Skiing Iceland: Heli Skiing & Ski Touring the Arctic
When it comes to skiing, Iceland is a world-class destination. In fact, it’s a virtual paradise for heli-skiing, ski touring and backcountry skiing. You’ll ski mountains and glaciers well into the evening, because in Iceland, the sun doesn’t set until nearly midnight. You can even ski all the way to the ocean, often in a single vertical. Skiers of all types and all levels of ability flock to Iceland for its abundant snowfall, deep powder and amazing corn snow.
The snow in Iceland is at its best from late winter through to spring, so skiing in Iceland typically begins at the end of February and lasts until the first of June. The days are long in Iceland, and the temperatures are mild, so skiers can expect powder dumps even late in the season, and fabulous corn skiing throughout. The snow pack is mainly coastal, so you can expect to ski outstanding powder in March and April, and you might even get a powder dump or two in May. The temperature doesn’t differ much between day and night, so the corn snow is always ideal – never too hard or too deep.
If winter storms don’t appeal to you, the months of April and May will be ideal for skiing in Iceland. With less precipitation, although you can expect the occasional storm that might last for a day or two. You are, after all, in the Arctic. Temperatures in April and May are typically mild, but can go as low as -10C.
Heli Skiing Iceland
Iceland’s premiere heli skiing destination is the Troll Peninsula, which takes its name from an Icelandic legend suggesting that the last troll to ever live in Iceland was killed in a cave on this peninsula. Nearly all of the mountains on the peninsula are skiable, with few flat areas or cliff faces. Here you’ll find wide-open glacial runs, along with steep couloirs, so whether you’re a heli skiing pro, or a newcomer to the sport, you’ll find terrain that’s perfectly suited to your ability level.
Skiing Iceland and the Troll Peninsula is every skier’s dreamland with about 90% of the mountains skiable, meaning there are not many cliff faces or flat spots. The mountains are the perfect mix of steep to very steep couloirs and faces to wide open low angled glacier runs.
The defining feature of the Troll Peninsula is that you can often ski all the way down to the ocean in a single run of up to 3,000 feet, and because the sun doesn’t set until around midnight, you can fit in practically as many runs as you like, even if you don’t hit the slopes until late afternoon.
Iceland heli skiing really is the adventure of a lifetime. Imagine being dropped from a helicopter onto the Troll Peninsula, and skiing first descents all the way to the Arctic Ocean, in the land of the midnight sun! If you like, you can even be picked up at the coastline, and returned to your resort to enjoy the hot springs, good company, and a hearty meal.
Iceland Ski Touring
Imagine skiing Iceland from fjord to fjord – no people, few roads, just endless amount of untouched terrain, and perhaps the occasional seal or arctic fox for company. This is what makes Iceland a world-class location for backcountry ski touring. The season runs from February through June, and with the mild temperatures and the barely-setting sun, the opportunities for skiing the coastal snowpack are outstanding.
The Troll Peninsula is surrounded skiable from one end to the other, and boasts abundant snowfall with superb corn skiing and no shortage of powder dumps. You can actually ski the entire Troll Peninsula, from one end to another, beginning in the fishing village of Siglufjörður and finishing in Akureyri, Northern Iceland’s Capital. You can bet that this experience of ski touring in Iceland will challenge you. There’s something for every skill level, from steep couloirs to open slopes, and you could conceivably spend weeks exploring the region’s numerous peaks and valleys.
You can enjoy a day tour, or a longer trek with stops at comfortable lodges where you can relax and enjoy the benefits of the geothermal baths. If you visit Iceland in the early part of the season, you may even see the magnificent northern lights blazing across the night sky.
With its rugged terrain and outstanding snow conditions, skiers of all levels of ability will find Iceland to be a ski touring location that is simply unparalleled. If you’ve never been skiing in Iceland, consider making it the next stop on your itinerary.
More Than Just Skiing
Of course skiing is your passion – you wouldn’t be reading this if it weren’t. But you would be missing out if all you do in Iceland is heli skiing or backcountry ski touring. Ideally, you’ll also take some time to immerse yourself in local culture. Iceland is known for its traditional arts that include wood carving, silversmithing and weaving. There are also a number of professional theaters, museums, cinemas, galleries and bookstores.
Icelanders are proud of their Viking heritage, and many of their customs and beliefs exist to this day. In fact, most Icelanders either believe in elves, or take the agnostic approach – “I’m not sure if I believe, but show me and I will.” You might be surprised at how many road construction projects have either been abandoned or re-routed for fear of disturbing rocks where elves are believed to live.
You’ll also love the local cuisine – or not. Traditional dishes include hrútspungar (pickled ram’s testicles), hákarl (putrefied shark), and singed sheep head jam. The smoked lamb is nice, though.
A Final Word
For the heli skier, or the backcountry enthusiast, Iceland offers the ultimate skiing experience. Hurtling down toward the ocean in deep powder, exploring the fjords, and basking in the glow of the midnight sun – it truly doesn’t get much better. If you’ve never skied in Iceland, it’s time you did.
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