With our Val d’Isere trip being later in the season than we are likely to be skiing the Alps in the future, I could not resist adding on a return to Iceland with Arctic Heliskiing. We were very impressed with the operation in March 2015, when we were there in conjunction with a solar eclipse tour. Arctic’s high season by reputation and bookings seems to be late April/early May. Iceland’s weather is quite volatile, and our April 19-22 time slot has 2+ hours extra daylight vs. the 2015 trip for more potential ski opportunities.
Of course climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. Unlike 2015, there’s not so much volatility this time. Day 1 on Thursday April 19 was bluebird all day but the next two days were nonstop low clouds, fog, occasional drizzle and no-fly. It was snowing above 2,000 feet Saturday and at the lodge below 1,000 feet by Sunday morning. So there will be powder for some groups after us, but not very soon. The snow is supposed to continue for 3 more days and it’s unknown when it will be clear enough to fly after that.
The expectation for this trip was for good spring skiing in Val d’Isere and some powder in Iceland, but the reality was the opposite. Iceland has not had a great snow year; snow is quite patchy around the lodge. There was no significant snow in the two weeks before we arrived and there had been some light rain. The result was that most of the snow between 1,500 and 4,000 feet Thursday was smooth and skied as excellent corn if timed right. The overnight freeze was not that hard, so corn was very good but not quite as consistent as at Mt. Bailey in 2000 or Points North in 2012, the other times I’ve had corn snow skiing at a cat/heli operation.
April 19 was our first day so we had orientation and a transceiver drill. It was thus after 11AM before we flew out with our guide Pete, and a couple Joe and Florence from NYC. We flew first to the mountains south of the lodge. Our first run faced SE into the morning sun and was closer to being too soft than too firm.
At our second drop point, we had this view north down the valley past the Klaengsholl Lodge base towards Dalvik and the ocean.
Mountains to our south from the same spot:
We skied east facing this time. The first rollover had some punchy snow but the corn was excellent below that.
View from third landing:
More east facing skiing around 1PM:
Lower down the pitch steepened so some turns kicked off a few rollers.
Liz stopped here because one of them hit her.
We stopped for lunch and saw guide Steph leading another group on the west face on the opposite side.
Steph said the snow was still a bit firm on that side.
We resumed skiing around 2PM, this time on a long and gradual north facing bowl, which was a bit firm at the top but easy corn for the lower ¾ of the run.
On the next heli flight I was in the first-in last-out window seat so got a couple of scenic shots from the air.
View from top of 5th run:
During our 5th run the heli is flying Steph’s group up while we ski below.
Middle of 5th run:
Near the bottom the snow is getting patchy but what we are skiing on is still good corn.
This run was 3,900 vertical.
More flight pics from that window seat:
Liz remarked that the Troll Peninsula mountains have a mesa-like appearance like many areas of the American Southwest.
We are now skiing west facing around 3:30PM, snow a bit thick and wind affected on this first pitch.
But below that it was corn perfection.
Only Liz and I are with Pete on this run, so we posed for this picture.
Two skiers in Steph’s group were on their last day and had to leave to catch their flight. Florence moved into Steph’s group while Joe was tired and sat out a couple of runs.
We moved north and east of the lodge, and thus had this ocean view at our 8th run dropoff.
Steph’s group is in the background.
Another long run in the corn, almost 4:30 now:
Liz was getting tired (she skied just over 20K vertical), so they flew Joe and her back to the lodge, leaving me, Florence and 2 Germans Axel and Michi with Steph.
Liz took this picture of the heli taking off with the Klaengsholl Lodge base in the background.
Michi and Florence on 9th run:
On our last flight we have a view of another group skiing below us.
Top of our last run:
We kicked off some rollers here but there was enough room to stay out of their way.
Wide open middle section:
Here Steph found a strip that allowed us to ski to within 100 feet of the lodge.
There were some narrow spots but snow was good corn to the end.
I skied 10 runs and 28,100 vertical. Runs were generally longer than in 2015 because snow below 2,000 feet was rain/frozen then but corn this time in the stronger sun despite thinner coverage. After spending 16 days in Iceland in 2015 I was surprised how warm this day was. I was skiing ventilated and without a hat all day. My guess is that this weather might be more typical in mid to late May, which is still a popular and worthwhile time slot with Arctic Heliskiing.
But here’s the weather the next morning April 20.
In retrospect we should have kept going as light was excellent past 7:30PM and sunset was about 9:15. But in the island environment the Arctic guides have little confidence in weather forecasts more than 24 hours in advance, so no one knew we were possibly done with heli skiing after one day.