Schussing the midnight sun — Barry Smith: Telemark skiing Iceland | SteamboatToday.com

Schussing the midnight sun — Barry Smith: Telemark skiing Iceland






Chuck Mann

Don't let the fact that he got piggyback rides across the water from a burly Icelandic guide named Runar sway you from thinking Barry Smith's boat-accessed skiing trip to Iceland last spring was pampered. And even if it was — complete with apres toasts around a warm fire in a restored sheepherder's hut — they earned every fiord-lined turn they schussed in their week-long adventure at 65 degrees of latitude.

Smith, a Steamboat Springs telemark skiing instructor, embarked on the adventure in May after wrapping up last year's teaching season and just before opening his Mountain Sports Kayak School on the Yampa River.

Joining him on his Icelandic adventure were his son Charlie and friends Chuck Mann and Dave Holt, who collectively billed skiing the fiords of Iceland as "the trip of a lifetime."

"Chuck was the one who came up with the idea," says Smith of his longtime friend who has a second residence in town. "He was surfing the Internet and stumbled upon a company offering it."

That was all they needed to sign on, and the foursome soon found themselves renting a car in Reykjavík for an eight-hour, snow-wall-lined drive to northern Iceland's Isafjörður (Ice Fiord). There. they met company owner Runar Karlsson and hopped on the 40-foot boat Bjarnarnes for a two-hour ride to their first ski.

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After inaugural piggybacks from boat to shore, they strapped on their skis and skins in the late afternoon, northern latitude sun for a 2,000-foot climb and their first taste of schussing Iceland.

"The whole thing, from arriving via boat to skiing above fiords, was surreal," says Smith, adding it was odd wearing a life jacket on the boat with ski boots, ski clothes and goggles. "And it never gets dark there that time of year, so you have super-long days to ski."

He describes the terrain as volcanic, similar to the Flat Tops, with wide open drainages and bowls completely devoid of trees. "It's one of the most beautiful places I've ever skied," he says. "Everything from the low-angle lighting to the lay of the land with ski slopes falling straight to the fiords made it otherworldly."

After linking arcs in carvable corn to the fiord far below, the group climbed back in the boat for a short ride across the fiord to Kviar Lodge, a restored, abandoned sheep farmhouse in the center of the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve. This would be their home and basecamp for the next six days of boat-accessed skiing.

"We headed to a different fiord every day to ski," Smith says. "We skied everything from full-on corn to wind-slab and wind-blown powder, sometimes all on the same run."

Their biggest day involved rising early and motoring to a remote fiord where they skinned 4,000 feet up and over a ridge before skiing down the opposite aspect to a different fiord on the other side, where the boat was waiting to shuttle them back to the lodge.

There, as with each and every other night, they reveled in dinner and drinks around the fireplace while sharing tales of the day's exploration and resting up for the day ahead. During whatever down time they had, they'd stand-up paddleboard in the fiords. One afternoon they even got a visit from National Geographic photographers, who were there to document Arctic foxes.

Which, of course, brings up another unique aspect of the trip — its wildlife. While returning from one ski, their boat even grazed a humpback whale.

"I can certainly say I've never encountered whales skiing before," Smith says. "After we brushed against it, it turned and looked right up at us."

—Info: http://www.boreaadventures.com

Miles from Steamboat: 3,554

7 days

Dates: May 10-19

Factoid: Arctic foxes have incredible hearing, aided by wide, front-facing ears that allow them to locate prey beneath the snow. When they hear a meal under the snowpack, they leap and pounce onto the delicacy, often a lemming, below.