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Season 2 / Episode 4

A Man of the Mountains

A pioneer in the world of ski mountaineering, Andrew McLean is also a father, a writer, and a survivor.

In the fourth and final episode of season two of “Westward,” a video series about pioneering life in the mountains, we get to know skier and alpinist Andrew McLean. McLean literally wrote the book on backcountry skiing in Utah. His guide book, “The Chuting Gallery: A guide to steep skiing in the Wasatch Mountains” is considered the bible to the toughest lines in the state.

McLean has been skiing uncharted territory all over the globe for decades now, including first descents on every continent, and he was named by Powder Magazine as “One of the Greatest Skiers of Our Time.”

He was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, and was introduced to skiing at a young age by his mother, a ski instructor. After high school, he graduated from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and then went to work for Black Diamond Equipment for over a decade, designing and building climbing and ski gear. An avid rock climber, he eventually learned to combine his two passions—skiing and mountaineering—thanks to guidance from the late climber Alex Lowe.

“For me, Alex was really the inspiration,” McLean says. “I’d grown up skiing, then taken up rock climbing but it never occurred to me to combine the two. Alex had been in Europe and knew the mentality of ski mountaineering. Alex was like, ‘You can use this randonee gear and you can ski way steeper lines than you’ll ever be allowed to in the resorts. You can combine climbing with your skiing.’ There were few people in the U.S. doing that at that time.”

McLean was there, in 1999, when Alex Lowe was killed, alongside cameraman David Bridges, in an avalanche on Shishapangma, in Tibet, where their group was attempting to become the first Americans to ski an 8,000-meter peak.

McLean now lives in Park City, Utah, with his wife, Polly, and their two daughters, Mira and Stella. 

Westward Series: Season 6

What is it about Vermont? There are places with bigger mountains that get more snow and less subzero temps. But there is no place with a more committed core of skiers. Raining? No problem. Bulletproof? They invented bulletproof. Negative 20 and 30mph wind? Better be ready at 6am so you can get first chair at Stowe.