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Backcountry Skiing in Chile with Sydney Duncan


Sydney Duncan spends her winters in Tahoe as a ski guide and AIARE Avalanche Course instructor. In summer, she migrates north, alpine guiding in the Cascades. This September, she’s gearing up to co-guide a backcountry ski trip to Chile, an adventurous backcountry ski destination that is off the beaten path. Our ski expedition to the volcanic peaks of southern Chile is a great way for intermediate/advanced backcountry skiers to expand on the backcountry skills and experiences they’ve built in their home mountains. In the following interview, Syd gives us the lowdown on the whole program.


Q: What’s the general itinerary for the expedition?

Sydney: The itinerary is all about skiing! Most days we will wake up have a delicious breakfast and then head to whichever volcano we are skiing for the day.  We will go from the forest floor to the top of a volcano (some with open calderas) in anywhere from 4-8 hours up.  Then we get to ski 3000-5000 vertical feet of pow or corn!  We end our days with pisco sours and amazing BBQ’s and wake up and do it all over again.


Q: What experience should someone have before joining a Chile backcountry ski trip?

Sydney: This trip is perfect for anyone who has a couple of seasons backcountry skiing under their belts and wants to start getting into ski mountaineering.


Q: What kind of physical training should someone complete before trying to ski in Chile?

Sydney: These days can be long so training is super important in order for you to not only get up the volcanos but to have fun doing it.  We will climb anywhere from 3000-5000 feet a day on average so having a good foundation of long days in the mountains on your touring equipment is paramount.


Q: What are ski conditions usually like?

Sydney: As with all big trips, the conditions can vary.  I have gotten everything from powder to wind buff to corn, sometimes all in the same decent! The great part about volcanos is once you get to the summit you can adjust what aspect you drop into based on the conditions of the day.




Q: What’s special about skiing in Chile?

Sydney: The most amazing part of skiing in Chile is the culture.  The Chilean people are so lovely and welcoming.  The food is amazing and the history is amazing to learn about.  I love skiing there but honestly just being in such a magical country is the best part.


Q: Tell us about some of the cultural aspects of the trip?

Sydney: Chile has a rich tradition of “assado” or BBQ.  Many houses have a whole different room just meant for hosting BBQs.  They spend a lot of time together eating and sharing their days.  They also have some amazing hot springs – seeing as how we will be traveling around on volcanic land, we find hot springs everywhere.


Q: What are you most looking forward to about the trip?

Sydney: I love everything about being down there.  First off, if you’re anything like me having to wait all summer to ski can feel like forever! So getting to ski in September helps.  More than skiing though I love the adventure of the country.  You can ride horseback to ski volcanos through monkey puzzle trees.  Where else do you get to do that?


Q: What equipment is required? Do I need anything special besides for my normal backcountry kit?

Sydney: You will need crampons ice ax and a harness.  It’s very similar to climbing volcanos near us such as Mt. Shasta.



For more information about the Chile Backcountry Ski Adventure or any of our international expeditions, check out our website. For any questions call our office at 877-873-5376 or send us an email We hope to climb with you soon!