It all happened so fast. One minute I'm skiing in Cortina Italy, and the next I'm landing in Isafjordur Iceland. Iceland Air has a great layover program you can take advantage of when traveling between the States and Europe. That's your bonus travel tip you get for reading my experience, and probably the one thing you should take away. Isafjordur is located in the far north of Iceland, and has one of the coolest airports in the world. The runway is literally surrounded on all sides by water, and the water is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains. We landed, took a few photos by the plane, and thirty minutes later we set sail in our vessel, and home for the next week, the Aurora Arktika. Another 30 minutes after that we saw a humpback whale…Iceland rocks.
I embarked on this journey with skiers Molly Baker, and Keely Kelleher, and Photographer Gabe Rogel. Gabe and I had met on a similar expedition in Norway a year earlier, and decided we would give our relationship another go. The goal of the trip was to make beautiful pictures skiing steep slopes right on the ocean. We were going to use the sailboat to access the terrain that would otherwise be extremely difficult to find and ski. It was actually about as simple as it sounds.
We crossed the main fjord, went for a nighttime ski, and then slept until 10 o'clock the next morning.
In Iceland, nobody is rushed for any reason. We slept in, had a casual breakfast, took a field trip to an abandon whaling station near by, then had our ski boots on by noon. Gabe and Molly were busy doing their own little project, so Keely and I had the boat drop us off at the steepest most majestic mountain we could find. We thought that it might take us a hour to climb to the top, but that quickly proved to be foolish. The mountain just seemed to keep getting steeper and longer and longer and longer then steeper again. When we stood on the top of the mountain, it looked like you could fall right into the ocean. The first run of a trip is always nerve racking, and I was scared, so I let Keely go first. She disappeared over the roll and came blasting out the bottom like the ex world cup downhiller she is, and I knew the snow must be good. I took a few deep breaths and pushed off. Was it the best run of my life? It's hard to say, but its one I'll always remember. Then we went back up and did another one at sunset.
Again with a super relaxed start at 10 o'clock we made our way up to the ridge that separated the fjord we were in to another. We were going to start in one fjord and ski to the other one where we would spend the next night. At the top of the ridge we were presented with a handful of good looking chutes. The problem is we couldn't see all the way down any of them to know whether or not they went though. The beta we had from Siggi, our boat captain was" I think the 3rd one has been skied. So we took the safe bet and picked that one. The cliffs on this side were full of crazy rime ice making for a very cool ski experience. Unfortunately the snow was also rock solid, and so we made it down safe to ski another day. Sometimes you just need to cut your losses and get back to the boat as quick as you can for fresh hand picked muscles and a beer.
Day 4 brought what I feel is the classic sail/ski experience. The plan was to ski a line with two spines that met at the top to form an A. The line turned out to have a gigantic cornice at the top, so we bailed on it, and decided to throw big heavy rocks at the lip instead. That kept us entertained for at least 15 minutes before we decided we better ski the three epic looking chutes to our skier's right. We each picked our favorite line, and ripped it right down to the beach while Gabe shot photos from across the way.
We trekked back up to the top for lunch and a look back off the other side of the mountain where we hoped to ski our second run. The best lunch spot was obviously where we could also throw rocks at the massive cornice above our A line, and so we posted up. Lunch turned into a 2 hour discussion about old girlfriends and how we came do be where we were at that moment. The sun was high and there was no rush, we were in Iceland soaking it up.
Then the sun got lower and the light got soft, that means its go time for photos. It's easy to come out of your nap fog when your standing on top of a 2,000 foot face that shoots straight into the ocean. We discussed the plan, the safe zones, and what the snow was going to be like. Really the snow was hot and saturated, and though it was a most gorgeous line, it was intense and not all that much fun until we had made it down to the safe spot. Our deemed safe spot we discovered also served as a great little photo zone for sunset, actually it was one of the best photo zones I had ever seen. So we nailed it, and went home happy campers.
The night concluded with beer, Viking helmets, arctic swimming, and the northern lights.
Our last day on the boat we woke up to a grey and drizzling sky. Gabe and I woke up before the rest of the crew, and decided that we wanted to check out a waterfall on shore. Once ashore we saw a perfect little take off and landing that would allow me to jump horizontally across the waterfall and shut it down fast before the rocky beach. I am not an experienced jump builder, so I just piled up a bunch of snow and called it good. The jump was a great rainy morning activity and I always love working one on one with a photographer to create images. The milked the jump session for a few hours before we had make the haul back to Isafjordur.
I felt like a new man as we pulled into town. A week with no cell phones, computers, and noise pollution on top of 12 hour a night sleeps, was just the reset my body needed. Iceland was everything I ever dreamed it would be, it's amazing how refreshing it can be to strip down your life and live simply. Oh yeah, and the skiing rocks, it outrageously beautiful, the foods amazing, you can see the stars, and the gin is top notch…anybody want to move to Iceland with me?
Photo Credit - Keely Kelleher