Ski/snowboard touring is hands down one of our most exciting add-on activities in our Antarctica activity program. We sat down with our alpine expert, Tarn Pilkington, to find out more about what to expect on an Antarctic skiing adventure. Discover what a day out on the white continent’s slopes is like, how to prepare for your once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and a few tips to get you started with ski touring.
Miss Snow It All chats with Tarn about ski touring
So, what does a typical ski/snowboard touring day look like?
6AM We’re up nice and early for breakfast and a morning briefing with the guides before we head out. We’ll take some time to discuss the day’s objectives, the anticipated weather, clothing and equipment and any other general planning to ensure the day will be a success.
7AM After breakfast we’ll load up the Zodiacs and head to shore. All our equipment will be placed in the middle of the Zodiacs, and then in either our ski boots or gumboots (depending on the landing and sea conditions), we’ll travel ashore in one or two full Zodiacs to start our day of ski touring.
Once ashore, after getting some snaps of nearby penguins and seals, we’ll move higher further the shore to get our gear organised. Skins are put on the base of skis (or split boards) and we head off in single file up the snow slopes for the first run or to climb a peak. Instruction will be given to those who haven’t toured before and our guides will help hone the skills of the more experienced in the group.
Every day is different. One landing we may chose to ski tour up a peak, and another we may choose a great looking slope and do a few laps on it. The views are always stunning the higher we get from the shoreline, so even a short ascent will afford us panoramic views and incredible photo opportunities. Then there is the descent. It is hard to describe the feeling of skiing down into a bay filled with icebergs. It takes your breath away!
12PM Don’t worry, we will be back on the ship in time for lunch, where we’ll rest up in preparation for another landing in the afternoon. Conditions permitting, we may take our skis out again in the afternoon, otherwise we may spend the afternoon on a Zodiac cruise or perhaps landing with the other passengers to explore the terrain on foot.
In most cases the average outing lasts between two-to-five hours. In the peak of summer in the southern hemisphere, Antarctica affords us long daylight hours, giving us plenty of opportunities to get out and explore as many peaks and slopes as possible.
On our first days we will also include avalanche rescue training and learn how to use the communication equipment. There will also be training in travelling on glaciers. Most days, harnesses will be worn and in certain glaciated areas, the rope may be used to connect us together to safeguard against crevasse falls.
How to prepare for your Antarctic ski/snowboard trip
Before you arrive, it’s important to prepare yourself for this activity. Because we attempt to go out every day that we’re able to, you will need enough endurance. Skiing and touring are always the best ways to prepare, but even in the off-season you can bike, run or row to build up stamina. The fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy the experience.
On the ship, make sure you are stretching before and after our outings. Touring can be repetitive on some muscles and joints so well-stretched bodies make for better recoveries and fewer injuries.
You’ll also need to ensure your equipment is up to scratch. When bringing your own equipment, make sure it’s been checked by a trained professional before arriving. Whilst we do carry a limited amount of spare equipment and can repair some damaged equipment, you should bring along essential spares like a binding toe piece or a spare skin attachment etc. Ensure that the boots you intend to wear are well-fitted and worn in before arriving.
Tarn's top tips for getting started with ski/snowboard touring
- Ski touring is very straightforward and can be picked up with just a few quick tips and a little instruction from your guide. The ski touring binding is hinged at the front under the foot, so your heel simply lifts as you slide the ski forward. The skin adhered to the bottom of your ski grips the snow, allowing you the slide forward easily without the ski sliding backwards.
- Like any form of exercise, a sensible layering approach to clothing is required. You will carry a small backpack with you on landings and there will opportunity to adjust layers throughout the day. Gloves hats and sunglasses are usually worn all the time.
- When moving uphill, it’s best to move at a slow but steady pace, using shortish strides and moving your opposite leg and arm forward and simply sliding the ski across the surface of the snow. The motion should be as smooth and flowing as possible.
- When traversing, stay in the track from your guide to make life easier for yourself. In firmer conditions you may need to kick the inside edge of the ski into the slope and step down with more pressure to get the skin to grip.
- Remember, your guides have many years of experience under their harnesses and will teach you everything you need to know to ensure you have a safe and fun outing every time.
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