CEO and Founder Louis Joseph reflects on the polarities of skiing year-round, and the adventurous destinations that stoke his wanderlust.
May 2019: It recently snowed in Aspen, Colorado and the mountains once again opened to those lucky and local souls who live at the foot of the Silver Queen Gondola. Like a whimsical scene from Alice In Wonderland, skiers rejoiced at the topsy-turvy Spring weather extending what has been one of the best ski seasons on record. And while Aspen was chosen by mother nature as the fortunate recipient of this wonderful Winter-in-Spring effect of polar opposites, many alpine sportsmen also know of another endless winter wonderland located at poles of another kind; those of the North and South Pole.
“North & South” and “Fire & Ice” might indeed describe a season ending episode of Game of Thrones, but to those whose video libraries are full of Greg Stump and Warren Miller originals, the skiers’ mind instantly travels to the arctic circle of Swedish Lappland and seaside archipelago of Argentina; where opposite worlds of fire and ice deliver the promise of similarly spectacular alpine adventures. Literally located at the northern and southern most points on the globe, the resort of Riksgransen is situated above the arctic circle on the Swedish-Norwegian border while its southern counterpart, Cerro Castor, is tucked into the slopes of Mount Krund in the Argentine province of Tierra Del Fuego. As if from Alice’s dream, each destination revels a wonderland-type of landscape that captures the imagination, while the abundant snow fields present throughout the warm summer months would most certainly satisfy the Mad Hatter’s delight of all things topsy-turvy and upside-down.
The Lappland region in which Riksgransen is located, is one full of mountain history, tradition and alpine lore. The legendary coat of arms of the region depicts a “Wildman of Lappland” which conveys the pioneering spirit of the Scandinavian people who settled this unique corner of the globe and who brought to the world skis & skiing, first as means of touring and travel, and then recreation in the form of modern sport.
In the 20th century, in a further a testament to the adventurous spirit of the region, the Ofotenbanan railway was built; an astounding engineering and construction effort focused upon meeting the demand of alpine enthusiasts eager to travel and live in what would become the northern most ski destination in the world. Completed in 1902, due its northerly latitude, construction during the Spring and Summer months, was completed in near 24 hour daylight.
During the evening, this so-called “midnight sun” is now said to enthrall skiers by delivering an exotic alpine experience where a day on the mountain literally never comes to and end. However, such is the wonder of Earth’s underlying forces of yin and yang that Riksgransen is, in fact, not one of a kind but matched for exceptional adventure at the opposite end of the planet near the South Pole.
When the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan sailed around the tip of South America in 1520, he observed the myriad fires stoked by the inhabitants of the coastal region off the starboard side of his ship. Inspired by this night time display of luminescence, he called the land Tierra del Fuego, or the "land of fire." Tierra Del Fuego is an archipelago of Patagonia where the sea meets the sky. And like the nordic family of Lappland 10,000 miles to the North, its coat of arms commands a similar rising sun motif above a high peak nestled at the foot of the ocean harkening those to the southern-most ski destination in the world.
From a major city epicenter the best means of reaching the Argentine resort of Cerro Castor is by flying Aerolineas Argentinas via the major city epicenters of Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile. Landing in the town of Ushuaia, one will find mountains both soaring to the sky and running straight down to the sea. Part fishing village and staging point for alpinists making their way over the winding 26km to Mount Krund, this southern destination has much in common with Sweden’s Riksgransen by way of spirited and adventurous travelers searching for an endless winter.
Likewise, high on Mount Krund, one may encounter Argentina’s magical form of alpenglow during a late afternoon skinning tour or ski when the setting sun remains a fiery red and all other light fades to dark, setting a scene similar to Magellan’s arrival 500 years ago. It is all at once a land of sea & sky, a place where old Argentine culture mixes with an influx of contemporary international travelers, where modern mountain infrastructure such as high speed chair lifts climb above rustic T-bars, and where each and every facet of the land of fire presents a vivid beauty of juxtaposed elements to those brave enough to travel south down the rabbit hole.
“North & South” and “Fire & Ice” – Riksgransen & Cerro Castor – it is a law that opposites attract, even those 10,000 miles apart from the Northernmost Pole to its Southernmost counterpart. The Winter-in-Spring effect is real and isn’t just limited to the whimsical weather recently experienced in Aspen, Colorado. A magical, far flung summer destination awaits the Gentlemen Skier on tour. Go up, or go down, like a Lewis Carrol riddle from Alice’s Wonderland, each choice will lead to the same place; a magical snow covered mountain in summer where the fiery sun never sets and where exotic adventure awaits.