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.