Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
The feeling in the air is hard to place. There’s a little anxiety, some tension, excitement. But mostly just exhaustion. You would be too if you were ten years old and had skied every continent in one year.
Victoria White of Elizabeth, Colo. is feeling under the weather. She’s sick of missing school (18 days this year), she’s sick of reporters, and she’s sick of suitcases. She just wants to stay home and enjoy the approaching summer. But she’s glad her dad’s not sick anymore. Ken White had Stage III Melanoma in 2003. After several surgeries and chemo treatments, he is fully recovered and taking on the world. Literally.
While reading Skiing Magazine’s January 2007 issue Ken noticed an article about Timothy Hayes, a twelve-year-old who had skied all of the seven continents in nine years, breaking the world record.
“I thought ‘I could break that,'” White said. “And I could tie it into the University of Colorado Hospital.” So he did. After planning for two months and speaking both with Timothy Hayes and his father about their journey, his daughter, Victoria, and his friend Ken Laman and him set off for Europe.
Their first stop was Zermatt, Switzerland, home of the Matterhorn and some of the steepest mountains the Whites had ever seen. And where the skiing was good, the roads were great as the family got lost driving and wound up on a Car Train with no explanation about their destination.
After conquering their first continent in March 2007, the Whites headed for Morocco, Africa to ski the Oukaimeden ski area. It was closed, but like a true trooper, Victoria climbed up the hill and skied down as far as she could. Some locals were kind enough to help the then nine-year-old carry her equipment and she made it okay.
“Morocco had the worst food,” Victoria said. “It was my least favorite place. Everyone hustled you into taxis.”
White works for United so they flew stand-by on every trip. Although this may be easy on the wallets, it made getting around a little tricky.
“Flying stand-by was a big obstacle,” White said. “[The trip] could have been done in January.” The Whites attempted to go straight to Nepal from Morocco, thus knocking out three continents in one trip, but flights were hard to come by in Qatar, forcing the family to head back to the States and plan the next trip.
As seasons switch when you cross the equator, the southern hemisphere was next in line for the Whites to tackle during the summer. Australia was first on the list.
The Falls Creek ski area in Victoria, Australia helped the Whites out with two days of skiing and accommodations in July of 2007, knocking out their third continent.
“Australia had the best food,” Victoria said. Why? She loved Emma the waitress. “It was just fun there.”
“It was tropical,” said Cindi, Ken’s wife. “There were birds in the Snow Gum trees and everyone was so nice.”
The Whites finished Australia in July and after a brief stint at home headed for Santiago, Chile on August 13.
Cindi emphatically agreed with the rest of the family that Chile was the best skiing they had ever had.
“Portillo had the best snow,” Victoria said.
“It was so steep and deep,” Ken said.
Other things that captured the Whites’ hearts were the five-person poma lift straight up into the mountain, the incredible steepness of the valley, and of course, the awesome yellow color of the hotel. (Victoria mainly liked that one.) Each member of the excursion agreed that that would be the first place they would go back to if they could.
Thee Whites finished South America in September and went home for school and other intense planning sessions to check Antarctica, Asia, and North America off the list.
[pagebreak]Christmas Break and Victoria’s birthday set the stage for Continent #5, Antarctica. The Whites found a great fifteen-day cruise, the Marco Polo, to take them there, stopping at various islands on the way, making Ken nervous each time he was unable to hop on a pair of skis.
Finally on Christmas Eve day, Victoria and Ken were able to ski Antarctica.
“It was by far the worst skiing conditions she has ever experienced.” White said of Victoria. “She was a trooper getting up at 5:00 a.m. on Christmas and getting ready for skiing. We had to get on a Zodiac boat to the beach and hike up the glacier to ski on the worst conditions imaginable. Also the first time any of us snow skied with a life jacket on. For fear of blowing away, everyone left them on while hiking around the penguin rookery.”
The penguins were exactly what made Antarctica Victoria’s favorite place to visit, who wants to be a vet when she grows up. Victoria learned a few things from the Gentoo penguins while down south, some of which isn’t very pleasant.
“You can walk like a penguin,” she said. “But if you crap like one you’re in trouble because it shoots three feet out and is bright pink.” Duly noted.
The Whites arrived home just in time to see 2008 roll in and plan for their last two continents: Asia and North America. Originally planning on skiing Nepal, Ken had to rule it out because no one under 18 years of age is allowed to ski due to the extreme altitude. So China was it.
The Whites skied the Beijing Huaibei International ski area on February 22, 2008. Ken found it to be very steep and uneven, but still an amazing place to see as the Great Wall of China was in plain view from the slopes. Despite clean and crisp air and modern architecture, the Whites were unable to stay in China longer than three days, making it their shortest trip.
Finished with six continents, Ken was notable relieved. Victoria didn’t have to miss any more school, stand-by flights weren’t going to be an issue any more, and the family could focus on raising more money for their foundation, Mountains for Melanoma. But still, they needed to ski home.
March 16, 2008 Ken and Victoria White finished their around-the-world journey at Winter Park, Colo, where Victoria learned to ski just six years prior. Friends and family were there to help cheer the little globetrotter and her father on. Ken and Victoria had beat cancer and broken records together. They did it and they were exhausted.