Ski To See Around The World
I consider birthdays to be a rare personal New Year’s Eve; a chance to reinvent yourself for your uniquely individual year ahead. In my family, we’ve created a tradition of choosing a word that will align the theme of what you choose to manifest in the next 365 days before you. This year my word is Gratitude. It’s only been one month since the actual day of my birth, but already my heart is bursting forth with immense gratitude for the opportunity to share three incredible ski expeditions skiing to the ocean in three different countries with phenomenal people full of joy, love and light.
People often will ask why I choose to travel to different places to ski when I have world class skiing right in my Alaskan backyard. The answer is simple. I love the adventure of combining this passion I love dearly with exploration of a different culture. My grandparents on both sides instilled in me the idea that money is to be spent on experiences not on things. My parents continued that role modeling expressing that through travel we continue our education as humans; expanding our minds as to how the rest of the world eats, sleeps, works and skis. Combine this with my upbringing in the Pacific Northwest with mountains and ocean infiltrating my every childhood experience of wonder and you will understand why I crafted this year’s birthday month to be centered on skiing to the sea.
After a season of ski guiding in Japan, it made sense to make the most of my location and explore the far reaches off the Northwest corner of Hokkaido; an aesthetic volcano jutting out of the ocean named Rishiri. Flying there with three other friends, we decided to stay with a local guide who had grown up there, exploring the mountain’s every nook and cranny. Infamous for bad weather hammering the steep spines of its upper reaches, the “Windy Island” was a humbling choice for us. We knew that the Siberian winds could very well keep us from a coveted summit bid, but we went in with open minds and asked permission from the mountain to spend a week exploring it’s slopes. Not only was it granted in spades with glorious weather and an incredible friendship building with our new Japanese friends, but Rishiri also gifted us her summit. Each day we set out from a different compass direction on the mountain, floored by the epic views and glorious weather allowing us to ski in sight of the ocean with every turn. Our hosts fed us local traditional food, much of which challenged our Western taste buds, but we tried everything and graciously shared in the island’s bounty from the sea.
From Rishiri, the same crew of friends made our way to Alaska via Hawaii to enjoy a brief respite out of ski boots and some much needed relaxation before heading into Ski to Sea expedition number two. Once in Alaska, we hit the ground running, picking up more friends from the airport and gathering supplies for a week aboard The Babkin attempting to ski and explore the further reaches of Prince William Sound. Eight of us piled our gear into this luxury expedition craft and set sail on a glorious sunny spring day in Alaska. Our captain, Alex Von Wichman has been skiing out there for 30 years and our friend Nick has begun to partner his backcountry touring business, Remarkable Adventures with Babkin Charters to offer more trips of this kind.
Wild and remote, Alaska’s Prince William Sound offers enough gorgeous ski lines to last you a lifetime; provided you have the adventurous spirit to get there. Our approaches were not for the light of heart as we would take the zodiac to shore and begin the tour usually by climbing up off the beach through temperate rainforest and punchy snow. Sometimes, creeks and ravines would evoke some head scratching before we would solve the route finding puzzle to access the sweet mountain corn high on the peaks above. With daylight reaching far into the late evening, we were in no danger of running out of time. Again, the reward was breathtaking with tasty turns in constant view of sparkling waters far below.
The best part was that the skiing was just a bonus. Every day we enjoyed the rich atmosphere of boat life, playing on Stand-up paddleboards, in kayaks, on the zodiac or simply watching sea birds nest or glaciers calve. We put out shrimp pots and collected our winnings to create the freshest of feasts for our well earned meals together.
After an epic trip together full of echoing laughter, dancing with joy on a daily basis and many incredible memories, we parted ways and I headed solo back across the world to Iceland. This year, I had had the pleasure of guiding the owners of the Eleven Experience, an incredible business designed around adventuring in joy to the utmost of our abilities. They graciously offered for me to come see how their guiding operation works in one of their many lodges around the world centered on skiing and fishing. It’s long been my dream to ski in Iceland, so I leapt at the invitation.
The Eleven Experience was named for the line in the spoof Rockumentary “Spinal Tap” when a member of the band describes that his stereo volume dial goes to 11. Ever since, taking the fun dial to 11 has been a joke that many banter back and forth but at the Eleven Experience, they take going the extra mile very seriously. I have never in my life had such a unique adventure full to the absolute brim of joyous laughter, mind blowing food from the best chef in Iceland, an extensive repertoire of toys and activities for even the most A.D.D. of adult, and phenomenal world class corn skiing down to the ocean. Even if we didn’t get the chance to ski a single turn, this would have been the vacation of a lifetime. The skiing, however, was the quintessential cherry on top. I’ve been in the heli ski industry a long time and never before have I packed 15 runs into a day, literally skiing into sunset at 9:30 p.m. We did this four days out of seven. At 11, they don’t believe in “down days”, so if the weather isn’t cooperating to make turns, they would create the most incredible day for us involving everything from electric motorcycles to fat bikes to Viking dinners to sea kayaks to jet boats to beer spas to river rafting on an inflatable unicorn. I’ve never had so much fun in my life and I can’t wait to bring clients here! At 11, their mission statement is to “custom-make powerful experiences that impact the people who impact the world.” Which is why it seems a perfect fit for Wild World Wanderings to partner by bringing clients to these super special experiences around the world.
For me, the best part of owning my own travel concierge business is that every adventure I explore in my personal life is just adding to the repertoire of what helps me custom design adventures for others. This last month of skiing to the sea has me bursting with ideas. Please let me know if I can help connect you with any of the companies that helped facilitate these adventures for me!