Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in Europe and Asia, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.

Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Mar 25, 2015 11:56 am

Our guided tour of Iceland ended the morning of Mar. 23, so Liz and I rented a car for the next 2 days. We spent that night in Akureyri and skied at the local area Hlidarfjall Mar. 24. Our best view of the ski area was from the March 20 eclipse flight shortly before landing in Akureyri.
IMG_0797a.jpg

The access road climbs from town to the 1,640 foot base. A fixed quad chair serves the mellow lower slopes while a T-bar rises more steeply to 3,214 feet just short of the secondary ridgeline in the above picture. There was a map in the lodge of a proposed expansion to the top ridgeline at upper left of the picture.

Hlidarfjall is the largest lift served area in Iceland and draws weekenders from Reykyavik, where about 80% of Iceland’s 400,000 people live. There is an area close to Reykyavik with more lifts but it’s only 600 vertical. There are several smaller areas in the north that I did not find on my Google Earth search last fall.

Hlidarfjall is open 10-4 on weekends, but noon – 7PM midweek. Most of the pistes have lights as there are only about 3 hours daylight in December/January. The lights were on all day on the lower slopes and were turned on for the upper 2 open pistes before racing began at 4PM.

Weather in Iceland has not been too cooperative for skiing this winter. There have been numerous high wind events, mostly from the SW. Gulf Stream influenced storms from the SW also tend to be warmer and bring low elevation rain. Overnight between March 20 and 21 it rained hard and washed out quite a bit of snow in the Myvatn area where our tour was staying, leaving lots of puddles on the remaining snow. There was a short but intense snowfall on March 23, returning a thin layer of snow to much of the landscape.

Liz and I took a warmup run on the lower chair.
IMG_1089.JPG


Grooming was excellent, but I discovered that flat light has a whole new meaning at 66 degrees latitude on a cloudy day and immediately switched to my goggles. Hlidarfjall trail map:
Image

Liz at base of T-bar.
IMG_1085.JPG

The chair was slow but the T-bar was fast and self-serve, so it took a few tries before we loaded it successfully. The cloud descended when we were riding the T-bar so visibility deteriorated. Again the grooming was smooth and uniform so not bad skiing as long as you looked well ahead at trail markings. Due to snow conditions only trails #8 and #10 were groomed up there, and the variable ungroomed skiing was out of the question with that visibility. There is some good steep bowl skiing looker’s right of the T-bar with perhaps a 5 -10 minute hike.

After those 2 runs we skied down to lodge for a short break, hoping maybe the clouds would move higher. A man overhead us chatting in English, came over and introduced himself as British journalist Arnie Wilson. http://www.arniewilson.com/?p=224 In the course of conversation I mentioned that Hlidarfjall was my 194th ski area, and Arnie responded that it was #726 for him. :shock: One of Arnie’s notable exploits as the Financial Times ski correspondent was to ski every day in 1994, which included visiting 240 areas just that year.

Arnie arrived with North Iceland Tourism manager Hordor Oli Kjartansson but soon went to rent skis. Liz and I then joined Arnie and Hlidarfjall mountain manager Hordur Finnbogason for some skiing. Arnie and Hordur as we left the lodge.
IMG_1092.JPG


Fortunately the lower slopes cleared enough for a decent view down to Akureyri.
IMG_1094.JPG


No such luck with the upper T-bar. Liz and Arnie, with a patroller unloading with gates for the slalom course:
IMG_1096.JPG


When we landed at Keflavik airport on March 23 the plane remained on the tarmac for 1.5 hours because it was too windy to bring it to the gate. This same windstorm snapped one of Hlidarfjall’s trail signs.
IMG_1097.JPG


Temps were in the mid-20’sF, but it was a damp cold, so Liz was slightly underdressed and had to retire to warm her hands and feet. The rest of us skied a few more T-bar runs. Hordur and Arnie with some sun finally appearing far below us.
IMG_1102.JPG


About 3:45 racers began practicing on the slalom courses.
IMG_1103.JPG


About 4:15 we joined Liz in the lodge for some hot chocolate and wide ranging discussion of various ski topics. To no surprise Arnie is well acquainted with Fraser Wilkin of http://www.weathertoski.co.uk/ . While in the lodge the weather below us continued to improve while the cloud remained upon the upper T-bar.
IMG_1107.JPG


Only when we had to depart at 5PM did the upper mountain finally come into view.
IMG_1109.JPG


There are times when weather/conditions do not allow you to fully appreciate what a new ski area has to offer. But our serendipitous meeting with Arnie Wilson made for a very interesting day.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9777
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby jamesdeluxe » Wed Mar 25, 2015 12:39 pm

An interesting addition to your list.

Arnie must have a story or two to tell. 726 ski areas, wow.
User avatar
jamesdeluxe
 
Posts: 3314
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:19 pm
Location: South Orange, NJ

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 201

Postby lono » Thu Mar 26, 2015 7:46 am

Financial Times ski correspondent is my new " ski bum " dream job, gotta send them a resume.
User avatar
lono
 
Posts: 122
Joined: Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:47 am
Location: Flatfoot County urban Montana
Location: whitefish mt usa

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby jamesdeluxe » Thu Mar 26, 2015 8:13 am

Based purely on photos since I've never been to either place, Hlidarfjall looks like an Icelandic version of Whitetooth before it morphed into Kicking Horse, i.e. intermediate trails going straight down the lower mountain with nothing on the upper steep terrain.
User avatar
jamesdeluxe
 
Posts: 3314
Joined: Mon Oct 04, 2004 3:19 pm
Location: South Orange, NJ

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Mar 26, 2015 12:49 pm

The lower terrain served by the chair is low intermediate and not a bad Whitetooth analogy. The T-bar is moderately steep and serves some steep terrain with a very short hike. The top ridgeline is only 500 vertical above the top of the T-bar, and I have little doubt people hike that when weather/snow are good. So the lifts at Hlidarfjall serve 2/3 of a potential 2,000+ vertical. Whitetooth served less than 1/3 of Kicking Horse's eventual 4,100 vertical.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9777
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby jasoncapecod » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:37 am

My daughter will be in Reykyavik late next week. She is doing a Northern Lights tour and some horseback riding..
Cool report..
User avatar
jasoncapecod
 
Posts: 1125
Joined: Wed Jan 25, 2006 9:30 am
Location: NEW YORK

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:08 am

jasoncapecod wrote:She is doing a Northern Lights tour and some horseback riding.

We had 2 nights of Northern Lights viewing on the eclipse tour. While on our own other nights were cloudy or we were too exhausted to look much. Liz has a riding background and we had a 2 hour ride in a blizzard March 23. The Icelandic horses are very interesting and your daughter will enjoy the experience. We will eventually post reports of the non-ski activities in Iceland but it may take awhile.

We rode horses in the north near Grenevik; most Iceland tourists stay within a short driving radius of Reykvavik. We were surprised how busy nearly every tourist attraction within that radius was, during what is supposedly the off-season. After the 2010 volcano eruption, Iceland has been promoting tourism very effectively. Tourist visits have jumped from 300K in 2008 to over a million per year now.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 9777
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Re: Hlidarfjall, Iceland, Mar. 24, 2015

Postby q » Tue Apr 28, 2015 12:27 am

Brilliant report. Looks like a fair bit of potential. Reminds me more of skiing in Scotland that Whitetooth though with the open terrain rather than trees.
Q
User avatar
q
 
Posts: 302
Joined: Sun Oct 28, 2007 7:59 am
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland - Avatar: Primer Bowl, Loveland, CO


Return to Europe & Asia

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest


All content herein copyright © 1999-2017 First Tracks!! Online Media

Forums Terms & Conditions of Use