Sailboat based Skiing in Iceland's Western Fjords
Over the year's John has had the good fortune to participate in ski expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula and to South Georgia Island in the Southern Atlantic ocean. We have been on the lookout for a less costly opportunity to organize this sort of trip for our customers, and we have found it in this trip to Iceland to ski the Fjords on it's western coast.
We will be using the Yacht Aurora as our base of operations. The basic idea is to spend the days skiing with your IFMGA qualified guide while the boat is anchored offshore, use Zodiacs for the "lift" to the slopes. At the end of the day you will relax and sleep on the boat while it is moved each evening to the next fjord and the following day's ski objective.
To reach this remote corner of the the ski world we fly to Reykjavik, Iceland and then transfer to a smaller plane for the flight to Isafjordur, Iceland where we will board the Aurora and set sail for our first objective. It is possible to depart the US in the evening on the first day of your trip and be skiing the next afternoon prior to boarding the boat.
Iceland Boat Based Ski Touring Itinerary
Day 0: Depart the US and fly to Rejkavik, Iceland.
Day 1: Arrive early morning in Reykavik, Iceland and fly to Isafjordur. Board Aurora in late afternoon with departure from Isafjordur at 19:00 after an orientation on boat life and procedure. We then sail 2 hours to Hesteyri in the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. The evening is spent relaxing at anchor with the option for some exploration in the Zodiac. We will have the opportunity to explore the old whaling station in this now abandoned settlement. There is also the option to do a short ski run since it's still bright in the evening.
Day 2: We'll begin the day with safety briefing, and a review of avalanche rescue protocol and beacon search. We will then spend the day skiing the mountains around Hesteyri. From the high cols, we can get a view across the mountains to the northern coves of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. We'll then move Aurora to the head of the fjord before serving delicious dinner. Here we usually have an opportunity to pick fresh Mussels from the beach for appetizer.
Day 3: Ski from Hesteyrarfjordur to Veidileysufjordur (in English "Fjord with no fish!"). The climb up Hesteyrarfjordur is very easy and the ski slopes on the other side offer many possibilities. We may end the day by skiing the steepest slope of the trip, an optional 45°-50° descent. Those that don't want to ski the steeps can head down to the yacht if you prefer! Dinner at anchor in Veidileysufjordur.
Day 4: Ski to Lonafjordur (in English "Lagoon Fjord"). We begin the day by climbing up to one of the cols to take a look at the bays on the North side. Then we ski down to the first valley in Lonafjordur and climb up two more mountains before returning to the Aurora. If we are lucky we may catch some Arctic Char for dinner.
Day 5: Ski to Hrafnfjordur (e. Raven Fjord). We do the highest climb of the trip this day, up to 1200 metres of climbing before skiing down to Hrafnfjordur. The mountain cirque in the bottom of the fjord is very beautiful and the anchorage is a perfect spot to spend the night.
Day 6: Short skiing in the morning before sailing back to Isafjordur with arrival around 16:00 in the afternoon. You can catch the last flight from Isafjordur the same day but your trip ends on Friday and you may choose to stay for the weekly concert and to enjoy Isafjordur. Those who elect not to stay will fly back to Reykjavik where you will spend the night before your afternoon flight home. With the time change you land in the US on the same evening you depart Iceland.
The Yacht AuroraThe yacht is a 60 foot sloop built by Colvic Craft in the UK in 1996. She was designed by David Pedrick for the Clipper Round the World race and has been raced around the world four times and to Greenland three times. The previous owner was Clipper Ventures Plc based in Gosport, UK. This company was founded by the legendary sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who was the first person to sail around the world non-stop and single-handed in 1969. Sir Robin was in Ísafjörður in the summer of 2005 on the yacht (then named Antiope Clipper) together with Sir Chris Bonington and other friends enroute to Greenland. Over some chicken curry and beer onboard, the current owners decided to fulfill an old dream and bought the yacht!
The vessel is very sturdy and spacious. Accommodation is simple and utilitarian, but seamanlike. There are bunks/berths, good galley and spacious communal spaces, two heads (toilets) and one shower. The vessel was initially fitted out for 15 crew but can now accommodate 12 people, 2 crew and 10 guests. The boat is equipped according to strict Icelandic regulations and carries the latest emergency equipment. Satellite phone is onboard that can be used by our guests for a reasonable fee.
Getting to and from IcelandOnce registered clients will be forwarded all the pre-trip information that is needed to plan your boat based ski trip in Iceland. You will first need to fly to Reykjavik, Iceland on Iceland Air, and you will then transfer to a flight from Reykjavik to Isafjordur, Iceland on Air Iceland. The flight from the US to Reykjavik averages $450-$1000 and the second leg runs between $100 and $200 round trip. Our travel agent is happy to make the bookings for you. Getting to and from Iceland is a bit easier and shorter than getting to and from places such as Switzerland.
QualificationsSki Ability: Skiing in Iceland's Western Fjords need not be extreme and is open to skiers of most abilities. On the whole this trip provides easier ski terrain than that offered on our trip to the Troll Peninsula. As the boat is a large part of this unique trip, we have scaled back the skiing a touch to give us time to explore along the water and to accommodate the extra time required to get to and from the ski slopes each day.
Those wanting to take advantage of the trip need to be decent skiers. Things you should feel comfortable doing include: skiing with a backpack, skiing a wide variety of snow ranging from powder to breakable crust to corn, and climbing and descending 3500-4500' on skis for a week. We have the option for much bigger days, but there will usually be a "short bus" option for those who wish to return to the Aurora. It is not advised to undertake a ski trip to Iceland without any experience outside of a ski area. You will want to do some AT skiing in advance of this trip, as you will need previous, recent, AT experience and will want to show up having used your boots in the time prior to the trip.
It is not uncommon for people to develop very bad blisters if they go from not touring at all to putting in successive long ski touring days. You should be able to efficiently get down black diamond runs in most ski areas. Again, you do not need to be an extreme skier to do this, but there will be spots where it is best not to fall, and you need to be able to efficiently link turns in a wide variety of snow conditions. You should also be aware that skiing on a glacier is much different from skiing in bounds at a ski area. Real hazards exist in these mountains and none are marked. Prior to your trip you want to focus on skiing in control and being able to ski for long periods without falling. You do not need any previous mountaineering experience to do this, but it is nice to have some level of familiarity with the climbing harness, crampons, and ice axe. We use these items very rarely, but you will be more confident if you show up with some level of comfort with them. We will review their use briefly on day one of the trip.
Ski Skills Assessment - Iceland Boat-based SkiingIt can be difficult to determine where different people are in terms of ski ability without skiing with them in advance of a program. As we don't always have the opportunity to ski together in advance of all trips we have provided the following list so that potential customers can evaluate their ski skills and choose the most appropriate program.
Advanced Ski Skills
- Able to ski fall line in most snow conditions (powder to wind affected snow).
- Able to make parallel or stem-christie turns on 35° groomed or firm snow.
- Able to side-slip on firm slopes up to 35°.
- Able to ski moguls in soft snow.
- Able to do kick turns facing in or facing out on 30° slopes.
- Able to skate on level terrain.
- Able to ski fall-line in tight radius turns in good conditions.
- Able to ski black diamond runs at ski areas efficiently and in most snow conditions.