Arctic Heliskiing, Iceland, March 27, 2015

We got out half an hour later on Friday and skied the mountains closest to the lodge. It was slightly colder, -10C on top with more wind than Thursday. The lower terrain looks sketchy this season because most of the storms have come from the south with low elevation rain. Last year there was so much snow in the valley in March that the road was buried and guests had to be brought to the lodge from Darvik in the heli. What we couldn't see from the lodge is that these mountains go up to 5,000 feet, higher than the ones NW of Dalvik that we skied Thursday.

Today we skied with French Canadian guide Stefan. Our first 2 runs started on this long face on the east side with excellent snow.

The terrain mellowed out lower down but was still great skiing.

We crossed to the west side for our next 2 runs. Overview while in flight:

Liz and I wait while Michael skis some powder first. The vertical rock at upper right was a lava flow into a fissure that later crumbled away.

Powder tracks from 2 groups lower on third run:

Our 4th run had blown-in powder earlier in the week, but the wind was now strong in our faces, so Stefan had us picked up after only 1,500 vertical. We moved back to the east side of the valley, but the wind precluded a high landing so we were dropped at about 3,500 feet. Here’s a pic from low elevation not far from pickup.

The rain crust from Thursday was more supportable now and could be skied fluidly as long as visibility was decent. With sun and about 10 degrees warmer temperature this would all be corn.

The 6th run to lunch at 2PM lunch was similar. Upper section of that run:

Lower down there were scattered snow chunks, but enough room to avoid them.

We skied a similar 7th run after lunch but light deteriorated so we skied to the lodge and were done just after 3PM. Total for the day was 16,600 vertical with the early higher runs being at least 3/4 powder but the lower later runs about half.

Jokull Bergmenn (JB) worked for Selkirk-Tangiers Heliskiing in Revelstoke for many years. It was run by the Swiss and had many European customers. In 2008 the new Revelstoke Mountain Resort bought Selkirk-Tangiers. The emphasis has shifted more to day skiers, though multiday packages are still available there and those skiers are separate from the day skiers. At this time JB returned to his family farm in Iceland and opened a ski touring lodge, adding heliskiing within a couple of years. The lodge accommodates 16-20 skiers, with a mix of heli and ski touring in March. We had 2 heli groups and 2 touring groups the first 2 days and a 3rd group of heliskiers arrived Thursday night for a week. Touring groups can be driven to trailheads or can pay for a heli drop into more remote terrain.

JB recruited other guides like Stefan from Selkirk-Tangiers, and Stefan works at both operations as Selkirk-Tangiers’ demand slows in March, which is the “early season” in Iceland. Arctic Heliskiing’s peak season is April/May with longer daylight and better weather, and they are still skiing higher elevation terrain in June. They tout their corn snow and big vertical, and can get powder on north facing and corn on sunny exposures at the same time. The lodge is usually filled with heliskiers in April/May and the ski touring then operates out of a second lodge near Darvik.

The lodge has a hot tub and sauna, and the family-style meals were excellent. We particularly enjoyed the fresh local lamb and fish. Overall Arctic Heliskiing was a memorable experience that we highly recommend. Customers are about 60% European and 40% from North America. Iceland is a 4 hour flight from the East Coast, at least as accessible for easterners as western Canada and far more accessible than Alaska.

We were in Iceland 15 days and there are numerous other attractions to see. On March 28 we skied 2 runs from the lodge that were constrained to low elevation by weather, followed by a hearty lunch of the Icelandic hashed fish. Then JB let us borrow a car to get to Akureyri airport early so we could start our marathon 2 day drive around the east and south sides of Iceland.

Some maps, as requested when I posted on another Forum.

The orange lines I drew approximate the ski terrain Arctic Heli can use. The red lines (northern one March 26 and southern ones March 27) approximate where we skied. The "Center of the Universe" X is at Akureyri and the nearby Hlidarfjall ski area. The "Sin City" circle in the southwest is Reykyavik. "Exit" is Keflavik International Airport.

For those who have not been to Iceland the orange area I marked may look small, but I can assure you it's vast. Having that large an area is important to maximize clear weather options. Terrain looks good everywhere; the key is finding decent visibility for flying and skiing. In our case we also needed to get above 2,000 feet for good snow, though sometimes the snow can be good all the way to sea level.

Closer view Google Earth map.

Orange and red lines same as before, pins for Hlidarfjall lift service and Arctic's lodge.