þriðjudagur, nóvember 28, 2006


A lot of readers (and other people, cause I know a few of them, too) have asked me about skiing in Iceland. And the truth was, I had no experience with it. That's mainly because I live in the south, and as everyone can tell you, all they know about in the south is pickups and Bud Light. Oh wait, that's the other South.

Anyway, these days we just don't get that much snow here in Reykjavík. As compared to the Old Days, I guess, when at least in pictures the city is fenced in by white piles of the stuff. But up in Akureyri*, on the other hand, they still do know a thing or two about snow. And this year so far they've had a bumper crop.

So my good friend Villi and I set out on Sunday morning (well really it was Sunday afternoon, but the light had just started) for the ski area that overlooks the town of Akureyri and Eyjarfjörður, or Island Fjord. We were accompanied by his good friends, the Deftones, and somehow Sacramento-based angry rock from the mid-90s was the perfect way to slip and slide our way up the unplowed mountain road.

The ski area itself is called Hlíðarfjall and is maintained by the town of Akureyri. So, just like the public swimming pools in the Land, it represents a phenomenal value. A weekend all-day lift ticket is just $27, weekdays $18. And even though the parking lot was full, there was hardly anyone to be seen on the mountain. Just like in my idyllic childhood weeks at the Balsams, there were no lift lines.

Unlike the Balsams, the facilities evinced a rough-and-readiness that probably wouldn't go over well with the average pampered New England skiier. The base lodge was a few rooms slapped together; in the largest a group of local high school girls dished out hot-from-the-friolator french fries and cocktail sauce. The remaining rooms were all business: bathrooms, ski rental, cashier. At the top of the chairlift there was a newer warm-up hut with more bathrooms. The "I'm here to ski" sensibility was refreshing.

Conditions were excellent: -2°C and no wind, diffuse grey light. There had been some new snowfall overnight and then later in the day they turned on the new snow machines and added more. Skiing down the slope presented an awesome view out over the town of Akureyri below and on the right to looming powdered-sugar mountains in the gloom of daylight. As it got dark the trail lights came on and we just kept skiing. We didn't stop until they stopped the lifts and we were the last car in the lot.

*Perlan Norðursins


Blogger Farbror Willy said...

You forgot to mention our phenomenally low FpR ratio (falls-per-ride), calculated by dividing the number of times you fall on your bum with the total number of rides you do over the day. My ratio was probably around 0.065, yours might be a bit lower depending on how you look at it :-)

Blogger Unknown said...

And I was told that there was no skiing to be had in Iceland (so we opted for Norway and then it was canceled altogether).

I prefer the "I'm here to ski" sensibility. That's like my grandfather. A few of the less commercial mountains in New England rock that. Snowbird in Utah, surprisingly, does as well. A lot of good old places have been American-Ski-Company-ized, though.

Blogger JB said...

Villi: Yeah skiing off that trail in the gathering gloom didn't help my ratio. Fortunately, there are no trees to hit. Of course, if there had been trees I probably would have been OK because I would have known where the trail edge was.

Kristen: They canceled Norway??? That was one of my favorite countries!

There is skiing here, but the quality varies greatly from winter to winter, I am told. Anyway the Balsams back in the Berlin-Wall-coming-down heyday was pretty barebones, at least from a ski area perspective. (The hotel was fancy in an Al-Capone-stayed-here-and-it-looked-about-the-same kind of way.) I bet that's all changed now, though, since the I-bought-NSCP-at-$80-and-sold-at-$310 era.

Blogger videlectrix said...

Yeah, well in January aught six, the only place with natural snow in New England WAS the Balsams. The Mount Washington Hotel was surrounded by brown grass. Not so good when you want to x-country.

Keep burnin' them fossil fuels...


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