Why après-ski but not après-skate? French may be a factor, sure, but we still never ask what everyone’s doing for après-tennis or après-jog. Fact is, the reason the hours after a day on the slopes are universally known by the same term is that wherever après-ski happens, it is spent doing the same thing: bending the truth.
Walk into any chalet after the lifts close, and the exploits of one and all are being boldly recounted. So the snow was up to your neck, was it? That mogul you ran into was 10 storeys high if it was a foot? Sure.
Now, let’s explore some ski experiences that sound even more outrageous – they take place during the Canadian summer, after all – but that turn out to require no exaggeration to blow anyone’s mind.
Volcano skiing in Chile
Picture this: You’re skiing down an active volcano, in July, at the Nevados de Chillan resort in central Chile.
Around you stretches 560 hectares of skiable Andean mountainside encompassing everything from meandering glades to wide-open groomers. As you climb toward the summit on one of the 13 lifts, you admire a snowy panorama of stratovolcanoes: The 2,979-metre Antuco, and across the border in Argentina, Domuyo, Patagonia’s tallest peak. At 4,702 metres, it truly is “El Techo de la Patagonia” (the Roof of Patagonia).
Thing is, the volcano you’re on – the resort’s namesake – is also active, and as you start your second descent it does what active volcanoes sometimes do: It erupts.
This is not some kind of invented scenario. In August of 2015, skiers at Chillan watched (and took selfies) as the volcano spewed a billowing cloud of black ash.
This posed no threat at the time, except perhaps to the servers handing the skiers’ Instagram accounts. Local volcanism is actually a boon to Chillan, what with the resort’s decadent indoor-outdoor complex of natural thermal pools.
If you want to add even more volcanoes to your adventurous South American ski itinerary, the Britain-based Andes expedition service offers ski-mountaineering trips up and down the calderas of Villarrica, Antuco, Lonquimay, Llaima and Sierra Nevada. That is, if they’re not erupting too enthusiastically at the time.
Heli-skiing in New Zealand
The South Island town of Wanaka, set on the shores of its namesake lake, is the scenic home base of heli-ski operations that cater to adventurous Canadians chasing winters that never end.
Southern Lakes HeliSki, for one, serves 16 mountain ranges where 700 runs crisscross bowls and chutes that, owing to the alpine maritime climate, are treeless and thereby ideal for heli-rookies. They also receive up to 10 metres of snow each year, making them ideal for anyone with boards strapped to their feet.
Should these boarders be looking to spoil themselves, the Minaret Station Alpine Lodge is just a 15-minute helicopter ride north of town. From its cluster of ensuite chalets – each equipped with sheepskin carpets, king-size beds and hot tubs on private decks – guests can hop on a bird for unlimited guided vertical before plundering the well-stocked library and cellar of the gourmet Mountain Kitchen.
Should the high-mountain weather prove unco-operative, visitors can take heli-fishing trips to the bass-rich, fiord-lined waters of the nearby Tasman Sea.
Sand-skiing in Namibia
Amid the towering dunes of the vast Namib Desert, Henrik May shares his passion for sand-skiing with the world through his 15-year-old tour company, Ski Namibia.
With the closest snow being thousands of kilometres away, the forty-something German expat leads downhill and cross-country skiers and telemarkers on guided trips across the coastal desert and down dunes that top out at more than 120 metres.
There are no chairlifts here, of course, so skiers must march up the mountains of sand after receiving tips, instructions and encouragement – and likely a beer or two – from May, who also provides faster-sliding sand skis that use a wax of his own invention.
Thankfully, the Namib’s Atlantic-cooled winds offer relief to visitors and cover their tracks in shifting sand. Plus, if you ask him, May will shuttle ski gear up the dunes for you.
This is about as luxurious as May’s tours seem to get, but in his adopted hometown of Swakopmund, the upscale Strand Hotel offers oceanfront terraces, open fireplaces and a 13-metre-high atrium with steam rooms and a sauna for easing tired sand-ski legs.
Schussing across Antarctica
Want to start the 2019 ski season early – and in truly unforgettable fashion? From Nov. 1 to 13, Colorado’s Powder South Heli Ski Guides is partnering with California-based Ice Axe Expeditions to offer a snow sports expedition to the White Continent.
Starting in Ushuaia, Argentina, the 132-passenger Ocean Adventurer will carry guests past Cape Horn and across the Drake Passage to the wildlife-rich Antarctic Peninsula, where they will take part in daily shore landings featuring guided backcountry skiing and snowshoeing tours, along with expert lectures and zodiac excursions covering the history, geology and politics – yes, the politics – of the southernmost continent.
You’ll also receive a DVD of photos chronicling the voyage – you know, in case the après-ski crowd doesn’t believe you.
More info: heliskiguides.com