While several thousand people visit Antarctica each year—some working at research stations and others taking cruises to the Peninsula—only a few hundred manage to reach the South Pole itself. Most of those work with the U.S. Antarctic Program, supporting the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, and almost all of them arrive by plane. Travelers on the Ski The Last Degree trip with Adventure Life will experience a true adventure, getting a glimpse of what Amundsen and Scott themselves would have experienced just over 100 years ago.
The trip starts with a couple of days of mandatory orientations in Punta Arenas, Chile. On day three, you fly to Antarctica via a chartered jet for the roughly 4-hour flight. You’ll land on a naturally occurring blue-ice runway on Union Glacier before climbing aboard a specially-adapted van for the five-mile shuttle to the main camp. You’ll stay here for a couple of days to test your clothing and equipment and pack your sled for the ski trip.
You’ll then fly by ski aircraft to 89° South, about 69 miles from the South Pole on day six. You’re left here with nothing but the team and wide horizons in all directions. After camping out for the night, you’ll finally start the ski adventure, which takes place over the next five days.
“The polar landscape offers a unique experience,” Kevin Moore, Senior Trip Planner with Adventure Life, told Departures. “The sun circles the horizon instead of rising and falling, and the flat topography means there’s nothing to give context to distance and nothing to break the perfect line of the horizon except sastrugi—the long snowdrifts created when storms blow through.”
Temperatures will be well below zero, but because it’s a high desert, the dryness of the air will make it a bit more tolerable. It’s a bit counterintuitive when surrounded by nothing but snow. Also, because of the force of the Earth’s rotation, the atmosphere is thinner. The actual elevation is over 9,000 feet above sea level, but it feels more like 11,000 to 12,000 feet.
A typical day starts with breakfast at 8 am and skiing by 10 am. You’ll go on one-hour marches with 5-10 minute breaks in between until you stop around 7pm to set up camp.
You'll be able to see The Amundsen-Scott Station from 15 miles away, but will still take another 1-2 days of skiing to actually reach it.
“While the entire trip is built with comfort and safety in mind, travelers and guides will haul gear as a team, build camp each night as a team, prepare meals as a team and act as members of a true expedition team,” said Moore. “Ultimately, they’ll succeed as a team when they reach the Geographic South Pole and the ceremonial marker outside the Amundsen-Scott Station.”
On day 13—weather permitting—you’ll be picked up by ski aircraft and returned to Union Glacier. You’ll end the trip the next day with the final flight to Chile.
The price tag for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure? It will cost you $65,790 per person for the 14-day trip.