Skiing Antarctica – or for a bit more speed, kite-skiing in Antarctica

Ski tips moving through the driest powder, the sense of going where no one has gone before, the twin trails of the skis behind extending off into the mist.

The snow is so dry and the continent so silent it whispers under the skis and the ice hums deeper below that. There is always new tracks to be made, even on the outskirts of Vinson Base Camp.

Richard Parks and Jen Davis departing Antarctica after their respective solo sojourns across the ice. 

The appropriately named Ski Hill presents a gentle rise, a steeper climb in skins out across the slope above the icefall, then a hard left back and up the ridge. The ride down can be done in tight turns, gentle carves or long sweeping turns. Laying down your own new tracks goes without saying. All in a quick morning run before lunch.

conrad Anker, Jay Smith, Paul Teten, vinson, antarctica
Conrad Anker, Jay Smith and team headed out for Vinson from our Base Camp.

There are of course the much longer and flatter options to ski, starting with The Last Degree, a ski trip from 89 degrees south to the South Pole. With all the white around you, pulling a sled for 8-10 hours a day, for 6 to 10 days, may result in more of an inward journey than an outward one, depending on your fortitude.

The trundle along the most scenic and enjoyable of ski-trails, heading for Low Camp on Mt. Vinson.

For the seriously committed, there are options from starting points much further afield at the edge of the continent, or even further out, the edge of the ice itself. Then you can spend a month or more skiing. More than 10 groups are out there right now, from lonely soloists to groups of 2/3, all pacing out their days at 10 – 15 miles or hopefully more per day, day-after-day.

While it may look flat, the glaciers are often crevassed and the wind twists and turns the snow into drifts and ridges, the Sastrugi that is an inevitable part of every journey south.

To speed things up, take a kite and at least your return journey from the Pole will be much quicker, with some managing 200+ kilomètres a day in good winds. Best to have been born in a Scandinavian country and been on skis since you learned to walk if you wish to prevail here.

To just get onto skis in Antarctica, even a pair of simple 3-pins around the 10k loop next to Union Glacier Camp is great fun. You head out to the Christmas Tree, hang a right and soon feel quite alone, with the reassurance of a well flagged route to keep you on the track if the fog comes in. With the track in, a bit of ski skating is quite possible and you should be back in no time.

Antarctica – Unimaginable expanses of snow, temperatures to keep the snow dry and mostly fluffy in the mountains, endless mountain ranges to explore – and distances and days of skiing seemingly forever if that is your real goal.