The Chugach is a renowned range located in the heart of Alaska. An iconic boney ridgeline, steep faces sustained for 1,800 vertical feet and hairy terrain, it symbolizes the essence of big-mountain skiing. Ingrid Backstrom, Jess McMillan and Chris Anthony aren’t new to the game of charging extreme lines. Few skiers can hold an edge like McMillan and Backstrom and freestyle skiing can thank gals like them for breaking trail and taking risks in the industry. These athletes and heli-skiing operator, Points North Heli-Adventures, recognize the risk is real. Some days, skiing “big lines with heavy consequences” is just not in the cards, but if you “keep showing up, you’ll be rewarded.” The progression of the sport has been proven on mountains like these by women like these, Backstrom and McMillan are just two of them.
Featured Athlete(s):Chris Anthony, Ingrid Backstrom, Jess McMillan
Mountaineering is the ultimate ode to skiing’s European heritage—compasses, harnesses, crampons, ice axes and sheer fear included. Industry veterans Mike Hattrup, Seth Morrison, Tim Petrick and Heather Paul know very well that the “whiteout world of touring is based on trust” and that it comes down to believing that your guide actually knows where he or she is going. In Chamonix, the Aiguille du Midi sits at nearly 13,000 feet above the valley floor in the Mont Blanc region of the French Alps. A well-known icon, it runs locals and tourists up and down the mountain to ski some of the most terrifying lines in the world—or to simply catch some sun and enjoy après-ski. Miles Smart of Smart Mountain Guides, leads the team of self-described “aging athletes” on a carefully planned alpine expedition high above the tram. And thanks to modern advancements in equipment, each athlete is reminded that in skiing, you never really need to get old.
Featured Athlete(s):Heather Paul, Mike Hattrup, Seth Morrison, Tim Petrick, Miles Smart (Guide)
Equipment:skis, crampons, ice axes, climbing equipment
While skiing culture and resort life worldwide has become flashier, Montana’s ski towns have experienced a renaissance centered on staying the same—pushing the pause button and maintaining the simple pleasures of mountain living. For pro skiers and globetrotters Julian Carr and Sierra Quitiquit, “it’s nice to know these places still exist.” Snow-covered small towns, good company and mom-and-pop resorts are just what these two need to get in touch with skiing’s roots. Big Sky Country offers vast terrain, and solitude to Quitiquit and Carr—in Montana, you can “get lost and find yourself.” There’s also something special about the connection a skier can have with the mountains they ride—an authentic, intimate closeness. The same can be said about the people skiing the mountain alongside you.
Featured Athlete(s):Julian Carr, Sierra Quitiquit
“Japow” is a term coined to describe the legendary snowfall that embodies Japan’s skiing experience. The notorious duo Rob Kingwill and Seth Wescott set off to Niseko, located on Japan’s north island, Hokkaido, and find themselves riding waves of white with local pro Nobuyoshi Chiba. North islanders like Nobu ride the snow a bit differently—they take each turn and each storm as it comes and float in a surfer-like fashion. Heavy-snow conditions have lent to a modernization of shaping and pairing boards—the new powder-specific boards can handle everything that “Japow” delivers. The snowy conditions produce a face-shot utopia, leaving Wescott and Kingwill to reflect on their lifelong aspirations. Although they may have achieved becoming professional snowboarders—as for the snow, they will “never stop chasing it.”
Featured Athlete(s):Rob Kingwill, Seth Wescott, Nobuyoshi Chiba
Equipment:snowboards, helicopter, chopsticks
Tyler Ceccanti and Josh Bibby never thought they’d find themselves in the ancient land of Greece, especially with the objective of skiing its highest and most mythical peak, Mount Olympus. With 2,500-year-old ruins surrounding them, Ceccanti and Bibby wind through cobblestone villages to see what the Balkans can offer a couple of freeskiers. Trekking on horseback with gear in tow, in awe of the winter landscape and surprised by the southern European country’s unique skiing prospects, the two find themselves on the top of Zeus’s Throne humbled as they discover how unpredictable “skiing with the gods” can be.
Featured Athlete(s):Josh Bibby, Tyler Ceccanti
Equipment:skis, packhorses, helicopter
There’s an inherent love for speed that can make any skier smile. It’s a culture devoted to pace, personal records and self-determination. A hundredth of a second can determine whether a racer will stand on a podium, and the technical aspects of the sport are crucial, now more than ever, to achieving victory. Ski techs are the behind-the-scenes magicians who keep racers’ gear dialed-in so that these athletes can solely focus on nothing more than “hurtling their body down the hill.” But when “speed” means clocking over 70 mph while carving downhill, not every skier is game. Beaver Creek, Colorado, is home of the World Cup and holds a rich heritage of alpine ski racing. The sport has evolved over time, and athletes like Ted Ligety, Julia Mancuso, Bode Miller and Mikaela Shiffrin rewrite the rules of speed daily, proving the sport requires more grit today than ever.
Featured Athlete(s):Bode Miller, Julia Mancuso, Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety
Equipment:race skis, ski tuning equipment, racing gear
Lofoten, Norway, is set on a far-off, dreamlike archipelago of snow-covered mountain ranges dispersed across many islands nearly 900 miles north of Olso. Few Norwegians have the opportunity to set their eyes on this panorama, let alone to carve down its sharp slopes on skis. When Norwegian native Øystein Aasheim arrives with Kaylin Richardson, even he feels as though he is in an “entirely different country.” Ominous clouds pass over the fishing town, and both visitors and locals know that “when it comes to weather in Lofoten, the only consistency is the inconsistency.” The history of skiing in Lofoten dates back to 3200 B.C. Mountains shoot up from sea level, and every skier in Norway aspires to ski these mountains all the way to the ocean.
Featured Athlete(s):Kaylin Richardson, Øystein Aasheim
Equipment:skis, touring equipment
Skiing originated as a necessity to get people from Point A to Point B, and while it’s progressed beyond this essential need, the Swiss have streamlined this original notion. Trams collect you from the airport and deliver you to the ski slopes. Efficiency meets the timeless European experience. Switzerland native and Olympic snowboarder, Ueli Kestenholz, teams up with California local JT Holmes to show him just how convenient life can be for the Swiss. Holmes and Kestenholz are considered pioneers in speed-riding—both had mentors who died “innovating how we ride the mountain.” These pros prove the bounds are limitless in the Swiss Alps, as they guide and maneuver between features that collectively build the expansive scenery. Today, Switzerland is one of the only places in the world that allows for speed-riding on piste, highlighting the Swiss nature to grant room for innovation.
Featured Athlete(s):JT Holmes, Ueli Kestenholz
Equipment:skis, snowboard, speed-riding canopy, trains