What it Takes to Ski Antarctica

By BCA Athlete Austin Porzak

For years I had been working on a goal to climb and ski on every continent. However, one continent kept eluding me: Antarctica. The opportunity to ski on Antarctica finally presented itself when Ice Axe Expeditions had an open spot for me. I would have been crazy not to take it.

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The first task is just getting there. I flew from Denver to Atlanta, Georgia to Buenos Aires then to Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is the southern most permanently inhabited town in the world and definitely a remote place. From here we would board the Sea Adventurer and sail across the Drake Passage to the bottom of the world. I had never sailed, so I was pretty excited to be out in the deep open sea. Immediately, I was in awe at the power of the ocean. We had 40 foot waves for a good 50 hour stretch. Just getting to a point where we could ski was proving to be an adventure in itself.

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Eventually we reached the northern peninsula of Antarctica. For the first time in my life, I saw icebergs floating in the ocean, seals, penguins and whales. Our first objective was to ski tour islands in this area and work our way south to the mainland. (The best skiing was really in the Shettlan Islands.)

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The logistics of skiing on the mainland is pretty time consuming. Just finding a spot to get onto the shore is difficult because ice is constantly blowing in and out, making zodiac landing zones difficult to maintain. During one of the days, we had to get off the mainland by noon as the winds shifted to the south and started bringing ice which could have trapped us in the area.

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Antarctica is the largest desert in the world and sees less than 6 inches precipitation per year. However, this year we had storm after storm and fantastic conditions. Most people think of Antarctica as a place that is always 100 below zero, and that is true in the winter, but November is spring in Antarctica. We experienced comfortable temps that hovered around freezing, so it was actually pretty enjoyable –especially since we were working up a sweat to earn our turns. Whenever the storms cleared, we had great skiing conditions. But the temps could spike pretty quickly, so glopping on our skins became a serious issue. Luckily, I had the BCA Scepter poles and used the scraper on the handle often and it worked like a charm to clear my skins of snow.

Being able to ski down to the water was such a surreal experience and I highly recommend this journey to everyone who enjoys snow, skiing and a healthy bit of adventure.

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