Ultimate A-list snow holiday destinations: Ski Antarctica

snow action team 15.08.2018

To ski Antarctica is right up there as one of the all-time A-list snow holiday options. Once reserved for explorers, scientists or base personnel – ex-Aussie airforce pilots we know used to ski Antarctica 40 years ago, and the Chileans set up a tow at one of their bases and ran the most southerly ski races in the world – it’s become more of a mainstream, albeit still an exclusive and expensive option, in recent years. Commercial cruise ship based trips have opened it up to a worldwide enthusiast market.
Bill Barker has been guiding and taking clients there for the past three years via his popular Bills Trips business. Bill is Ski Patrol Director at Mt Hotham, one of Australia’s top ski resorts for our international readers, in the southern winter, and been running trips to Gulmarg in Kashmir for many years in the northern winter. His trip notes from 2017 will give you an idea what to expect – the 2018 season is already booked out, but space is available for 2019, see details at bottom.

Ski Antarctica for great views

You can’t argue with the views © Bills Trips

Words can’t do justice to the constant awe of being surrounded by the majesty of the mountains, glaciers, icebergs and wildlife of the Antarctic Peninsula. And you wonder if it’s all real as you recline into ‘captain’s cocktail hour’ aboard our luxury cruise ship after skiing those amazing peaks all day.
It truly is the ultimate ski adventure on so many levels, and should be on everyone’s must do list.
In November I was blessed to head back down to guide for my 3rd year in a row. It is awesome to be able to share the experience with a group of like-minded ski adventurers from around the globe, and even better when ten of my favourite Mt Hotham and Falls Creek regulars come along for the ride.
The other guides that I work with down there have been to just about every destination and done every trip in the world, however they all agree that this is definitely their favourite. I concur and am stoked to be on my way south with them all again this spring.

Ski Antarctica at anchor

A whole frozen continent adds up to a lot of terrain © Bill Barker

It may sound like a pretty extreme location, however the beauty of this trip is that it can be done by just about anyone. There is terrain to suit all abilities and you only have to ski as much as you want. No back-country experience is necessary, so if you can comfortably get down a blue run and are fit enough to walk up a sand hill at the beach, the penguins are waiting for you!
Enjoy the photos and a few scribbles from my trip journal from our amazing adventure in 2017.

Ski Antarctica powder snow

Finding powder close to the shore on Enterprise Island © Bill Barker

#Day 1
Arrive at ‘The End of the World”, Ushuaia, Argentina. The southern tip of South America, and the world’s most southern city with a backdrop of mountains not dissimilar to the New Zealand Alps. Feast on our first oversized Argentinian BBQ and refrain from quaffing too much of a smooth local Malbec.
#Day 2
Taxi to the foot of the mountains for a day of learning or refreshing some back-country skills. Really good spring snow turns with beaut views across the bay to the peaks of Tierra Del Fuego. Make our first bonds with the other guests and guides at the welcome banquet overlooking the Beagle Channel.
#Day 3
Trek to the Chilean boarder through the national park, cruise the streets of Ushuaia and then board our stylish floating home. Cocktails on the back deck while the sun sets as we set sail down the Beagle Canal. Very high excitement and anticipation levels.
#Day 4
The formidable Drake Passage was reasonably calm, so there was not much rocking while my hair was getting vacuumed (along with any outwear) as part of the quarantine process (to prevent any organic matter making it to shore). Presentations by the Antarctic experts on everything from the geology to the politics of the white continent are not to be missed.

steep skin track ski Antarctica

What you can ski is dependent on your fitness and skill level – there are plenty of easy options too © Bill Barker

#Day 5
First sighting of massive icebergs, then land, and into the shelter of the South Shetland Islands by early afternoon. I didn’t even come close to winning the bet for what time we would spot the first berg but I did correctly name each of the four whale species spotted that day.
Returning each year to ski Antarctica is obviously paying off yet I still have a way to go with my Albatross and Petrel identification. Anchor for the night in a majestic bay of glaciers and ice cliffs.
#Day 6
Board the zodiacs and head to shore for our first turns. Easy skinning up a wide glacier to ski a big bowl back to a very aesthetic pick up point. Mingle with thousands of Adele Penguins while watching the Orcas and sea kayakers cruising the bay. ‘This has already been the best trip of my life” was thrown around by many.
#Day 7
Powder day! Several laps in quality boot top snow, to be greeted by hundreds of penguins propelling themselves out of the water at our pick up point. Sail under the hanging glaciers of the Lemaire ‘Kodak’ Channel to fur seals relaxing on the northern reach of the season sea ice pack. Captain’s cocktail hour during the afternoon debrief has everyone glowing.
#Day 8
Summit Mt Brittania on spectacular Ronge Island in brilliant sunshine. Ski the beautifully long low angle ridge back to shore, and after an extended lunch on the ship, we head across to the other side of the bay for more powder turns. Others opted for shorter excursions on the lower flanks, and zodiac cruising in the afternoon. BBQ on the deck as the full moon rises.
#Day 9
Skied, then explored the shipwreck off Enterprise Island, and then rode great spring snow on Nansen Island for the afternoon. Unfortunately arrived back at the ship in time to have to partake in the Polar Plunge!
A shot of vodka helps numb the tingling.
penguins are a common sight when you ski Antarctica

Spot the imposter © Bill Barker

#Day 10
Awesome circuit tour and ski on Livingston Island before checking in with Kevin. (Kevin is a slightly confused Macaroni Penguin who lives among a couple of thousand Chin Strap penguins on Half Moon Island). I think the smiling Weddle seals that share the island also see the humour. I maybe the most ‘in character’ Zombie at the Halloween party that night.
loading the zodiacs heading ashore to ski Antarctica

Every day brings a new adventure © Bill Barker

#Day 11
Easy skinning up the most amazing ridge to ski perfect corn on a steep face overlooking the bay on King George Island. Alien looking Leopard seals surround the zodiac on the return to the ship. An epic last ski day!
#Day 12-13
Another easy Drake crossing allowing us to soak up the final presentations, celebrate our achievements, share photos, and get up close to the dramatic cliffs of Cape Horn when we return the ‘Real World’.
#Day 14
Final breakfast and goodbyes as you wonder if it was really real. Off to explore Patagonia for a couple of weeks and on to the Paris of the South, Buenos Aires, for our final few days. Life is good!

ski and swim Antarctica

Bill is a keen south coast NSW surfer, so he’s used to cooler waters – maybe not this cool though © Mark Sedon

Ski Antartica information
Home for the trip is the 103m luxury cruise ship The Ocean Adventurer; it has 110 berths, carrying up to 70 skiing guests & 15 non-skiing partners or friends (Option to Sea Kayak or Snow Shoe Trek) & 20 ski guides. Too much great food. Too much Fun!
2018 is already sold out; 2019 dates November 01-13, USD $12,500 ex-Ushuaia; for more/bookings head to www.billstrips.com