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SKIING’s interview with Andrew McLean, one of North America’s top 25 skiers. Andrew is best known for ski mountaineering at the absolute highest technical level and for skiing seemingly impossible lines on couloirs and ice climbs in Utah, Europe, and the Himalayas.
Name: Andrew McLean
Date of birth: 2/24/61
Age when you started skiing: Four
Hometown/where you learned to ski: Madonna Mountain, CT
Do you consider yourself a skier first or a mountaineer (and you can’t say both)? A skier.
Current ski mountain: Wasatch Backcountry, UT
Claim to fame/results: First descents of the Messner Couloir from the summit of Denali and a few first descents off the Grand Teton. Andrew’s first book: The Chuting Gallery: Guide to Steep Skiing in the Central Wasach Mountains.Survived the avalanche that killed Alex Lowe on Shishapangma.
Do you have any pets? Two Bernese mountain dogs, Otto and Greta.
Favorite food: Sushi
Beverage of choice: Twelve-year-old single malt scotch.
Favorite band: Cake
Are you religious? No
What kind of car do you drive?: “A ’92 Toyota four-wheel-drive pickup.”
Last book you read: Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership from Nixon to Clintonby David R. Gergen.
Do you have any ski heroes? Steve McKinney and Lou Dawson
Movies you’ve been in: Shishapangma: A Celebration of Lifeand A History of Skiing in Utah.
Pastimes off the hill: “Rock climbing, and design work on rock climbing and mountain climbing hardware like ice axes and crampons — mostly metal stuff.”
Plans for the future: “I’m happy here in Utah doing what I’m doing. I’d like to keep traveling around, seeing different continents, skiing in the Himalayas.”
How do you feel about backcountry skiing’s increasing popularity? “I think it’s great. There’s a lot more people than when I started. The easy pickings are tracked out these days. That’s helped motivate me to go farther out to different areas.”
Do you think fat skis are a game-improvement tool or a crutch? “Hmmmmmm… an improvement tool.”
Snowmobiles? Nuisance or neccesity? “In the Wasatch, I think they’re a nuisance. Other places, I think they’re a nessecity. If I lived in Alaska, Montana, or Colorado, I’d probably own one, but not around here. Those areas have longer approaches.”
What’s the most harrowing near-miss you’ve had in the backcountry? “Lots of avalanches, having them fracture right at my feet. Last year I had a very close call in Shishapanga. Two of my friends died.”
Do you have any nicknames? If so, what do they mean? “Der Pacer.My initials are AMC, which was derived to the AMC Pacer (the car). I like to go out and tour around so it seemed appropriate.”
Any words of wisdom for our readers? “Stay focused and live for your dreams.”