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Iceland Sailboat Ski Touring

Iceland Ski Touring by Sailboat, A Paradise for Purists

Ski touring in Iceland is always incredibly unique, but combine it with living on a sailboat and around the clock whale watching and you may feel like you’ve been transported to a new planet. The rugged treeless landscape offers limitless access to ski lines that range from tame, to tight and gnarly. Then recover from each day’s adventure by lounging on the only vessel that can transport you to more of the same for the next day.

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Location Details

LOCATION: Iceland
DATES: April 16-21 2018
DURATION:  6 Days
ANNUAL SNOWFALL: 3m / 10ft
AVG VERTICAL: 900m /2700ft

Overview

Iceland Sailboat Ski Touring

The fjords of Iceland are famous for their beauty, but they are also the best (and only) way to access the primitive powder that falls in this ski touring paradise. There are no roads, towns, or even people on much of the north coast of Iceland, which means that it’s quite likely you will make first tracks on a slope that’s never been skied before. The lack of vegetation makes ski travel hassle-free and provides long range views that are inspirational while both skinning and sailing.

The Powder Guides team can help you select between two different sail and ski Iceland voyages. The Glacier Fjords Sailboat ski touring adventure takes you to the very remote mountains of the West Fjords of Iceland on board a 60 foot custom yacht. To retreat further back in time, the Ski to the Sea Schooner package will have you learning the ropes on a 19th century replica oak fishing vessel. Either way, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience of sailing and ski touring Iceland’s white wonderland.

Quick Stats

Iceland Sailboat Ski Touring

Terrain

At first glance the mountains in Iceland appear smooth, rolling, and on the not-so-steep side of the spectrum. However, with further study you begin to see routes that punctuate this picture with sharper lines, narrower chutes, and exciting drops. Because of the lack of trees anything you see is skiable, and you can often scout your day’s journey from the deck of the sailboat that is your traveling base camp for ski touring in Iceland.

Since you’re living on a boat, every day’s tour starts and ends at the beach which is incredibly ironic for a ski trip. Depending on the time of year, a short boot pack brings you to the snowline and then you can choose how far to venture inland; maybe clear to the top of a coastal peak, or dropping off the ridgeline sooner to save your legs for the next day’s travels.

Group Configuration

Each of the programs for sailing and skiing in Iceland has a different group format. The Glacier Fjords Sailboat ski touring program is a typical package that individuals sign up for and join other similar skiers. The boat capacity is 10 skiers (including guides) and two crew. The Ski to the Sea Schooner package is a private charter for eight people, or your group can pay for a total of eight spots if there are fewer skiers.  In either case, the geography of Iceland makes it easy to accommodate skiers of different strengths or abilities, allowing some to choose shorter routes or easier descents back to the oceanfront.

Quick Stats 

Location: Glacier Fjords departs from Isafjordur in the West Fjords.

Ski to the Sea Schooner departs from Husavik on the North Coast.

Mountain Area: The Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, and the Hidden Land/Troll Peninsula between Eyjafjörður Fjord and Skjálfandi Bay.

Group Configuration: Glacier Fjords takes up to 10 skiers. Ski to the Sea Schooner requires an 8 person private booking.

Vertical: 900-1,000 meters (2,500-3,500 feet per run)

Average Snowfall: Annual average of 6 meters (225 inches) of snow

Ski to Sea

Ski to the Sea – Schooner Sailing and Ski Touring

Ski touring in Iceland is a bit like stepping back in time, and when you combine it with sailing on a twin-masted schooner you definitely feel like you’re in a bygone era. It’s hard to predict which memories will stand out more; silky turns through spring corn, or walking along the beach before and after skiing. Will you be most impressed by skiing off the top of a mountain, down a narrow chute and across its broad flanks to the ocean, or by scouting that approach and descent from the gently rocking deck of a ship that reminds you of the Vikings?

To insure that this ski and sail voyage is the perfect fit for you, the program basically runs like a private

charter for eight guests at a time. You’ll be with friends who skin uphill at the same speed as you and enjoy similar terrain and challenges on the way down. You and your buddies can decide how urgent it is to jump out of the bunks in the morning, or whether you want to make one more run in the long-lasting Arctic daylight. The voyage is able to go with fewer people as long as the eight person cost is absorbed by the group members.

As you recover from each day’s ski touring adventures you will have plenty of time to learn about the finer points of the beautifully restored oak fishing boats that are operated by North Sailing. The Haukur and Hildur are both descendants of the first decked sailing vessels in north Iceland in the 19th century, and you’ll get firsthand experience in the knowledge and art of how to handle a gaff rigged ship. When referring to sailing vessels, a boat with at least two masts and sails set lengthwise is called a “schooner”, and these are the only active ships of this type in Iceland.

Ski touring creates large appetites, and it goes without saying that on this trip the seafood will be fresh. The onboard chef is well versed in preparing delicious meals in the galley, and while you’re eating in the “saloon” you can continue to observe the fine craftsmanship that is on display throughout the ship. The jagged coastline of Northern Iceland provides plenty of sheltered bays and coves to anchor in so that the gentle rocking of the boat will lull you to sleep each night.

The coastal snowpack around Eyjafjordur Fjord and the Troll Peninsula is consistent and very stable. The winter weather in Iceland isn’t as harsh as you may think with average temperatures ranging from -4 to 2 above Celsius (20-35 degrees Fahrenheit), and snowfall that is plentiful but not so massive that it creates challenges. There are many volcanoes, both active and dormant, which results in touring terrain that is predictably steeper at the top and then mellowing as it descends into a variety of gullies and ridges. The season for ski touring in Iceland runs from late February to early June, which gives you the option of either seeing the spectacular Northern Lights, or skiing late into the evening under the nearly constant Arctic sunlight. With very few trees on the hills your touring routes are practically limitless and there are options for everyone to find the perfect run back to the beach at the end of the day.

A popular tourist activity in this region is whale watching, but since you’re living on a sailboat you will become a pro at identifying humpback and minke whales, white beaked dolphins, and birds such as the amusing Atlantic Puffin, arctic tern, and cormorant. To aid your recovery from one ski day to the next there are many geothermal pools throughout the area that you can take advantage of before returning to the boat in the evening.

Let the Powder Guides staff help you get started on this incredible adventure of sailing and ski touring in Iceland. They can assist in arranging flights to Reykjavik, as well as getting you from Reykjavik to Akureyri where the sail and ski package begins. If you’re interested in additional days of resort skiing or sight-seeing they also have connections to facilitate those arrangements.

West Fjords Skiing

Glacier Fjords Sailing and Ski Touring

The ski touring in Iceland is boundless with treeless hills stretching in every direction. Combine that with accommodations on a luxury sailing yacht that transports you to the base of a new route each morning, and you have convenience and opportunity that you’ve never experience before. The Cape Horn region of northwest Iceland is very remote and virtually roadless, but the famous fjords provide plenty of opportunity to easily sail from one perfect run to the next. Due to its distant location, the West Fjords are very lightly populated and you may go for days without seeing a human that you’re not already sharing the boat with. It won’t take much prodding to convince the guides to lead you to a slope that has never been skied and you can choose the name for a run that you made the first ever descent on.

The group size is guaranteed to be 10 or less (including guides) because everyone has to fit on the boat. The ski touring terrain in Iceland easily accommodates variations in strength and ability because the landscape is wide open and skiers can choose to modify their route and ski back to the beach at their own pace. Naturally most people are on AT (randonnée) or Telemark skis, but this adventure will accommodate snowboarders, cross-country skiers, or even people on snowshoes.

You’ll spend the week on the Aurora, a 60’ former racing yacht that has been converted to a deluxe expedition sailboat. It has sailed around the world four times which is a testament to its high quality, and is equipped with all the emergency equipment required by the strict Icelandic regulations. The captain is also a skilled gourmet chef and prepares excellent fare from seafood and local produce. For an extra fresh meal you can hand pick your own mussels and add them to the menu. When the day is finally done and the ship anchored in a sheltered cove you’ll drift off to sleep to the gentle rocking of your portable “mountain hut”.

The waters around the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve are where you’ll sail most of the time, which means the skiing takes place in this huge area of uninhabited wilderness, insuring fresh tracks every run. The snow in Iceland isn’t exceptionally deep, but it is very consistent and this combined with fewer extreme pitches results in quite low avalanche danger and easy travel across a wide variety of slopes and contours. Winter is cold but not bitter in the West Fjords with average temperatures ranging from -17 to 0 Celsius (0-32 degrees Fahrenheit). In February and March you’ll be treated to brilliant displays of the Northern Lights, and in the later months of April and May the temperatures warm up and create fabulous spring skiing during the long days of near constant daylight. The treeless tundra allows far ranging views and makes it easy to both scout and ski a huge variety of routes.

While you’re living on the sailboat you will have plenty of opportunity to see the seals playing in the Fjords and watch for as many as 12 different species of whales. There are also up to 50 species of birds that you may spot, and a good chance that you will see as Arctic Fox in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve where all the wildlife is protected. Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which is formed by the Eurasian and North American Plates, and this benefits you by creating many geothermal pools where you can relax as you recover from a day of skinning and skiing. Depending on the time of year the Aurora carries some sea kayaks and stand up paddleboards (SUP’s) for exploring along the beaches on your own.

The Powder Guides staff can help you arrange everything you need for this adventure of sailing and ski touring in Iceland. They can assist in booking flights to Reykjavik, plus the travel from Reykjavik to Isafjordur where the Iceland Sailboat Ski Touring package begins. If you want to take advantage of other unique opportunities while you’re in the country, they can make suggestions and coordinate those details as well.

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Iceland Sailboat Ski Touring

Why Book

The Iceland sailboat ski touring program are profoundly unique trips that combine sailing and ski touring in Iceland. A particularly unique country in its own right. Imagine hut to hut touring, except the “hut” can motor to a whole different location while you relax overnight. The season starts later and runs well past the end of most North American skiing, which allows you to be in good touring shape so that you can reap the benefits of nearly non-stop daylight and endless spring skiing on soft corn snow.

The Powder Guides staff is here to answer all your questions about traveling to this remote country, and what’s involved with the unusual combination of boating and skiing. They can also take care of the details for traveling within Iceland such as airport transfers, additional excursions, or a bonus day of resort skiing. Call now to plan the ski and sailing trip of a lifetime.