The volcanic rock known as Iceland is home to a growing ski scene, attracting thrill-seekers with its plentiful fresh powder and rugged, wide-open slopes. “It’s just empty field after field after field,” says Aaron Blunck, an Olympic freeskier who has twice been to the island’s northern coast and cut tracks in the mountainous Troll Peninsula. “There are no trees, so there are no places to avoid, no places to stop. You can be skiing for 3,000 vertical feet and not even know it.”
The mountains might be taller in Alaska, and the runs more predictable in Canada, but the joys of skiing Iceland go beyond villages with unpronounceable names or the chance to meet the mythical huldufólk. Here, the hills aren’t overrun with tourists, and you can ski all the way down to the ocean by yourself, a unique proposition these days. And the long days in spring mean that you can still be on the slopes at 10 o’clock at night—all while the snow reflects the orange-and-pink light of the slowly setting sun.
Now with new direct flights to Iceland from Denver and Minneapolis, there are few remaining excuses not to go. A flight from New York takes only 4 hours, and London’s even closer—you can have breakfast in Mayfair and be hurtling down the slopes toward the Arctic Ocean by tea time.
This spring, custom-adventure operator Eleven Experience will begin offering four- and six-day trips using a renovated 30,000-square-foot sheep farm as a home base outside the tiny outpost of Dalvik on the northern coast. The property has been updated into a luxury hotel, complete with an indoor-outdoor pool, spa, bowling alley, bar, and a restaurant serving local fish and lamb delicacies. From there, an AS350 helicopter will ferry you and a guide to a high ridgeline of your choosing, whether you prefer to plunge down a steep couloir or take a long, leisurely cruise. “It’s like Mars,” says Eleven’s director of experience Alan Bernholtz. “It’s like a different planet.”
The weather can be unpredictable, though: there is less snow the closer it gets to May. “You may not ski every day,” says Blunck. But the first two weeks of May are long days, so if the snow is good, all is well. “The 5th and 10th of May was some of the best skiing we had. We were out there until 10, 11 o’clock at night.” And if the weather isn’t cooperating, there are plenty of other things to do: sea kayaking, surfing, horseback riding, hiking, or simply soaking in the country’s famed thermal pools.
Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure type of trip. Want to snowmobile to the surf break and then paddle out on the boards? Sure, then once the sky clears, call the chopper, towel off, and start skiing. There’s no schedule, says Bernholtz. “You could take a five-hour lunch and ski later at night,” he says. “There are ping-pong tables, too, but if the sky clears up, you better believe I’m putting the paddles down pretty quick.” Blunck agrees. “You never know, and that’s the coolest thing. You can go to a winter resort and you may go to dinner, walk around, and eventually go skiing. But here, “be ready to get in shape,” he says, “because you’ll be doing long runs.”
From $10,000 per person; meals, lodging, and domestic transportation included; elevenexperience.com