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TR: Iceland May 2022

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I was reading the "that's a wrap" thread and whilst waiting for the morning to brighten up thought I should add evidence that it's not completely done just yet. Iceland's season starts late, because it's kind of dark here in mid winter, but the snow stays quite a while and the days get rapidly longer towards the end. In past seasons I've been here late May and well into June. In the 2020/21 Covid season this was the only place I rode, thanks to the Icelandic quarantine rules and UK vaccination programmes opening a window at the end of that season.

Anyway, this season I decided to pull the plug on the Sölden end of season party and come here instead. I like the Sölden thing - which is about as late as you can sensibly ride in the EU aside from summer skiing - but I lost some powder days when my destination caught it, and didn't really fancy the crowds at this time. My last trip to BC was a few weeks ago, and there was still much evidence of Covid defence at that time.

I think I've finally sussed out Easy Jet.. the trick is to ignore all the prices, and to pay for a large cabin bag (for boots) and a hold bag (for boards), then buy the ticket. The result is a flight which costs the same as Iceland air, or there abouts, but you get a seat at the front of the plane and don't have to stand in line with the large people with fake tans who've been pre-loading in 'Spoons. Ok, actually those people seemed to be all going to Ibiza, but it was 04:00 in the morning and they were knocking back the booze. I bet they have long lines for the bathrooms on those flights. Note to self: don't even think about ever going to those places. The Iceland flight had sober people with sensible footwear. That's possibly because alcohol in Iceland is notoriously expensive - the trick with that is to simply not convert the currency: it won't make you feel any better, but you'll still drink the beer, so there's no point worrying about it.

They changed the entry, so now UK people have to go into the general queue, as opposed to the EU/EEA entry. All the Covid infrastructure has gone now.

Yeah, I did stop to shoot that. There wasn't another car for about 3 hours in any direction.

I've not quite figured out why the snow line was higher here than in other places. You can ride down to the sea a little further north than this. I suppose this one faces the sun, or maybe it has a volcano under it or something.

I've had some minor hire car hassles in Iceland before, so this is a rental from a big name company backed by a credit card acquired for renting cars (they don't like debit cards). It's the smallest I could get with no extras. Don't need chains or winter tyres or any of that stuff, just what the locals drive, thanks. The interior was dirty and every panel plus the screen had damage already. On balance I like that - if it gets a stone chip, well they can't even try to hassle me for it.

It's a 5.5 hour drive across the Island from airport to the Troll peninsular, but I had all day and the route's very easy. More snow around than my previous visits, including a few snow banks at the side of the road here and there

There's a gravel stretch near the end. You just have to drive a bit slower and watch out for stone chips if anyone else is around. There's a "single track" tunnel just before Siglufjörður.

That's the mountain in the harbour at Siglufjörður. I've not seen it with any snow on it before, so that's a good sign.

There's a petrol station in town, and I put £250 of petrol into that car there. On my previous trips here I'd not really noticed the price of the petrol, but when paying by card, I had to fill the thing in two chunks because their credit limit wasn't big enough. I guess there's a war on.

The local hill (and the Rekjavik hills) close as soon as it warms up - in April I think. The only games in town are either walking up, or flying.
Some people choose to fly up and then walk about a bit - heli assisted touring. I'm too lazy to walk up.

Guests here are a mix of US, Icelanders (at weekends), and Brits looking for TVs to watch football on.

The skiing here can be steep, but is essentially easy in that you can see it all and it's got no trees, plus there's usually not much to jump off with the exception of some natural half pipes. So far the weather's been interesting, with fresh snow, rain, and an interesting variety of temperatures. Translation: it's still easy if you're on it, but if you're not comfortable with steep blue ice mixed with powdery drift followed by excellent spring snow then wet grabby stuff with maybe a little breakable crust thrown in, you may be a bit slow. I find it funny - you never quite know what it's going to throw at you. Everything from the best spring snow through to stuff which reminds me of Royston Golf Course snow, all in one run. My group bagged a few couloirs yesterday, but for expectation management purposes, you'd not want to fall there.

Conditions are very different from my last trip, and those were very different from the trip before. Next week I'm driving around the peninsular to the next operator, who's weather is a bit different again, so that'll be fun.

I'm waiting for better light before I lug my camera out - it's been a bit off and on so far.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Nice! Look forward to more pics

A guide I quite like told me he’s off there this weekend
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Super cool! Looks magic and a good adventure...
Way back in 2005 went cycle touring in Iceland.
It was pretty hardcore / wild country
My memory is like riding across Rannoch Mor but for 500 miles Laughing
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Oh, cycling here would be good, there's no traffic - at least at this time of year. Yeah, it looks like Rannoch Mor, which may be misleading as I suppose it's bigger, but it's the same basic concept. The distances could be an issue - you could have a lot of headwind. Actually it does get windy here - the hire cars all have "be careful opening the door in strong wind" warning stickers, and all three cars I've ever hired here have had doors which have had their hinges knackered by people don't don't take any notice. So cycling could be a bit of a challenge in the wrong weather.

Today I experienced the worst snow I've ever ridden, and I'm including Royston Golf course in that. The best bits were blue ice. Well it looked blue, but it had a bit of texture on the top of it, so unlike the sort of ice you get with freezing rain, it was actually possible to edge in it. Almost everything else had been rained on. Most of it was so slow and sticky as to be really unpleasant to ride. We found a couple of sections which were simple wet snow which were possible to ride with style, but mostly it was tough force board/ skis down though the stuff. Yuck.

I was out until 21:00 yesterday as I had an inkling that conditions may get worse, and they certainly delivered on that. I was at my vertical limit after a couple of horrid runs, so pulled the plug on it.

I'm done with that operator, but I drove through a few tunnels, past a few fjords, to the next operator, who conveniently had a spare seat for the next few days. I'm not sure if conditions are going to improve or not. If they don't, I'm going to learn how to snowboard really slow wet snow... the weather's in charge of that one. In practice what's likely to happen is that they'll fly around trying different aspects, to see if they can work out where better snow is.

Iceland does seem to "mop up" guides from everywhere else at this time of year - the seasons in BC and the EU are over, so I guess this is where the work is. I'll look out for Marco Z; there are the two operators I'm using, plus at least one more place where I know a few guides, and I'd guess there are other companies doing simply "touring".

Today wasn't a photography day, but here's the gravel road approach to Siglufjörður from the other day:

And here's the village. The multi-coloured building is the Herring museum, which I've managed to avoid. That's an Icelandic hot tub - same as the American version, but without any bubbles. If there are bubbles, they you're in there with the wrong type of people. You're supposed to cool off in the sea there, but I reckon that's just what they tell the tourists.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Thank you for the review. I have been to Iceland on a touristy holiday about 15+ years ago and loved it. Not a place you commonly see people going for the skiing. Can you give some rough figures for costs?
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@philwig, thank you very interesting , but why do you keep referring to the EU ? rather than Europe The EU ia a trading organisation which as we all know doesn’t include GB but more importantly Switzerland and Norway when talking about skiing .
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Yesterday's snow was unridable, which my spell checker doesn't approve of, but that's what it was: so wet and slow that you'd feel it was ripping your boots off backwards. I'd not take money to ride that, so I was seriously worried that the next few days would be more of the same.

The morning didn't look great... but I know all about cloud and most often when it looks like that in the valley, conditions higher up are very different.

Our pilot found a hole, and sure enough, above the clouds all was looking pretty good. That stuff on the left is cloud not snow,
and there was a fair bit of it about low down.

And then we were into the snow...

The pretty track is mine, the others were wasted by skiers. The snow was amazingly different from yesterday. Yesterday's was the worst snow I've
ever encountered, anywhere, at any price. Today.. wasn't close to the best, but it was pretty good spring snow in general and all good. The snow wasn't
entirely trustworthy, and there was the odd band of the super-slow snow, which I tried to work out better ways to deal with. The obvious approach is to favour
the back of the board (because it's going to throw you forward), but that's not a good way to ride if the wet stuff doesn't show up... and you can't see it coming.

I was riding with three UK people as it happens, and they all ski really well.

The Burton Hometown Hero, the board of 2022, full stop. A wider board would work here too, but wouldn't help any, and this also works on the blue ice,
not that we saw any today.

Lets go ride that. I think we can maybe squeeze in a few tracks if we really try.

Yeah, one of those shots. It looks better than it was - the snow was reliable and pretty good for spring, but it's not powder.

Let's go find some more.

The trick with this stuff is to get it whist it's good, and we did that and some,
riding until the light started to go. My watch says that was my biggest vertical of the season...
which it probably was as there are no trees and the day length here is obviously the longest
of the season to date.

The observant will notice that he end point of that isn't the start point; we had to navigate around the
clouds to get back home...

Those are quite fancy avionics, most A-Star machines still have mechanical gauges, but they're gradually
getting sexier.

Thar route took us pretty close to the local micro-brewery so it seemed a shame not to stop there and check
out some of the local IPA.

turboblackbeard wrote:
... Can you give some rough figures for costs?
PM me, or google it down. It's about the same as helicopters cost anywhere, the main difference being the time of year, and consequentially the type of snow.

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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Hi @philwig, is one of the Brits an Alex with too much black hair?
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Grinning wrote: one of the Brits an Alex with too much black hair?
No, although he may well be at the other operator (with whom I was with a few days ago). We met their people in our brewery tour yesterday... they'd actually not got out at all the day before, where as we managed to find a hole that day and got my biggest daily vertical since March... it's always a bit of a lottery.

Tuesday's brewery tour. We also did the "herring industry museum", which is something I'd managed to avoid until now for various complicated reasons. The snow was blowing a total hoolie and it was fairly serious work just to get from the van to the buildings. Beer is free if you pay for heliskiing and then don't get to do it. You can kind of see why that is.

Wednesday morning revealed that the horizontal snow had stopped, and the mountainsides were covered with a dusting fresh snow quite low down.
I thought it was much brighter, but we were officially "down" as the tops were all clouded over. Alternative activities were scheduled, for the second day on a row.
This is particularly bad, because you pay the same if you fly or if you don't, and the tour length here is four days... losing two of them is not great.

We started with a fish factory tour. Which smelt bad and including eating of the famous rotten (fermented) shark.

My big camera has the photos of the factory, but it looks like a factory only it smells bad.
The fermented shark obviously smells completely disgusting. The trick is not to actually inhale anywhere near it,
at which point it's nothing like as bad. It is actually rotten though.

Those of us not made ill by the shark (so everyone) retired for salted cod and chips, and the weather continued to improve.
Once lunch was done, the afternoon's Whale watching was cancelled and we headed back to the helicopter at speed.

We were back on the tops by about 14:00. That would be too late to start in Canada, but here sunset is very late,
and we could easily have ridden until 21:00 or later...

Conditions were the best yet - the fresh snow was on top of whatever was there before, but it was cold and fast.
The worst we encountered was one or two runs where if I carved hard I could hear the snow below the fresh; and one very steep
section which was icy enough to remind me that it would have been a bad place to fall.

Not great visibility, but this unprocessed phone camera shot makes it look worse than it was. The clouds were in and out,
but almost always the vis was entirely adequate. We had maybe one run where you needed to know how to ride well in poor vis,
but my group weren't slowed down by that.

We were riding from about 1300m down to about 300m. Snow conditions were consistent top-to-bottom, mostly being 15cm or so on top of a harder base, but both the top stuff and the base were entirely ridable. So nothing tricky today, really. I think those skis are rentals, so that's what people are riding here.

The board's my Burton hometown hero, which is the best board I ever owned. It's equally at home in BC powder, on piste, and in Icelandic spring conditions. My previous Dump Truck board was a similar design (from the same designer, JG I think), but was a tad wider, and that width made it harder in conditions which require heavy edge pressure, such as Icelandic fresh snow underlaid with a crunchy base.
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This morning, my last day of 7, broke to a full on Icelandic hoolie, again.

That's a phone grab shot taken through my window, so you can't really tell that the snow is actually blowing horizontally, but it is. The heli blades are well wrapped up. I had 20 minutes of flight time left, which would be a couple of runs... and the cloud was very low and showing no signs of breaking up. I've done enough "down days" to know when there's no chance, and (unlike yesterday) this was one of those, IMHO. My options were whale watching, or an early departure to Reykjavik. I like whales, but the sea was going to be pretty rough; I didn't bring any long lenses; and I've seen a few whales in my time, so I hit the road.

The access road to this provider is all gravel, and hasn't been maintained since last June. It's fine if driven carefully.

The drive from the Troll peninsular (near Akureyri) is about 5.5 hours. When I've driven it before it's been bare, but this time there were sections where the snow poles were useful, and a few km where there was slush and snow on the road. The purity spiral people here would have massive anxiety attacks, but a standard cheapest/ smallest hire car is fine. The roads are different from BC roads in that they're mostly like this one, slightly raised from the surroundings, which are bog or lava rocks. When combined with the horizontal snow thing, that means the roads get kind of sandblasted by snow, with temperatures hovering up and down around freezing. You don't get drifts exactly, but sometimes the snow's wet enough to stick and you probably wouldn't want to drive like a dick on that. I'd zero traction issues in a 2wd automatic. The passes have a bit of up/down in them, but they're not steep.

And so eventually to Reykjavik, which was all innocent blue skies and sunshine, by the evening at least. It's a little quieter than it was immediately after lockdown.

  • The terrain here can be steep, but that's not a challenge if you can ski/ board. The tricky bit is the variable snow conditions, which just made me laugh as the snow's outrageously variable and keeps trying to play tricks with you. It never caught me, but I did have to pull a few recoveries as you can't see what it's going to throw at you.
  • I've been here a few times and it's way, way better than riding at a resort, but it's not a patch on the over-the-head powder I usually ride in BC. That's not a criticism, but if this type of snow had been my first heli experience, I would probably have been less impressed with the concept. I didn't cross any tracks in my time here, but I didn't ride any powder either - it's late season, there's a lot of fresh new untracked snow.... but it's snowball snow, not "powder" unless we're redefining that to mean any fresh snow.
  • In Iceland, y'all may think that the ability to ski down to the sea is important, but it's worth bearing in mind that the sea is... at sea level. This trip, altitude was everything, and whilst there was snow down to sea level, you'd be insane to want to ride it, as it was the stickiest nastiest snow I've ever ridden, including that on Royston golf course.
  • I've done three separate visits, with an aggregate of five separate "tours" here, and my down day ratio is a bit worse than BC. I've always "got my vertical" (except for that 20 minutes if you're being picky), but it's clearly a risk. The risk is reduced because the day length is so long, but the bottom line is... if you're here and it's good, you should take it there and then, because there's always a risk that you may not get another day. And of course if you don't like the idea of down days at all, don't come.
  • Of the 16 people in the place I just was, one flew BC and had his gear delayed 24 hours by them. That's why irrespective of what internet people say, Peter and everyone else caries boots in hand baggage.
  • One of the guides also works out of Russian gun ships (presumably with the weapons removed) in Kazakhstan, and has clearly survived, so maybe that's an option.
  • One of my Brit ski-buddies had heliskiied in Tukey, where they were using European AS-350 machines, which sounds interesting.

I have to go somewhere with much less snow in June this year, so that's probably it for me aside from plastic and snow domes.

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