Antarctica Schnoodling

Rope Tows, Death Slots and the World’s Most Exclusive Ski Hill

The stats aren’t impressive. Two-inch powder days. Five-skier lift capacity. Two-hundred-fifty feet of vertical. Temperatures as low as minus 60-degrees Fahrenheit, and most days of the season are in perpetual darkness. With three runs—a green, blue and black—the trail map is best described as adorable. But stand at the top of the Castle Rock Snow Park’s 1,000-foot rope tow and you’ve just joined the most exclusive group of skiers in the world.

It’s not a satellite of the Yellowstone Club. This is Scott Base Ski Club on Ross Island, Antarctica, the world’s southernmost ski area. And unless you get a job washing dishes, assembling cargo pallets or operating heavy equipment, it’s not only off limits—it’s also completely inaccessible.

Scott Base is a research station administered by New Zealand, which houses 35 summer staff and a rotating cast of scientists. For the greater world, skiing in Antarctica involves extremely deep pockets, special boat charters and extensive mountaineering experience. For Scott Base residents, it requires a short drive in a Hagglunds BV206 all-terrain vehicle. Established in 1961, Castle Rock Snow Park was originally a rope slung around the tires of two vehicles on a nearby slope, a contraption that could tow four skiers at a time to the top of the hill…

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