Skiing in Antarctica is ideal for those who’ve ticked off lots of adventure skiing destinations on their bucket list, and are looking for the ultimate trip that’s even more unique, remote, solitudinous, and off the Richter scale for being way cool.
If you thought skiing in Alaska was the last frontier, then think again as skiing in Antarctica truly is the absolute final frontier. When you ski Antarctica, you can schuss down pristine slopes, admire the profound beauty of this untouched wilderness, and admire the antics of the abundant wildlife. It’s hard to know what you’d take more photos of: the skiing or snowboarding; the views of the mountains that drop down to the iceberg littered Southern Ocean; or the many species of penguins that adorn the shores.
And if you thought Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, was a long way south and very remote, then Antarctica will knock the socks off that concept considering that the most northern tip of Antarctica is 1,238km (774 miles) south of Ushuaia. One appeal of skiing in Antarctica is that it’s one of the remotest spots on earth.
The idea of Antarctica skiing is puzzling for many folks because they think of it as a flat icy land mass. Whilst it’s definitely icy, it’s also very mountainous and gigantic glaciated mountains drape the coastline. Antarctica is actually the highest continent on earth, with an average elevation of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft).
The actual skiing or snowboarding may not be the main attraction of the Antarctica ski experience, but rather the opportunity to explore the massive white continent and gasp at the pristine landscapes (and ski with penguins!).
If you want to do this trip of a lifetime, check out the Ice Axe Antarctica Ski Adventure Cruise
Style of Skiing in Antarctica
It probably comes as no great surprise that there are no ski resorts in Antarctica with chair lifts, and there is no heli skiing in Antarctica or snowcat skiing either. So the only way to get up those big mountains is under human power. It’s all backcountry skiing where you ski tour/split board via skinning for the ascent. So in addition to having a great sense of adventure, you’ll also need a very good level of fitness.
The Antarctic ski tour operators mostly offer backcountry downhill skiing/snowboarding (e.g. Ice Axe Expeditions
), but there are also some cross-country skiing opportunities.
With no commercial accommodation available in Antarctica other than tented camps, the style of lodging is also rather unique. Whilst some super keen adventurers may head out on multi-day camping trips and drag sleds across glaciers, most Antarctica ski tourers can retreat to a yacht or cruise ship and enjoy the creature comforts of staying on a boat. From the larger boat, zodiacs may be used to gain access to the slopes.
Antarctica Ski and Snowboard Terrain & Snow
Antarctica is a wilderness of extraordinary beauty and magnificent rawness, and the mountains offer endless options for ski touring, including the potential for first ascents and descents. The terrain ranges from mellow slopes to steeps, and it’s heavily glaciated so ascents may be made roped up (and some ascents may require crampons and an ice axe). Even on the Antarctic Peninsula, there aren’t a lot of exposed rock features. And you can forget tree skiing!
You probably don’t make the pilgrimage to ski Antarctica and expect thigh deep powder. The white continent has masses of ice but it actually doesn’t receive that much precipitation so even boot deep powder days are not an every day event. Snow conditions can vary significantly from a little powder to corn snow to crust.
Late spring and early summer are the ideal times to go skiing in Antarctica, and on the Antarctic Peninsula where most of the skiing happens, the maritime climate offers relatively mild temperatures that generally range from -5°C to +5°C. Meanwhile on the ice cap (inland Antarctica) the temps can be brutal, even in summer.
It takes serious commitment to get there. The Antarctic Peninsula in West Antarctica is the most common ski destination and as the peninsula juts north, it’s only (ha!) 1,238km from Ushuaia in Argentina. Just for perspective it’s 3,443km from Hobart Australia to Casey in Antarctica, but you wouldn’t ski there unless you were playing a video game!
For some areas of Antarctica it is possible to fly from Punta Arenas in Chile, however boat from Ushuaia is the most common mode of transport. The number of days to cover the famous (and infamous) Drake Passage out of South America is somewhat dependent on the size and power of the ship or yacht.
More Reasons to Ski Antarctica
You’ll have to pay a large sum of money to go on an Antarctica ski expedition but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. That sounds so cliché but it really is – it’s completely inimitable and very limited edition! Here’s a handful more reasons to head there soon:
- The wildlife – orcas, different penguin species, fur seals
- It doesn’t get any more pristine
- Unique skiing and snowboarding and you may feel like you’ll fall off the edge of the slope and into the ocean.
- Unparalleled views on fine days.
- Did I mention the penguins?!! We don’t recommend you slalom around the penguins but it’s still pretty cool to skin or ski somewhere near them…