Sail-to-Ski Arctic Expedition

Skiing was the commonality that brought us ladies together. A bit of dedication, a desire for an out-of-town adventure, and a willingness to explore the space outside our comfort zones are what led us to our trip.

How do I put this experience to words? This is the question I have been battling for months and I’m still searching for the answer.

So, I’ll start with the beginning, where the inspiration was sparked during a casual conversation over Pica’s margs. Upon hearing ski stories from two admirable female locals, I got the idea to gather my girlfriends and plan an epic trip of my own.

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Four months later, I found myself balancing a full-time job, a sick puppy and trying to put what seemed like a million pieces together financially and logistically for a sail-to-ski expedition in the Arctic. It’s still somewhat of a blur to me how we got from point A to point B. I always dream big, but this time it was actually in motion, and I wondered if I was ready, if I was capable. Maybe it was because of the ladies, the “yes friends,” that agreed to join in on my great, tequila influenced, idea, or it was because of the insane support I received from the small town of Jackson (JHBF, thank you again for the OG support!) Whatever it was, the trip never lost momentum. I’m still grateful daily for the way things seemed to fall into place with a little grunt work.

The middle, the training, shaped my whole perspective. We spent months changing and increasing our gym routines. We muddled with boot crampons, ski crampons, ice axes, and harnesses for the first time, and put them to use in the Tetons on days off in between working full time. There were moments of crippling fear, confusion, and embarrassment like I hadn’t felt in my sport in years. Skiing had always been my comfort zone, and now all of the sudden I found myself relying on and needing support from my backcountry partners. Together we navigated this new, humbling angle of our sport. It challenged me. It helped shape my perspective before embarking on our trip North to the 79th parallel.

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Then came the trip. The skiing was marginal at best, but it didn’t matter because we were skiing above Artic fjords, scanning for polar bears, listening to the booming of calving glaciers, and whale watching as we climbed. The weather was challenging, wet, and cold (as to be expected,) but mostly overcast, windy and rainy with one magical, final, bluebird afternoon. The boat was a 50ft racing sailboat converted to a very small, but cozy-as-hell home. The captain taught us a simpler yet calculated way of living while bestowing under-the-breath reminders of humility on us daily. The sailing, (a novelty to me), admittedly made me feel sick most of the time. The showers were a quick jump into the Artic ocean in below freezing temperatures with a hot kettle of water waiting on deck to wash it all off. The food included homemade bread, kneaded in motion with the waves as the boat rocked back and forth. The routine: non-existent; we rarely ever knew the time. Twenty-four hours of daylight will really screw you up! The ski boots: constantly wet, cold, and putrid. The laughter: constant, and emotions: high, and the crew: perfect.

The moments of joy, discomfort, vulnerability, and growth fast-forward in my head. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, it was over. We were docked back in Svalbard, eager for a hot shower and normal sized beds. And now, months later I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The reality is, it’s another story of point A to point B, a period of fear, of exhaustion, of frustration, of friendship and growth. It’s a story that anyone and everyone has, coupled with some hometown support and ten days aboard a 50ft boat in the Arctic. So rather than ending this piece in some cumulative claim on how far we’ve all come, I sit here grateful for the journey, for the support, and wondering about “Point C.”

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