Arctic Sojourn: Backcountry Skiing on Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

RATE THIS STORY:

10 votes so far

Last spring we found ourselves on assignment in northern Iceland to shoot a two-week backcountry skiing road trip around the island’s famed Tröllaskagi, or Troll Peninsula. The premise was not to employ guides or helicopters to access the surrounding mountains, but rather to hit the road with an open itinerary and sense of adventure.

After a brief stint in the capital of Reykjavik, we caught a flight to the northern hub of Akureyri, picked up our rental SUV and checked into a local guesthouse. A short walk to a hill overlooking Eyjafjörður (Island Fjord) at sunset made obvious our first objective. Bathed in an amber glow across the fjord, the creamy white slopes of Mount Kaldbakur are reported to host the longest continuous ski run in the country. Sold.

The wind picked up on Kaldbakur’s 1,174-meter summit giving an arctic bite to an already brisk day. It took a couple hours for our trio to make the climb on skis, but we were grateful for the warmth the ascent generated. After checking out some entry points and measuring snow stability at a couple points, we plotted a line down the mountain’s western flank to the crashing Greenlandic Sea nearly 4,000 feet below. Two or so feet of light powder up high gave way to chalky, more consolidated snow as we made the long descent to the ocean. We skied right to the point where snow turned to rocky beach. Standing breathless in the sun and salt air, faces alight with pure joy, there was only one thing on all of our minds: Let’s do it again.

We eventually moved our “base camp” to the small fishing village of Dalvík and enjoyed the endless hospitality of Bjarni Gunnarsson at the Gimli Guesthouse. Bjarni is a local fisherman by day, so we enquired about buying some of his daily catch. The next day we found a heaping tray of freshly filleted cod waiting for us in the fridge. Bjarni made sure we got to sample the local varieties of Icelandic schnapps while soaking in the outdoor hot tub (a simple plastic tub with very hot water hosed in from a hole in the ground). He was also kind enough to set us up with a tasting at Kaldi, the premier craft brewery in Iceland just down the road. Definitely recommended after a long day of skiing.

A series of fierce arctic storms pummeled the coastline over the next week. We traveled the peninsula from Akureyri to Siglufjörður, touring into the mountains when the weather would allow us. Fresh snow was abundant and so light it floated in the sky minutes before finally falling to earth. The mountain valleys of Svarfaðardalur in the peninsula’s very heart became our favorite venue. We fell into a routine of driving up the valley, parking at some snow-covered farm, skinning up through the pastures with Icelandic horses to ski peaks unknown to us in name or history. We’d scout the next day’s options on our way out and recount the day’s adventure over tall cans of Viking beer back at the truck. We always came to the same conclusion: Let’s do it again tomorrow.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier descends Mount Kaldbakur (1,173m) above Eyjafjörður near the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier cross a creek to access the mountains of Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

A couple soaks in a hot tub at a guesthouse in the town of Dalvik in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier prepares to ski a steep couloir in the mountains of Svarfaðardalur in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier walks past a guesthouse on a snowy day in the town of Dalvik in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier clears the steps at a guesthouse on a snowy day on the Ytri-Vík farm in Árskógsströnd in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier descend the face of Kötlufjall, a mountain near Árskógsströnd in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skier on the coast of Eyjafjörður overlook the Greenland Sea after skiing down Mount Kaldbakur (1,173m); near the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Backcountry skiers enjoy a beer after skiing down Mount Kaldbakur (1,173m) near the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland during a ski trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Iceland’s Troll Peninsula

Woman traveler with Icelandic horses near the town of Akureyri in northern Iceland during a trip to the Troll Peninsula.

Sign up for REI Co-op emails

Stay updated on the latest news, deals, & more.
Please use name@example.com format Example: name@example.com
Success!

Check your inbox for more perks. We’ll send you a few emails every week.

You can unsubscribe from REI Co-op emails at any time.

Error

Hmm. Something’s not working on our end.