Above the Arctic Circle the archipelago known as Svalbard is an absolute Candy Land for adventurous skiers and riders. This unique frozen wilderness is home to some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery on the planet. Ice Axe Expeditions facilitates trips to this remote corner of the world where ski mountaineers board an intimate sailboat and cruise ancient fjords in search of unparalleled ski opportunities.
For the past several days I have been fortunate to work alongside fellow Points North Heli-Adventures ski guide Andrew Eisenstark (AE). With charlatans Stein and Helga at the helm sailing the 62 foot Arctica II, our six clients-Jenny, Tracy, Alex, Jon, Kendra and Joel-brought together the final ingredients necessary for a memorable trip. With 24 hours of continuous daylight and endless terrain to explore the first leg of our journey was what we all hope for when ski traveling. Andrew and I have a few hours in Longyearben before the next trip departs. The following photos attempt to give justice to what is truly one of the most unique ski adventures in the world.
Once you make it above the Arctic Circle to Svalbard it’s time to shakedown gear and board the boat. The Arctica II is an amazing vessel to use for transport around the many fjords where dreamy ski potential is right around every corner.
Sailing a boat in search of exploratory ski opportunities isn’t the only unique part of skiing in Svalbard. In order to protect yourself and your crew from potential polar bear encounters the Governor mandates that at least one member of an adventuring group carry a rifle. The flare gun is the preferred method to scare the bear away, although I can assure you that simply skiing with these added backcountry “tools” adds a whole new flavor to the mission.
It doesn’t take very long for gaping to commence once you start sailing. Here Alex scopes potential ski objectives as the boat sails closer to one of the many awe-inspiring glaciers.
Possibilities for ski exploration, such as this small section of terrain, are bountiful and literally endless.
Once you figure out where you want to ski the sailboat sets anchor and the zodiac starts shuttling skiers to shore. The routine never gets old as skinning up off the beach perpetually fosters new adventures. On this landing the thousands of sea birds only accentuated the herd of reindeer and arctic fox who joined us on this tour.
Once you’re ready to head off in search of skiing the potential for various descents is vast. Glacier runs, bowls, ramps and huge couloirs are continuously in view and accessible. Our crew was game for a little bit of everything. We were able to ski in different zones everyday of our trip and never skied the same run twice as there’s just too much to explore.
Anyone who’s ever skied with AE knows he’s as solid as they come on a pair of planks. It’s enough said if you can ski a remote line as smooth as he skied this one, never mind with a rifle in tow.
It’s not often you get a crew like we had last week. Everyone was able to hang in this wild place and leave nothing but pretty tracks in the mountains.
It’s pretty easy to go from flat ocean skinning in Svalbard, right into game-on in the matter of a few hundred vertical feet. Here Jon and Alex get their stoke on in what was one of the previously unskied lines we were able to ski last week.
On this trip the opportunities to explore new lines is as endless as the wildlife and raw beatuty of the area. This POV was taken from arguably my favorite line last week. Alex, Jon and I booted up this incredibly striking couloir in complete awe of our surroundings. The run was one we’ll never forget.
The vision for Ice Axe Expeditions to put a trip like this together is something truly special, but essentially that’s exactly what they do best. Ice Axe offers trips of a lifetime style adventures to places like the North Pole, Amazon, Antarctica, and Morocco-not your typical ski destinations. Speaking directly to the Arctic sailing adventure it’s tough to accurately sum up how special this trip is, but I think Kendra says it best in the above shot-Absolutely Fired Up!
“State of the Backcountry” is sponsored by Alpenglow Sports. Established in 1979, Alpenglow Sports is Tahoe City’s original mountain shop. Specializing in backcountry and Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, trail running, backpacking, hiking, camping, and the mountain lifestyle apparel, Alpenglow is always psyched to offer premier user-based customer service.
Alpenglow Sports is thrilled to announce their inaugural Mountain Festival from June 22 – 30, 2013.
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Previous “State of the Backcountry” Reports from the 2012-2013 season: