For most Nordic enthusiasts, November brings anticipation of fresh snow, groomed trails and the opportunity to kick and glide on new skis. More committed athletes fine tune their summer training programs to prepare for long distance ski marathons like the American Birkebeiner.
Last November, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen began the ultimate cross-country ski adventure. Ninety-four days later, the pair became the first women to cross the Antarctic continent on foot. Arnesen and Bancroft skied 1,717 miles across a landscape only a handful of people has ever visited.
Bancroft is the first woman in history to cross the ice to the North and South Poles. In 1986, Ann reached the North Pole as a member of the Steger International Polar Expedition and in 1993 led the American Women's Expedition to the South Pole.
Bancroft's partner, Liv Arnesen has her own list of impressive credentials. Arnesen was the first woman to ski solo, and unsupported to the South Pole, a fifty-day journey covering 745 miles. In 1996, she came within 6,200 feet of Mount Everest's summit before altitude sickness turned her back.
Arnesen, 47, grew up in Oslo, Norway. Skiing was a way of life for Liv and her family. "I still remember my first ski boots, bindings and clothes," she recalls, "I started competing in downhill races when I was nine years old," Arneson said. At twelve, a major knee injury prevented her from continuing down hill racing. My father walked past a sporting goods shop and said if you want to consider switching to cross country skiing you can get the thin red skis in the window." Arnesen completed until she was eighteen then moved to long distance touring.
Bancroft, 45, spent most of her childhood on a small farm near Mendota Heights, MN. "My earliest memories of skiing are with my dad. We lived beneath a big hill. He had us pack it and ski it. It was something that my father loved. As a wee one, he would put us between his legs and teach us how to ski." She started …