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Destination Antarctica: A New Continent

Destination Antarctica: A New Continent

[ November 10, 2009 - 3:34pm ]
A Kodak Moment
After a tumultuous couple nights at sea, the Clipper Adventurer reaches a new continent: Antarctica. Following that, writer Sam Bass takes the most scenic ski runs of his life.

Check out photos from this leg of the journey here.

Something changed last night around 2 A.M. My berth is on the ship’s starboard side just forward of the middle. I fell asleep with an unsettled stomach—20-foot swells swept against the port side and under, rolling the ship from side to side. I lay with my head to the starboard hull and the rolling alternately thrust me bodily and lengthwise toward and away from the hull. How I fell asleep, I don’t know, but around 2 I stopped having to fight quite as much and settled into a deeper sleep.

Around 6:30 A.M. I discovered why. The voice of our Scottish expedition leader Laurie Dexter roused us through our in-room loudspeakers, bidding us to throw back the covers and come to the decks. A 30-knot wind blew straight over the bow, slowing our progress but calming the ship’s movements. And the peaks of a brand new continent, Antarctica—legend made real in an instant—glistened on the horizon in the morning sun. Though the upper deck was packed with nearly 70 would-be Antarctic skiers, quiet reigned. People spoke in reverential whispers as we brushed by glowing bergs and through sinuous bands of floating brash ice.

That headwind slowed us enough that our captain bypassed our intended landing, first on Deception Island and then on Trinity, and made straight for the continent, to Cierva Cove. By 10:30 A.M., we had loaded the Zodiac and were speeding toward a snowy ramp that led onto the glacier from a rocky beach. The sun was bright, the sea was bluer than I’d ever imagined, and after a 40-minute climb, our group of four (Kevin and Jessica Quinn, Adam Clark, and myself) topped a ridge and gazed off a cornice into a vast ice-speckled bay beyond. We paralleled the cornice to a large black buttress, put skis on packs, and booted up a narrow couloir until the snow turned to rock about two-thirds of the way up. The sun-softened strip of snow was barely wide enough to bang out a few Scot Schmidt hop turns, then the gulley spit us onto an smooth, undulating apron of glacier that fell northwest to Cierva Cove.
I’m comfortable saying this run, and the next, were the most scenic runs I’ve taken in several decades of skiing. It didn’t matter that the snow was glazed and scratchy for most of the way. My eyes were focused on the icebergs, ship, and distant peaks shining in the sun.

After each group had returned to the ship, a bartender named Burke slung beverages to rosy-cheeked skiers in the forward lounge. Many of these skiers had been forced to delay gratification after last year’s cancelled ski voyage, and you could almost grab onto the stoke that emanated from them. It was a day for the ages. Randobewan Skinobee was pretty darn happy, last I saw. Be sure to check his blog at  —Sam Bass

Skiing Magazine Senior Editor Sam Bass is heading to Antaractica for an 18-day ski-mountaineering trip. You can follow his journey—and watch a video interview of him before he took off at

A Kodak Moment

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