SNÖBAHN’s expert skier and instructor, Matt Appleford, has been a steadfast guide to skiers all over the world. From China to Australia and even the Himalayas, he has navigated some of the most exotic and challenging terrains. Most recently, he took a group of skiers to Chile for a trip of backcountry skiing, exploring, and cultural immersion with his company, The Adventure Project.
Matt has been involved in the skiing industry for more than 17 years and has been a Level 3 Certified Professional Ski Instructor for more than 10 years. In 2010, Matt started The Adventure Project and more recently joined our Snobahn team. Using Snobahn’s facility and indoor slopes, Matt has been able to combine his two worlds.
“I've been teaching for such a long time and have seen a lot of things, but I believe in SNÖBAHN and the technology they are utilizing for all levels of skiers and snowboarders to learn and improve on,” said Matt.
Between the summer ski trips and his training on our SNÖBAHN slopes, Matt took the time to talk about his role at SNÖBAHN, where he hopes to take The Adventure Project and his love for skiing and exploring some of the world’s best slopes.
What is your role at SNÖBAHN?
My position at SNÖBAHN is the Technical Director of Skiing. I’m responsible for training and certifying all of the staff on the ski side. On a typical day, I am either training a staff member or conducting an in-house exam for one of our ski instructors.
What is the Adventure Project and where do you go?
The Adventure Project is a ski and snowboard travel company that specializes in taking adventurous-minded riders to exotic locations around the world in search of powder and cultural immersion. We operate in Gulmarg - a backcountry ski area (with one of the world's highest gondolas!) - in the Indian Himalayas, Hokkaido, Japan, Nevados de Chillan in Chile and then finally, we started a small cat skiing program in China in the Altai Mountains.
All these places share some common traits: they all get a lot of snow, are affordable and don't see a lot of traffic. These are places where you can find great snow with untouched powder and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Sunset in Chile
Why did you start the Adventure Project?
I've always been inspired by watching ski and snowboard movies and my favorite parts were always the featured exotic travel locations. It wasn't necessarily the skiing that was the most important part; it was the whole adventure of being in that location and the chance to explore and immerse oneself in the local culture.
Initially, we were focused on running trips to Gulmarg, in India. We honed our skills in India for several years before adding Japan to the mix in 2015, which has become our most popular tour, and then Chile in the summer of 2016. China was added last winter and we've been steadily growing our customer base and outreach.
Are your trips for experts only?
No, not all of them. Gulmarg is definitely for the more experienced skier and boarder. We put all our guests through our avalanche safety training program at the start of each session and Japan is for advanced to expert. Chile originally started as a trip for advanced to expert but I would like to open that up to all levels with a focus on teaching and technique improvement - with sessions at SNÖBAHN before we go to really accelerate learning. In the near future and China is for advanced skiers and boarders.
What is involved in a typical Adventure Project Trip?
In Japan, we could either be skiing right out of our hotel or exploring the resort we are staying at. Gulmarg is a little different in that we are skiing/riding hard all day and there is not so much to do at night. Chile we are out all day skiing/riding but then heading out to explore different restaurants close to our accommodation - It's all a little different for each trip, but again, the focus is not just on the skiing and riding, we like to get out and experience plenty of life with the local people too.
An Adventure Project skier in deep snow in Japan
How long do they usually last?
The trip really begins several months before we go, with all the trip planning and coordination that we do for our guests. We like to make sure that everyone is well prepared and knows exactly what they are getting into. All trips begin with our comprehensive avalanche safety training sessions and then off we go. Japan is a 12 day trip, Chile and India are 11 day trips and then China will be a 10 day trip.
Are Adventure Project trips expensive?
Hopefully, they are good value for the money! We try and be competitive and most of our trips are lower in price compared to our North American competitors.
Will there be ski instruction during the trip?
Yes, if that is what the guest wants. Often it is pointers like, “Try this on the next run.” For our Chile program, we have the opportunity to work with guests of all ability levels and we have access to groomed and easier terrain so we can step back and really dial in someone’s technique. Chile has the potential to be a program for all levels who really want a lot of feedback and focus on their technique.
Can you come on the trip if you’re a snowboarder?
Of course! If possible, we try and have separate groups for skiers and snowboarders, but we can only do that if we have enough people. If the skiers and boarders are at the same level and just want guiding and hosting only, then we can combine those people together.
Tell us about your upcoming Chile trip? Where will you ski?
I'm ultimately heading to the ski resort called Nevados de Chillan. I'm out here with a couple of different groups of skiers, showing them around the resort and then out into the side country. Nevados gets a lot of snow - 10m plus a year (the most in South America) - and has some great terrain, both inbounds and out. It has good tree-skiing and a nice range of slopes, including Chile's longest run. It's a very Chilean resort and well-priced and not too crowded when we go in August/September.
What is the most unexpected place you’ve taken skiers?
I think most people are surprised about how good the skiing is in India. A lot of people don't know that there is even skiing there in the first place. But when you remember they have the Himalayas, then it's not that far fetched!
Moonrise over the Indian Himalayas
You take skiers all over the world, where has been your favorite place to ski?
I don't really have a favorite. I like all the places we go to, for different reasons.
- Japan is a really fun trip; we go to a lot of places. It's potentially the most rewarding as Japan (Hokkaido especially) gets the most snow out of all of our destinations. I've had some of the deepest snow in my life there - all in the trees.
- Gulmarg, in the Indian Himalayas, is lift-accessible, backcountry skiing. They get a lot of snow in the Pir Panjals (one of the six mountain ranges that make up the Himalayas), but the snowfalls are more sporadic than in Japan. The terrain is a lot more serious, so this is a trip for more experienced riders.
- Chile is great if you want to try skiing or boarding in the summer. It fits nicely in between the Japan and Gulmarg trips in terms of challenge and culture. This trip is also suitable for all levels of skier and boarder as here, we can really have a program that we can work on technique and skier/boarder improvement.
- China is a brand new program and officially we will be launching our first program to the public in 2018. We are going to start small and just take one group out there in late February 2018 and it will be a 10 day program with five days of cat skiing, two days of snowmobile skiing and one resort day.
There are so many amazing places that I haven't been to yet, that I don't want to ever pigeonhole myself into saying I have a favorite already. The world is too small for that!
To learn more about The Adventure Project, check out the website here.