Molly slarves past a piece of glacial ice after a first decent down a volcano at El Azufre.


Molly Armanino

A Tale Two Summits: Molly Armanino’s Balancing Act

It’s not clear what Molly Armanino sees in the line off the summit of Volcán Azufre. It looked good from the valley, sure—a 50-degree, slightly fluted face, perched above a small cliff band and a few thousand more feet of skiable vertical. From the top, the descent looks dramatically steeper, icier, sun-affected and like some invisible Andean giant has been pelting rocks at it for days on end. To top it off, the Argentine wind is howling at knock-you-over speeds. 

Our group is solid, including Armanino, Owen Leeper, longtime ski guides Doug Krause and Victor Cancinos, and myself. Skepticism regarding the descent’s fun factor is solid too, with one exception: Armanino’s face is plastered with a broad smile and starry-eyed anticipation. “I want to ski it,” she tells us, joyfully steamrolling the naysayers with her complete conviction. Cancinos opens up the line in a reasonable manner—lots of jump turns and even total pauses during moments of extreme wind velocity. It looks like the right way to ski it—until Armanino drops in, that is. She flashes the face without a single jump turn or millisecond of hesitation, and barely looks back at the still-frozen, skittery descent. It’s fitting—Armanino’s sights have always been set on the future…

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