AKUREYRI, ICELAND — Iceland has been attracting adventure-seeking travellers for many years, so it should come as no surprise that visitors are now exploring Iceland’s various ski and winter options.
The country offers a great opportunity to broaden one’s ski horizons, while enjoying stunning beauty.
The majority of skiing takes place in North Iceland, a region rich with history, culture, beautiful scenery and – most importantly for skiers and snowboarders – mountains with extensive ski terrain. All of which can be accessed with Icelandair direct flights from Canada, plus the regional regional connections the airline offers, giving visitors access to every corner of the country.
The gateway and ‘The Capital of the North’ is Akureyri, Iceland’s fourth-largest town with a population of 19,000 people. International travellers can easily access the north with flights into Akureyri International Airport (AEY), only a few kilometres from the town’s centre. This ‘little big city’ is known for its picturesque architecture and vibrant cultural scene.
The city centre offers a diverse selection of eateries, bars, galleries, hotels and shopping. Akureyri has the unique ability to radiate a friendly, quaint feeling (note the heart-shaped traffic signals), all the while providing the conveniences and infrastructure of a larger city. This makes Akureyri a good option for daily excursions for skiing, and other activities. Alternatively it makes a great jumping off point for multi-day adventures in the region.
North Iceland is home to several different ski areas, with some of the most exciting and diverse skiing opportunities in the country. Here’s an overview of some of the ski areas in North Iceland:
- Dalvík Ski Area: This small ski area is located in the town of Dalvík and has two lifts and eight runs. It’s a great option for beginners or those looking for a more low-key ski experience.
- Tindaöxl Ski Area: This ski area is located in the town of Ólafsfjörður and has one 600m lift and multiple runs. It’s a popular spot for locals and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and fjords.
- Siglufjörður Ski Area: Located in the town of Siglufjörður, this spot has four lifts with a total length of 1500m, and 10 runs. It’s a great option for families and beginners, with a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere, night skiing.
- Tindastóll Ski Area: Located in Saudárkrókur, it has two lifts reaching 900m above sea level. Complete with snowmaking, restaurant and cross-country skiing.
- Perched above Akureyri, lies Hlíðarfjall, Iceland’s largest and most popular ski area. Just a short drive from town, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy some time on the slopes surrounded by picturesque views of the surrounding mountains and fjords. Hlíðarfjall offers 26 marked pistes serviced by eight lifts with a top elevation of 1015 metres above sea level. With limited hours of light in the winter, Hlidarfjall is well-equipped with floodlights for night skiing, and snowmaking for a reliable snow base.
“In the small fishing towns of Dalvík, Siglufjörður and Sauðárkrókur you’ll find well-equipped ski areas. It’s ideal to travel between those destinations, try out the different features of each one and add some other activities to your itinerary like whale watching, northern light tours, snowmobiling, dog sledding or soaking in a bath. A ski trip to North Iceland combined with activities such as these is sure to be unique,” says Rögnvaldur Helgason, Visit North Iceland.
Another interest for many visitors is the infamous backcountry, where skiing and snowboarding takes place away from the groomed trails and lifts of traditional ski areas. It is becoming increasingly popular as snow enthusiasts continue to search for new thrills in wild surroundings and this is exactly what the Troll Peninsula in North Iceland provides.
The mountainous Troll Peninsula (Tröllaskagi) is located between the fjords of Skagafjördur and Eyjafjördur, offering stunning views of the Arctic Ocean and endless snow capped mountains. There’s terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders here, from wide open glaciers, to steep faces and chutes, with many peaks reaching 1200-1500m terminating at the ocean’s edge.
“Skiing from a mountain top all the way down to the shore in a remote fjord is unique. Add the midnight sun to the mix during the spring season, and you’ll get an experience that leaves you with memories that won’t be so easily forgotten,” says Helgason.
Arctic Heli skiing is based out of Dalvík, a traditional fishing village located 40 km to the north of Akureyri. Arctic Heli has been curating custom exploratory helicopter skiing adventures on the Troll Peninsula since 2008.
Jökull Bergmenn, the founder and owner, started Arctic Heli after many years of living abroad, where he trained to become an internationally certified mountain guide. In 2008 he successfully became an IFMGA Mountain Guide, making him the first Icelander to achieve this accreditation. Jökull returned to his ancestral family’s land on the Troll Peninsula, and with his experience ski guiding for some of the world’s most reputable heli skiing operations, a new chapter of heli skiing began in Iceland.
Arctic Heli’s main base of operations, Klaengshóll lodge, is located in a majestic, rugged valley bordered by mountains named after Norse gods. The lodge sits on Jökull’s family sheep farm which his ancestors have been farming on for over 1000 years. Jökull is the 31st generation direct descendant of the first Viking settlers of Iceland Hallveig Fródadóttir and Ingólfur Arnarsson.
Arctic Heli’s ski terrain covers over 4000 sq. kilometres, featuring ski descents of up to 1500 metres. Their season runs from mid-February to late June. In February and March one can enjoy powder snow conditions, and a chance to see the Northern Lights. Alternatively, spring skiing brings long days and the chance to ski pristine corn snow under the midnight sun.
“The fact that the Troll Peninsula is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean makes for incredible opportunities for skiing right down to the ocean on a stable coastal snowpack, but also adds the excitement of Arctic weather and conditions. Throw in a mix of Northern lights, midnight sun, volcanic activity, hot springs, lava fields and a unique Viking culture and you will find that Iceland is a true adventure skiing destination,” says Bergmenn.
For those looking for a human-powered ski experience, Arctic Heli’s parent company Bergmenn Mountain Guides offers a wide array of ski touring packages.
For more information visit northiceland.is and arcticheliskiing.com.