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Why You Should Ski in Iceland At Some Point in Your Life

It’s not because of great snow. Or epic terrain. It’s all about the adventure.

Here’s why spring in Iceland is an awesome place to be: It never gets dark. Seriously. You can ski all day and practically all night this close to the Arctic Circle during the months of April and May, if your legs can handle that. Beyond the endless ski day, there are other rad things that make Iceland a surprisingly fun spring ski destination. Powder snow and huge terrain, though, are not necessarily among them.

Óli Gudmundsson, a sailboat captain on Aurora Arktika, a 60-foot sloop that serves as a basecamp for ski tourers in the Westfjords of Iceland, has a T-shirt that reads: “Shit snow. Crap weather. Best ski trip ever!” And it’s honestly true. You’re lucky if you get deep snow here; most likely, you’ll be treated to some fine spring corn with stellar views in all directions.

So now you’re asking, why should I add Iceland to my ski bucket list? For starters, it’s beautiful there. You can climb 2,000 feet on skis straight from the ocean, top out with majestic views of glaciated peaks, then eat salty dried fish and shrimp-butter-sandwiches (better than it sounds, trust us) on the summit. Then you’ll bomb down all the way to the beach, where you can pick mussels from the saltwater to cook for dinner and walk over seaweed in your ski boots. It’s an adventure like no other.

The perfectly cooked spring corn of Iceland makes for some beautiful skiing.

Plus, the country has quaint farmhouses you can stay in, a thriving craft beer scene, and hot springs galore. (Pro tip: If you land early in the morning after an overnight international flight into the Keflavik Airport, take the bus straight from the airport to the Blue Lagoon, which is empty at 7 in the morning, but otherwise gets quite crowded. It helps ease the jetlag.)

You probably won’t come to Iceland for the ski resorts—although a handful of them exist. They’re small and not necessarily destination resorts. Bláfjöll Ski Resort, near the capital city of Reykjavík, is the country’s biggest resort and it’s got just over 800 vertical feet (roughly the same vert as some of the best ski areas in Michigan).

The backcountry terrain is what will bring you here—and you could spend months exploring it all. You can ski off volcanic peaks in the southern part of the island, explore fjords in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve in the northwest corner of Iceland, or luck out with a powder day on the northern shore’s Troll Peninsula. Need a backcountry guide? Jökull Bergmann, founder and lead guide for Bergmenn Mountain Guides, is Iceland’s first and only UIAGM-IFMGA certified mountain guide. There’s even heli-skiing in Iceland.

Ice Axe Expeditions leads guided, sailboat-assisted ski touring trips with world-renowned guides to Iceland’s Westfjords each spring. Or book straight through the Aurora Arktika for six nights on the boat, with Óli as your captain, and guided skiing.

No trip to Iceland is complete without a stop at one of the hundreds of hotsprings.

No trip to Iceland is complete without a stop at one of the hundreds of hotsprings.

If you’re traveling to the Westfjords, spend a night or two in the fishing village of Ísafjörður. Stay in town at the Hotel Ísafjörður or head 14 miles away to the tiny fishing village of Suðureyri to sleep at the simple but well-appointed Fisherman Hotel. Heimabyggð, a charming café in Ísafjörður has good coffee and sandwiches, plus handmade knit hats for sale. Don’t miss dinner at Tjöruhúsið, a family-owned seafood restaurant in a tiny, old home with an all-you-can-buffet of the freshest fish you will ever taste. (By the end of your trip, you’ll be pronouncing all those names with ease.)

Getting To Iceland As A Traveling Skier

Iceland is big into growing tourism these days so flights can be incredibly affordable from several major US and Canadian airports. Fly into Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, and if you’re heading to the Westfjords, book a Fly Bus to Reykjavík’s domestic airport, where you’ll catch an Air Iceland Connect to Ísafjörður. On the domestic flight, be sure to look out for the journals filled out by fellow travelers in the seatback pocket.

 

Start your ski day at the ocean. End it at the ocean.

Start your ski day at the ocean. End it at the ocean.

 

There are no downdays in Iceland

There are no downdays in Iceland


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