IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE SKIING IN ARGENTINA and pass a metal cross sticking out of the snow, ignore it and keep skiing. Stop to ask why it's therelike I didand you're likely to find out that it's a memorial for a ski instructor who died on the 40-degree, 4,000-foot run that you're about to drop into. Luckily, there's a happier ending for me. What started out as a potential suicide mission turned into one of the best runs of my life.
Pushing my comfort zone was what I signed on for when I came to Las Leñas, 40 miles of runs in the west-central Mendoza province of Argentina. Like a growing number of aspiring expert skiers, I've discovered a well-kept secret: If you want to push it to the next level, ski in the summer. So I'm here on the other side of the equator in September, taking a weeklong steep-skiing clinic with Extremely Canadian, a Whistler-based outfitter that specializes in guided trips for advanced skiers. During the past five days, I've been coaxed into tackling a couloir no wider than the length of my skis, numerous pitches steep enough to scrape my elbows on, and too many fresh powder lines to count. Plus, summer camps attract the best instructorspros who migrate south for the summers after a busy winter of shooting movies and competing. If you go, be sure to pack a large bottle of Advil and some courageand turn a blind eye to those crosses.