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Iceland Heli Skiing - Mid April 2012

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

After reading about Arctic Heli Skiing in Iceland a year or so ago, cloudpeak and I decided to give it a go. So a few weeks ago, it was off to Iceland. Total win.The trip was spectacular. Great skiing, cool mountains, and an intimate friendly operation.


Travel was relatively painless -  a 7 hour non-stop from Seattle to Reykjavik, plus an easy domestic leg in Iceland (driving is possible as well) - to the rather nice town of Akureyri where we were picked up.


We had good weather. The runs were mostly between two and three thousand feet of vertical.  The long "cruisers" were fun, and the scenery was beyond spectacular. There were enough steeper runs to keep us amused. Snow conditions kept us from much of the steeper terrain. But that was fine - the skiing was still great. I'm hoping to get back someday for prime corn skiing that would allow us a bigger selection of steep pitches.


We skied five out of six days. The main reason we took the down day was the rate at which we were burning heli time. It worked out just fine as we did some really cool sightseeing for the day. 


We started with a layover day in Reykjavik to shake off the jet lag. So, strangely, we started our ski trip by doing some whale watching. Got some sweet views of Humpbacks (below) and Minkes. BTW- Reykjavik is a really nice town.

Iceland 18.jpg


Arctic Heli Skiing World HQ: A great old farmhouse set in a spectacular valley.

Iceland 17.jpg


The view from our cabin after we settled in.

Iceland 2.jpg


Heading back from breakfast 

Iceland 3.jpg


This should give you some sense of the skiing landscape. 

Iceland 4.jpg


Making lunch reservations at the cafe in Siglufjörður with the Arctic Ocean in view and the Arctic Circle on the horizon. After a stunning run to the valley floor, we skipped across the fjord to the town (center) by helicopter. Apparently we were the first experiment in the realm of fly-in lunch dining.

Iceland 5.jpg


We got "parking" clearance from the town (really). It was the traditional Viking "first day of summer" - a national holiday. So finding and connecting with the right people was interesting. Sadly, no tower to buzz...

Iceland 7.jpg


Looking out over the harbor.

Iceland 8.jpg


Departing lunch with tummies full of tasty food...

Iceland 9.jpg


...it was back to skiing

Iceland 10.jpg


Iceland 11.jpg


A few sightseeing shots from day five - our "down day". 

Iceland 12.jpg


Iceland 13.jpg


Iceland 1.jpg


Cave style entrance to some very cool hot springs - where plates are un-colliding. Crystal clear water, shafts of light, the works. The pics do not do it justice. If you are a Verne fan - you could imagine exiting at Stromboli...






Back to skiing for our last day

Iceland 16.jpg



Arctic Heli is a pretty cool operation. Super small. Super friendly. Everyone hangs out, eats, etc. together. It is not, a big luxe lodge, fancy restaurant, cadres of waiters sort of place. More a farmhouse kitchen with a big communal table, and "please pass the salad" sort of place. The chef cooked meals are great (although breakfast is simple). They have a really nice sauna, hot tub etc. It suited me perfectly. 


They have a ton of terrain. We probably averaged a "first descent" a day. The snowpack is interesting. It is not really much of a powder place (although we got a bit). The emphasis is on what we'd think of as nice spring snow and corn. Very maritime in nature (in a good way).


The Troll Peninsula is just shy of the Arctic Circle. So by April the days are really long. Which takes some of the hussle-bussle out of the daily routine. There is no rush to bust out first thing in the morning because you really are not limited by daylight. If you are having fun and want to keep skiing, you'd have to really push it to be limited by anything other than hunger or burning up heli time. So it is all about when during the "day" will deliver the best skiing, what your mood is, and just how long you can keep skiing. Our biggest day was 13 runs delivering a bit over 35K feet. I was beat or we probably would have banged out a few more.


One nice thing about the setup is that if you get forced into a down day or choose to take a down day, there are super cool places  accessible nearby - making a down day into a great part of the experience instead of an exercise in "cabin fever".


The current "Everest" issue of Outside has a good article about the place. Good/accurate description. If you go, you'll probably meet most of the people mentioned. An assortment of publications have had pieces the past few years - so googling will also provide info. 


The people really made it extra special. Everyone - staff and guests - was great company.  I just can't emphasize how much that enhanced the trip for me. 

Video to follow if I can finish getting my act together...

Edited by spindrift - 5/7/12 at 12:15pm
post #2 of 23

Sounds like an awesome trip! Thanks for sharing.


Flying into town for lunch mid-ski day sure sounds nice!


How was the price compared with a week at operations in North America? Sounds like it wasn't half bad to get there from Seattle?

post #3 of 23

Looks great.  thanks!

post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by spknmike View Post


How was the price compared with a week at operations in North America? Sounds like it wasn't half bad to get there from Seattle?


Precise comparisons are hard - since there are lots of quirks to the "real" price of heli skiing anywhere. That said, base pricing is sort of in line with many major NA operations. But... you need to consider the impact of a 10-20% tip in NA, because that assumption is built into the staff's compensation. If you don't tip in NA, the staff sort of gets stiffed in a big way. In Iceland, tipping is optional and reserved for a job truly well done. And expectations are quite modest. So even leaving a relatively generous tip, making everyone who treated you well super happy, and feeling good all over -  your net outflow is probably something like 15% less than in NA. But again, since there are so many underlying quirks to real pricing, it is hard to be precise.


Plus, for my .02, the bang for your buck experience-wise in Iceland is a bonus. 


Travel from Seattle was a piece of cake. Iceland Air has very affordable non-stops. Domestic flying in Iceland is easy - tiny airports with flights every hour or so. Low hassle. You need to arrive 15 minutes before your flight smile.gif. Sort of how most things seem to be there. The only thing to be aware of is that international flights come and go from Keflavik, about 40 minutes from Reykjavik (even though people informally consider it the "Reykjavik international airport". Domestic flights come and go from the Reykjavik domestic airport - almost walking distance from downtown. Transfers are easy by any number of methods. FWIW, I believe Iceland Air starts non-stops from Denver pretty soon.


Doing the drive would not be bad either.

post #5 of 23

Awesome pics, looks like a really fun trip!

post #6 of 23

Awesome journey!!

I would like to go there now smile.gif

post #7 of 23

Love the landscapes and quaintness of the shots from the "down day"



post #8 of 23

Looks like a fantastic experience.  I can see you two in those digs, like pigs in mud.  The country sounds fascinating.

post #9 of 23

I just read that article in Outside last week and was intrigued.  I've been wanting to go to Iceland forever and was going a couple summers ago until the volcano blew and kind of messed things up.  My wife and I are flying Icelandair this summer to Italy so will get a bit of a look at the countryside on our stopover.  Definitely still on my list.  This TR only further intrigues me.  Well done!

post #10 of 23

Looks fantastic!  I want so badly to go to Iceland.  I enjoyed your trip vicariously.


Thanks for posting.


p.s. I sent you a pm

post #11 of 23

Great stuff Spindrift, thanks for posting such an exotic ski adventure!


Look forward to the video.



post #12 of 23

So, given the Outside article, will the place get overrun by NA tourists? 

post #13 of 23
Thread Starter 

The promised video:




Plus a bonus cloudpeak perspective edit:



We've merrily been discovering that videos are tough to edit!  And sadly, it seems impossible to license nice soundtracks, so these are minus the music that makes them flow better. Hopefully they were fun enough anyway - and offered some perspective on the nature of the skiing we did. You can take the fact that both of us tacked on a "thank you" to Arctic Heli Skiing as a strong statement about the quality of our experience there.

post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by alexzn View Post

So, given the Outside article, will the place get overrun by NA tourists? 


I doubt it. Will there be more? Probably. But the nature of the place is such that I doubt it'll ever have the feeling of being overrun. Especially since they seem to be planning to keep it small and intimate. I think the plan is a maximum capacity of about 16 clients (with two A-Stars).  Also, they seem to have solid interest from Europe - for good reason IMO - so I suspect it'll remain a nice mix of people as time goes on.


FWIW, our fellow clients included people from the US, Switzerland, France and Belgium. All fun company.

post #15 of 23

Great stuff!  Thanks for sharing.


Was the weather you experienced there, "normal" for this time of year per the operators or did you get lucky?  For a coastal environment that was pretty good stuff.  That terrain would be fun with corn.

post #16 of 23

I kinda like that soundtrack...


Isn't this an incredible sport, that allows us to experience places like this.





post #17 of 23

spindrift - nice work on the edit!  Regarding the soundtrack, we just take something off an iPod and put it on there.  I don't know about Vimeo; they may not let the soundtrack through but on YouTube, it plays fine.  The song and artist are identified and can purchased off a link.  Here's an example with Jumpin' Jack Flash by the Stones.


post #18 of 23

Thank you for not including music.  I much prefer the real soundtrack, even if it's silence.  For videos with music I turn off the sound, or more often I just quit watching.


I'm jealous.

post #19 of 23
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Stranger View Post

Was the weather you experienced there, "normal" for this time of year per the operators or did you get lucky?  For a coastal environment that was pretty good stuff.  That terrain would be fun with corn.


I think "normal" is tough to define. We were told the snowpack this season was thinner than average, and also less corned up due to some recent snowfalls.Every day was fly-able. But there were a couple where we had to play a bit of cat and mouse with the weather (kind of cool in its own way a couple of times). We chose to do one down day due to managing our hours anyway - and that was one of those "work the weather" days (but others flew and had a good time). 


I'm going to guess you really want a sense of risk of down days or days where flying is limited. Broadly speaking, my sense is the risk of down days is greater than interior BC. But materially less than AK or coastal BC. Weather systems seem to move through quickly on average - so the long days give lots of latitude for working with that. You could lift after lunch and still utterly ski yourself into the ground without missing a late-ish dinner. 


I liked the snow quite a lot. As I said, I'd love to give it a go when it is more corned up, but I'd be super happy to ski the same conditions again.


I'm sure a quick email would get you the scoop direct from the folks who know. I found them to be straight shooters when I asked questions. 

post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 

The Arctic Heli guys just FB posted a pretty cool video. The Movement crew was there last year.... While I'd bet some of those lines are not for the normal customer -  based on my trip,  the video provides a pretty accurate sense of the skiing & experience overall.  Admittedly it is a promo piece, but I like it. Especially because I think it provides a more realistic and honest view of what they offer vs some places that play to ski movie fantasy gnar skiing a bit too much (IMO). 





Working on plans to get back there smile.gif

post #21 of 23

great to have this info spindrift. we are looking at end of March 2014. DO you hav any feel for the difference in snow between their early season (mid March/April) versus later on? We prefer powder to corn and I guess take more weather risk the earlier we go?


any input gratefully received.


many thanks 

post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 

I'd suggest contacting them for the most informed scoop. But I think you are right on target. Earlier is a bit riskier in terms of weather, etc. But powder is more likely. Later, corn is more likely, days are longer (which means more flight window time), etc.... 


I'd guess the Outside article is kind of old news at this point. But the Warren Miller crew was there a month or so ago. Mancuso, etc., etc... (lots of FB posts on the Arctic Heli page). So seats are probably going to be in demand for 2015...


I was supposed to go back this month. But I'm 4.5 weeks out from an ACL rebuild. So that's not going to happen. Somehow hanging out watching a gajillion reruns of Big Bang Theory is just not gonna do it when my spouse is zipping around the Troll Peninsula... Darn!

post #23 of 23

we booked for the end of March 2014 and will report back in due course. thank for the info 

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