You never know who (or what) you’re going to run into on Willy Field Road. This road in Antarctica connects Ross Island to a scientific balloon launching facility, a cut-off road for the late-summer season Pegasus airfield, and a backup airfield called Willy Field. Willy Field Road is long and flat and white: perfect for Nordic skiing…and for other wide-open adventures. One of my pals down here, the mountain-man Brian Hasebe, recently got his kite skiing gear out for a few turns. The wind is a powerful force in Antarctica, so harnessing it while on skis can be a wild ride. But, check out this You Tube video I took as he skied towards me and a friend. Nice work:
I haven’t yet learned how to kite ski and instead stick to the more grounded version of skiing in the Antarctic, choosing instead to glide along on skate- or good old-fashioned classic Nordic skis.
My roommate (pictured above) is a fan of this activity as well, so it’s fun to ride a bike or walk the mile and a half over the hill from McMurdo to get out for some afternoon fun in the summer sun.
Stopping for a break along the way is nice, especially if it’s windy. There’s a shelter set up midway out to Willy Field, and even though it doesn’t have a heater, sun comes in through the windows and keeps the inside toasty warm. A survival bag is also cached inside of the hut, complete with sleeping kit, stoves, fuel, and a book for reading in the event of an emergency bivouac.
Skiing on Willy Field Road isn’t like bombing first tracks through a foot of fresh powder. It’s not like picking a tight line through a steep section of lodgepole pines. But it’s what we’ve got, and we make it fun.