Into the Arctic: An Interview with Doug Stoup

Doug Stoup, ski adventurer and one of the world’s foremost polar ski guides, has been an integral part in making some of Warren Miller Entertainment’s more exotic ski footage from destinations like the icy mountains of Greenland and Antarctica.

Ski adventurer, acclaimed polar explorer, and Warren Miller Entertainment guide Doug Stoup is a busy man these days. He spends much of each year guiding ski and snowboard film crews, helping with scientific research projects in far flung mountain ranges, and cementing his status as the world’s foremost polar ski guide -for the North and South pole.

In addition to his other work, Stoup has been an integral part and an indispensable asset in making some of Warren Miller Entertainment’s more exotic ski footage from destinations like the icy mountains of Greenland and Antarctica.

When he began guiding in the polar regions in 1990, he was already at the top of his game. Stoup’s first Antarctic guide mission was a successful attempt to ski Mt. Vinson – the highest point on the continent – with none other than Doug Coombs, Marc Newcomb, Stephen Koch, and photographer Wade McKoy. 

“It was a dream for all of us, and I fell in love as soon as we touched down on the ice runway,” said Stoup. “I saw the potential of Antarctica as a ski destination. It took years to make it happen, though. Since then I have done 10 South Pole expeditions, 27 trips, and now 13 to the North Pole – the first one [north] being in 2004.”

Stoup now runs Ice Axe Expeditions, where the world’s most adventurous skiers, pro or not, can get their fix. Some of WME’s past adventures with him have spanned the ends of the earth as well. Ski filming took place on South Georgia Island in 2002 for the movie Storm. In 2010, filmmakers and athletes headed to both poles–Antarctica and to the Arctic Circle – for the movie Wintervention. This year, Warren Miller Entertainment sent a crew along on the latest Ice Axe endeavor, exploring the unexplored on Norway’s Svalbard Island - from a 62-foot, steel-hulled yacht in the ice-riddled Arctic Ocean.

Skiers Jackie Paaso and Aurelien Ducroz and a crew of cameramen headed out in May to join Stoup in this largely untrammeled skier’s wilderness. Svalbard is a few hours by air north from continental Norway and just 600 miles south of the actual North Pole.

The yacht allows the skiers to access lines that would be difficult to access from land. After scoping lines from the water, the skiers and cameramen are dropped ashore to climb lines that come straight back down to the ocean, making for a spectacular ski. “There were some challenging lines – I doubt some of the lines Jackie and Aurelien skied will ever be skied again,” says Stoup.

“The athletes were awesome, they were so helpful in picking lines, and finding what they wanted to ski. We’d hold meetings, look around, get off and ski,” said Doug. “We had some clients with us who were not part of the film – but it is so easy with a small crew, people can all take their guides and do what they want – the world is their oyster on a trip like this.”