Last winter I received an email from an old friend, Joe Wilhem Jr., who said he was going to ski around the world for 6 months.
We caught up with Joe this week on Edging the Xreme on RadioBDC to hear about his amazing journey.
(From Joe’s recent email to me about his trip)
The tour has been a combination of skiing and sightseeing for the previous four and a half months, and this stop was about visiting the roots of skiing in an area some call “The Cradle of Alpine Skiing.” The region includes St. Anton, St. Christoph, Stuben, Lech and Zurs. Stuben is the birthplace of Hannes Schneider. Born in 1890, he would become the first ski instructor in St. Anton in 1907. Schneider moved to the U.S. in 1938 and a year later founded a ski school in North Conway, N.H., which helped popularize the sport throughout the U.S.
St. Anton benefits from a monster of a lift in the Galzig cable car that features cars bigger than a gondola but smaller than a tram, and able to move 2,200 people per hour up and down the mountain with its Ferris wheel motion. Terrain options from the top of the Galzig include beginner and intermediate terrain to the right of the lift or continue the journey up the mountain on the Valluga tram. The Valluga is the highest point accessible by lift in the area at 2,811 meters. The smaller Valluga II completes the journey to the peak.
The top of the Valluga tram provides a quad-burning run of nine kilometers back to the village of St. Anton, descending 1,351 vertical meters.
Another quad and lung burner is the run from Valluga to Stuben, and the reward at the end is a heated Valfagehr six-person chairlift. The comfort may be tough to leave on a cold day, but the lift provides guests with access to both the St. Christoph and Stuben terrain. On both of these long runs there are opportunities for piste and off-piste skiing.
The decision to visit St. Anton was also made because of the value provided by the Epic Pass I purchased from Vail Resorts. It is sold in all 50 U.S. states and 80 countries around the world. It features unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Eldora in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan. Pass holders also have five free days at the resorts of Verbier, Switzerland, five consecutive free days at Arlberg, Austria, and five free days at Les 3 Vallées, France.
(Joe Wilhelm Jr. is currently a powder nomad, but in a previous life was a journalist who has been published in Skiing, Powder and The Jackson Hole Skier magazines, as well as several newspapers along the Rocky Mountain West and the East Coast.)
The new Killington Natural Woods Areas are a breath of fresh air for barks-biting winter riders who want to dive into the trees. The resort just announced that 745 acres of Natural Woods Areas are available for skiers and snowboarders within Killington Resort’s outer boundary, which spans from Sunrise and Bear Mountain to Ramshead.
These areas are not maintained or checked by ski area personnel and these areas are not opened or closed like gladed trails. In other words, ski at your own risk, which is a welcome sign to most backcountry and trees skiers and snowboarders.
And when it comes to new policies in skiing at resorts in the United States, this one sounds more like the big mountain policies you might find in Canada or Europe.
It gets even better because Killington and Pico now have an earn your turns policy, which is officially called the Free “Uphill Travel Pass.” This allows skinner and snowshoe traffic on the trails 24/7. So now there is no excuse not to get first tracks on a powder day.
This is a sigh of relief for outdoor lovers who enjoy the mountaineering experience of a quiet uphill workout and mountain-peak solitude with the added bonus of skiing or riding alone or with a few select friends early morning or late evening. The uphill travel policy outlines where you can go and how to be safe during non-operating hours so not to bump into groomers or snowmaking.
If you're heading down to South America this season, you'll find fresh snow to ski on, and long runs to check out. Our group of compatriots has been great this year, tearing up the mountain and gliding through the powder together.
I'll let this video and the photos below speak for themselves. If you're interested in checking out what we do, follow me @SkiClinics on Twitter.
Jimmy Chin is one of the most sought-after adventure photographers in the world. His work has appeared in National Geographic, and he has been featured on the cover of Outside Magazine and others.
He has summited and skied Mount Everest, and has followed climbers to the top of El Cap and beyond. He has dedicated his life to capturing the human spirit communing with nature in some of the most extreme places on earth.
Listen to the entire Edging the Xtreme Interview with Jimmy Chin here on RadioBDC.