Andrew McLean


Andrew McLean

Andrew McLean

Andrew's interest in steep skiing has expanded into over 20 ski mountaineering expeditions with a few highlights being to Baffin Island, Iran, Antarctica and many to his current favorite area, the Wrangell-St.Elias Range of Alaska. Somewhere along the way, Andrew got into kite skiing, spent a year as an avalanche forecaster and also helped bring skimo racing to the United States. In 2003, Andrew became a certified international judge for the sport and the year before finished second overall in the national standings. As of 2015, Andrew's skiing interests are focused on expeditions and preserving the environment we play in, as well as doing some guiding and introducing his two little girls to the sport.

Discipline: Ski Mountaineering

Hometown: Seattle, by way of Salt Lake City, Vermont, Connecticut, Florida, Haiti, Rhode Island and California.

Currently Living: Park City, Utah

Height: 5’ 10” / 1.8m

Career Highlights: As a Product Designer by profession, I was an in-house designer at Black Diamond for 13 years, where I designed the first wiregate carabiner for climbing (HotWire), Single Stem Camalots, Peckers, Talons, crampons, ice axes and skiing accessories, including a personal favorite, the Whippet Self Arrest ski pole. Through my interest in skiing and climbing, I got into ski mountaineering, and especially steep, technical couloirs. This led to over 150 first descents, backcountry skiing on all seven continents and being the first person to ski all three of the “Alaska Family” peaks, Denali, Foraker and Mt. Hunter. In 1998 I wrote and published “The Chuting Gallery – A Guide to Steep Skiing in the Wasatch Mountains” and have subsequently written articles for numerous skiing publications as well as my own website.

When did you first start skiing?

I started skiing when I was four and climbing when I was 21.

What do you most enjoy about your sport?

With backcountry skiing, I really like the combination of slowly savoring the mountains on the ascent, and then zooming through them on the way back down. I also really enjoy the people, places and environment.

How do you define success?

Living to ski another day.

What are you most proud of, either in life, your sport or both?

Probably the things I have built or designed, which have so far stood the test of time. A big part of what I like about skiing is that it is ephemeral – the tracks are here today and gone tomorrow.

Who are your heroes?

Keith Richards, of course, but also the Mahre brothers, Bill Briggs, Alex Lowe, Yvon Chouinard, Ingemar Stenmark, John Muir, Gale Dick and Fred Becky.

What inspires you?

I love exploring, whether it is in the mountains or designing something new. Big dramatic peaks and perfect couloirs have an irrational pull on my brain.

What are your hobbies outside of your sport?

Building, sewing, designing, dogs and kids.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Nama-tako (Octopus sushi) and gallons of coffee, although I don’t feel very guilty about the coffee.

What are your hidden talents?

I am an artisan with a Honda 926 Snow Thrower (wheels, not tracks).

Tell us about your most favorite place in the world:

The Antarctic Peninsula is incredibly magical. Not only does it have endless amounts of skiing potential, but the scenery, wildlife and remoteness of it makes it the type of place where you can’t help but feel lucky to be alive.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An inventor and/or designer, especially of cool tools.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be, and why?

I would have a better attitude toward long meetings. I think there is a lot to be learned from them, but I get fidgety and bored easily. I’d also like to be a more focused writer.

Tell us about a time in your life when you have been scared:

I was once walking back from a high camp in Tibet after I had dropped off a heavy load and got lost in a series of identical moraines on the way back to basecamp. I had nothing with me except an empty pack, and the sun was going down on what promised to be a very cold night. I had a GPS, but the batteries were dead, so I warmed the batteries up as much as I could, popped them in, got just enough life out of them to give me a direction of travel and made it back to basecamp just as the sun was setting. I’ve been in quite a few avalanches and also been involved in rescues or searches, but that is more of a delayed terror.

Describe your perfect day:

Waking up to perfect, stable snow on a clear day with a group of friends all geared up and ready to go.

How would your friends describe you?

Stubborn with a dry sense of humor. Able to endure and enjoy suffering. A glutton for punishment. Reliable.