Iceland: A Skiing Saga

26 Dec 2016

Eye Candy

Text and images by Dutchiesdoski

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Blue skies, screeching seagulls, crystal clear blue waters and dolphins jumping out of the water next to our boat; for a fleeting moment I wonder if I’m in the Caribbean. When I look up from the water, reality hits me: dozens of sharp white peaks rise from the fjord like triangular pyramids, in stark contrast with the clear blue sky. I am on a fishing boat in Iceland, an island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, crossing a fjord to go skiing and the closest land is Greenland, another 400 kilometres west from here.

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Troll Peninsula

In the northwest of Iceland, over five hours by car from Reykjavík, lies Tröllaskagi, the Troll Peninsula the place to be for skiing in Iceland. The name is derived from a legend which claims Iceland’s last troll was killed in a cave there in 1764 by a farmer who was angry that the troll had eaten his cow. The peninsula’s highest peak is just over 1500m above sea level, but the sea itself is right there at your feet. The fact that the Troll Peninsula is surrounded by the Arctic Ocean makes for incredible opportunities of skiing right down to the ocean on stable coastal snowpack. The maritime moisture content and the long, dark Arctic winters make for a surprisingly stable spring snowpack.

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Sometimes you get fresh powder, but in April and May—the heart of the ski-touring season—you are more likely to find corn of the rare kind that doesn’t quickly turn to slop. During our week on the island, Caroline and I, two Dutch ski journalists, joined a group of German friends on a ski touring trip and we skied a variation of all sorts of snow, from hard pack, to corn, to powder to slush.

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We’re in the safe hands of our experienced German guide Bernd. According to him, we are some of the very few skiers who are about to ski on the other and uninhabited side of the Eyjafjordur, near the fishing village of Dalvik. “After staring at these peaks during my first trip to Iceland, I knew we could ski them. So I asked around if anyone in the small harbour of Dalvik, population 1400, would be willing to take us across. We found a beach to go on land and have been bringing guests here ever since. Years later, we are still the only guides who take our guests here“, he says with a big grin across his face.

Every day Bernd plans a new tour for us, like a ski traverse from one side of the fjord, via 2 summits, to the other side.

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As we stand atop an unpronounceable summit, we can see the waves rolling in and breaking on the beach. In the distance we see the Icelandic horses, which are notoriously small and pony-like and outnumber the 332,529 inhabitants. Iceland is one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe, with an average of about three inhabitants per square kilometre. Iceland is literally, a county in the making: volcanoes rumble and geysers are gushing.

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It is a hot spot of volcanic and geothermal activity; 30 post-glacial volcanoes have erupted in the past two centuries and nowadays there are still 103 active volcanoes. Natural hot water supplies much of the population with cheap, pollution-free heating, and rivers are harnessed to provide inexpensive hydroelectric power. Other added benefits are the many natural hot springs, which are ideal for a quick soak after skiing to relax the muscle. We found a simple plastic tub with very hot water hosed in from a hole in the ground perched next to the Eyjafjord.

Summit to Sea

It has been nearly two hours since we left the harbour of Dalvik and the rocky beach of the inhabited side of the fjord is getting closer and closer. In groups of six we carefully climb into the dingy and load our ski’s on-board. Perched just above the freezing water, we cruise the last meters across the icy fjord until set foot on land.

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Just meters from the beach we attach our skins and begin our journey to the summit, 900 meters higher. This suits us just fine, as skinning up we fully experience the magical surroundings.

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During a short break, we sip some hot tea and eat some nuts. The serenity of the landscape is overwhelming; the silence brings calmness and peace of mind. Lost in the repetitive movement, we reach a trance like state. Arriving at the summit a few hours later, we are treated to a breath-taking view of two fjords and the open sea. The sheer beauty of the landscape gives us goose bumps! We point our skis towards the fjord — which is now golden due to the bright sun — and cruise down towards the shimmering water.

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The mountain seems to end right in the ocean and our 20-minute run is worth every second of the five-hour climb. During that time I am the happiest person on earth; skiing towards the sea truly is a special experience and our adventure doesn’t end here. Our German friends have secretly hidden bottles of wine and beer in the dingy, as well as hot dogs, coals and a small speaker. Within minutes, we are grilling sausages and toasting to an unforgettable week.

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Post Script

The majority of Icelanders believe, or at least refuse to deny the existence of elves, trolls, and other hidden beings. Seeded in a deep history of persistence and survival, Icelanders have held tightly to their traditions. To survive on an island in the middle of the North Atlantic for 1500 years, takes some degree of stubbornness and resiliency so Icelanders developed a rich storytelling tradition and stories about elves and hidden people are still part of their heritage today. Nowadays the elf spotters even decide how a human settlement develops in order not to disturb the country’s supernatural inhabitants. Engineers will often reroute roads, pipelines and cable, only to avoid the dwellings of elves and other hidden beings.

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We simply love Iceland!

Details

Flory Kern Mountain School offer all sorts of trips, from heli-skiing in Georgia, skiing powder in Japan, to ski touring in Spitsbergen or Iceland. We stayed at the Husabakki Guesthouse, a comfortable hotel with ridiculously delicious fresh home cooked meals, located just 5 kilometres outside Dalvik.

Find more insider tips and inspirational shots on Caroline’s & Julie’s social media: Dutchiesdoski – but watch out, their stuff is highly addictive!

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