For skiers heading to the Southern Hemisphere, Reggie Crist and Stellar Heli Skiing Chile have something special indeed.

When a beautiful Chilean woman began to talk about Pichelemu, a then-obscure Pacific Coast surf town, it would lead to one of those life-changing experiences for Reggie Crist of Stellar Heli Skiing Chile. Quickly, the U.S. National Ski Team racer and his teammate sold their 203cm slalom skis, bought surfboards and, on the recommendation of their Chilean muse, made a motion for the ocean.

“We surfed the biggest waves of our lives,” Crist says, fondly reminiscing about the start of an enduring love affair with Chile, a country where he could pursue two of his great passions—surfing and skiing.

Back then Crist chased snow in the Northern Hemisphere during race season, then followed it to the Southern Hemisphere for off-season training at Portillo and Valle Nevado. And while his first visit to Pichelemu was a full-on dirt-bag adventure, fast-forward 30 years and Crist’s time in Chile is now firmly on the other end of the luxury scale.

stellar-heki-skiing Chile

Through his boutique company, Stellar Adventure Travel, his Southern Hemisphere winters are full of heliskiing and dropping big Andean lines with guests. If guests are keen, occasionally they’ll zip out to the coast for a surf session or beachside seafood extravaganza.

“Where else in the world do you have skiing on 20,000-foot mountains within 200 miles of the coast?” Crist says.

Before pioneering his adventure travel company, Crist was a pioneering athlete. His parents first put skis on Crist when he was two years old, learning to snowplow on the rope-tow bunny hill at Homewood, just south of Tahoe Pines on Lake Tahoe. Later, time spent carving the groomers as a kid in Sun Valley led toward bashing gates and ski racing. Eventually he made the National Team, racing World Cup events in the 1991-92 and 1994-95 seasons, and placing 28th in Downhill at the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville. Post-World Cup, he and brother Zach dove into big-mountain skiing, performing in front of the lens for production companies including Warren Miller, Rage Films, and Teton Gravity Research. He also helped pioneer a new ski discipline, the sport of Ski Cross, taking gold at the X Games in 2002 and 2006—the first X Games competitor to win gold twice. His experience in film work prompted Crist to launch Stellar Adventure Media to provide production support for athletes skiing mountains across the globe. At the same time, Crist started a sister company, Stellar Adventure Travel. When his wife Laura delivered their first child in 2008, his appetite for tackling big lines and spicy spines for the camera began to wane. Nowadays, Crist juggles family life, with a trio of kids aged six, 10 and 14 years, while guiding, skiing with clients, and curating trips to some of his favorite mountains, including the steeps of Haines, Alaska, the deeps of Hokkaido and, of course the Chilean Andes, his favorite mountain range on the planet.

“The Andes can be fickle, but they have the elevation so you can always find good snow.”

The Andes span the South American continent for 5,500 miles, are more than 200 miles wide in places, and reach their pinnacle at Aconcagua, which soars to 22,838 feet. Crist’s Andean adventures are focused mostly on a radius of peaks east of Santiago and within a 45-minute heli-flight from the Pacific Ocean.

“The Andes can be fickle, but they have the elevation so you can always find good snow,” he says. “We’re usually landing at 13,000 feet or higher.”

Helicopters help. Even last season, when it hadn’t snowed for weeks, Crist and his team were able to mine north-facing couloirs and bowls for light, dry powder.

Crist credits having Chilean connections that go back decades for helping him to continually refine the experience. For the past decade, Stellar had based its trips out of a Valle Nevado hotel. It was fine, Crist says, but he felt there was something missing. A few years ago, he learned about Refugio Uno Farrellones, a luxury house-slash-boutique refuge, situated within easy striking distance of resort skiing at La Parva, El Colorado, and Valle Nevado. It’s also an ideal spot to stage helicopters—the fit was perfect.

“It’s an older house and a bit rustic but we bring in our own chef and DJs,” Crist says. “It’s not like ordering off the menu at Valle Nevado. It elevates the experience.”

In-bound guests even have the option for a pickup at the W Hotel’s rooftop helipad in Santiago for a shuttle to Refugio Uno. Details like this are important to Crist and, at 54, he’s still as excited about skiing as he was when shredding with buddies at Sun Valley or battling for a spot on the National Team.

“My parents instilled a sense of following your passion and, that if you do it long enough, you’ll become an expert,” Crist says. “After my time on the U.S. Ski Team most of my teammates left to get real jobs. I didn’t. I wasn’t done.”

With an appetite for adventure like Crist, you could never truly be done with skiing. In fact, it’s hard to imagine him doing anything else.